Education Action: Toronto

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Education Action: Toronto’s Online Clearing House

May 2014

Dear Friends,

It’s hard to know how to respond to the current Ontario election’s disappearing act when it comes to education policy. Education issues are hardly visible anywhere.

Nigel Barriffe (who is running, with our support, as an ONDP candidate in Etobicoke North) is trying, however, to keep these issues alive in his part of the part of the world (www.nigelbarriffe.com). Attached are two pieces from Nigel: In the first, he introduces Doug Little’s list of “moderate progressive” reforms that have a realistic chance of implementation. In the second he responds to Kathleen Wynne’s austerity agenda in education and Tim Hudak’s plan to cut 100,000 public sector jobs, with the biggest bite coming from education. Both pieces are worth reading.

Ontario’s elementary teachers have made a helpful contribution to a province-wide discussion of our school system by producing a full-scale election program for school reform entitled Building Better Schools. ETFO has also produced a short guide to Bill 122, also attached, which should help readers come to grips with the new framework for bargaining among school boards, their employees and the education ministry.

An issue that really ought to be on the table in this election is the destructive impact of EQAO’s standardized testing. The elementary teachers’ union – with solid membership support – and the NDP are beginning to move away from this testing. Both, unfortunately, are still willing to accept random testing as a sop to hardline neo-liberals, even though most teachers and the NDP recognize that random testing is just as mindless as full-scale standardized testing (though not as draconian) and still points teachers in the wrong direction. In this issue, we’re including Ontario secondary teacher Gord Bambridge’s recent analysis of the impact of EQAO’s international partner in standardized testing, PISA (the Programme for International Student Assessment). This program strengthens business influence in our schools, undermines local democracy, presses false standards on both teachers and students, and effectively “deskills” both and guts their programs.

Issues of provincial childcare should also be central to this campaign. Martha Friendly here outlines “the dismal state” of child care programs both Canada-wide and here in Ontario. She also points to the failure of the provincial government to implement its program of “full-day early learning.” This has turned into “full-day kindergarten,” still inadequately funded, while child care has been “moved to the back burner.” Friendly calls on all parties in this election to develop “a robust, long-term, evidence-based ECEC policy framework with principles, goals and targets, timetables and sustained financial commitments” and to include child-friendly staff ratios and decent pay for childcare workers.

Another fundamental issue is that of youth unemployment, which is both a federal and a provincial responsibility. On this subject we’re attaching Armine Yalnizyan’s analysis of what the federal government could do, “if it really wanted to reduce youth unemployment.” The next Ontario government would do well take Yalnizyan’s recommendations to heart. Readers should also look over Trish Hennessy’s figures on “the skills gap trope,” especially as they affect younger workers. We now know the federal Tories have been fudging Canada’s “skills gap” figures to promote a low-wage temporary workers’ program, and Hennessy’s figures reveal the complexity of the issue of work skills, particularly the pressures on corporations to deskill their workforce, and the urgency with which we must tackle it, not only in our workplaces but also in our schools.

In dealing with how schools try to produce a corporate workforce – “human capital” as the Education Ministry likes to describe it – we need to recognize that the corporations themselves are not planning any kid-friendly initiatives on this front. On this subject, we offer Erika Shaker’s tongue-in-check reflections on the suggestion that CEOs improve pedagogy and student engagement as part of their general social outreach. We also present Donald Gutstein’s examination of Galen Weston’s adventures in educational do-gooding. We learn how Weston and his family are massively funding the Fraser Institute’s programs to destabilize the public education system and promote school choice and vouchers. Not a happy story.

In these election moments, it’s good to see the emergence of the Campaign for Commercial Free Schools, whose recent update you can find below. It would be valuable, we think, for the CCFS to ask the candidates in this election where they stand on fundraising, naming rights, and advertising policies as they apply to school spaces. So far, there is no mention of the issue from any of the parties.

As a regular part of this Clearing House, we take you south of the border, where so many destructive initiatives in education take place and then migrate northwards, if they aren’t already flourishing here. Matt Bruenig provides a dramatic set of graphs showing the impact of America’s social class structure on its children and their education. Gord Bambrick reviews Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools. Noam Chomsky writes on the corporatization of the university, with its increasing reliance on cheap labour, large classes, expensive layers of bureaucracy and management, and growing tuition fees. He calls instead for “shared governance,” worker control, and honest discovery in academic work that’s loved by both teachers and students. Finally, from Seattle, Diane Brooks brings us some good news – a teachers’ boycott of standardized testing that sparked a nation-wide movement.

Don’t forget: Back issues of Education Action: Toronto Online Clearing House can be found on our website: educationactiontoronto.com. And, if you know anyone or any group who might be interested in receiving articles from us, please send us along their emails.

In solidarity,

George Martell, David Clandfield, Faduma Mohamed

Education Action: Toronto

You can't fix a school you don't have!

There are as many as 300 Ontario schools on the list for closing because they are under-used or in need too much repair, according Minister of Education Mitzi Hunter. That doesn’t mean all of them will close but Fix Our Schools says Ontario needs to keep and fix its schools.

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Liberals must address school repairs in upcoming budget

Schools across Ontario are becoming dirty crumbling messes. Here is a call from Fix Our Schools to help return schools to their proper condition.

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EDUCATION IN ONTARIO A CHARTER

It’s been awhile since anything appeared on this site, but we are back and will continue to post articles we think are important about education and the highly political world it lives in. With the recent mess in York
Region, the sell-off of schools in Toronto and the emergence from the woodwork of a Canadian right wing every bit as nasty and cynical as those who promote U.S. President Donald Trump’s agenda – well there’s plenty to write about. Thank you for your patience.

We begin with the basics: Education In Ontario A Charter from the Campaign for Public Education(CPE). CPE is an assembly of groups pushing to improve and rebuild education in Toronto. It represents organizations of parents, racialized and aboriginal communities, students, education workers, neighbourhoods, people advocating for changes to social policy and trustees elected from Toronto’ four publicly-funded school boards.

We encourage you to read this charter, contact CPE and support it. Here’s the contact information: Campaign for Public Education news@campaignforpubliceducation.ca
Thanks – here’s the text:

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Where Should We Begin In Education Reform? by Nigel Barriffe

One of the most interesting educational blogs in Ontario is by Doug Little. It’s called The Little Education Report (http://thelittleeducationreport.com/). A few days ago, Doug set out what he called “a moderate progressive agenda” in education. He figured it might be possible to implement this agenda in some kind of Liberal/NDP agreement (accord, coalition, back room discussions).

I think there is little likelihood the Liberals could be persuaded to move in the direction Little proposes. Wynne and Co. seem to me to be moving in exactly the opposite direction — more “austerity” in education, more emphasis on standardized test scores, more bureaucratic control from Queen’s Park, more links to the private sector, etc. At the same time, I’d argue that the recommendations Little puts forward might be a very good place for a new NDP government to start in strengthening our school system.

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Building Better Schools: Introduction by Sam Hammond, President, ETFO

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of
Ontario (ETFO) has prepared this
education platform to contribute to public
 discourse about how to make our public
schools the best they can be. Ontario
 faces many challenges. Few are as 
important as ensuring that our public 
schools are able to fulfill their
 responsibility to teach basic skills, and 
foster creativity, innovation, a love of learning, and a commitment to full participation in our democratic society. Public education should create equal opportunity so that all students can be successful learners and reach their full potential.

In Ontario we are fortunate to have a strong public school system. ETFO — representing 76,000 teachers, early childhood educators, and educational and professional support personnel — is committed to making it even stronger. ETFO believes Ontario can do a better job of addressing the learning needs of our diverse student population and ensuring that students are well-prepared for higher education, training, and citizenship. Strengthening the education system will contribute to a healthy, vibrant society in the future. Prior to the 2011 provincial election, ETFO released an education platform – Building Better Schools. This document revisits the same issues, but updates them to reflect the current school context and recent research. This updated education agenda also speaks to the important role that unions play in promoting healthy and safe schools and advocating for public education.

ETFO’s platform proposals profile those issues our members believe will improve the quality of programs, enhance inclusiveness and equity in our elementary schools, and engage all students to become productive lifelong learners.

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Understanding Bill 122, The School Boards’ Collective Bargaining Act by ETFO

What is the School Boards’ Collective Bargaining Act, 2014?

On October 22, 2013, the Minister of Education introduced provincial bargaining legislation in the Ontario Legislature. The legislation, called the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, 2014, is also referred to as “Bill 122”.

For more background information about the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, 2014, and for information about the recent history of education sector collective bargaining in Ontario, click here: http://www.etfo.ca/bargainingandagreements/bill122/pages/default.aspx

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The Leaning Tower of PISA Creates Another Crisis by Gord Bambrick

Towering over the landscape of education reform these days is PISA (the Programme for International Student Assessment). Its international rankings in math, science and literacy are held as the gold standard of education quality measurement, and this gives the PISA test-makers enormous power over how education policy is set. As a Globe and Mail editorial explains, “Andreas Schleicher is arguably the most influential person in global education policy today. The German statistician has never presided over a classroom or served as a minister of education. But as the man who designed and oversees the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), he holds sway over the direction of education reform around the world.”

But is a set of assessments, administered to a sampling of fifteen-year-olds, every three years, something we can trust to be reliable or objective?

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