Category Archives: Teachers

Vancouver elementary teachers association endorse NDP in BC election #BCPoli

Given the BC Liberals history of underfunding public education, promoting corporate intrusion, and undermining of collective bargaining, the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association (VESTA) are  lobbying the BCTF to endorse the NDP leading up to the May 14 election.

“The change has been brought about by what we consider to be a decade… long attack on public education through government policy, strips of collective agreements, legislation,” said Gerry Kent, VESTA president.

“While (the BCTF is) not endorsing a political party, I think it’s clear that it’s time that maybe we do. Especially in light of the current budget that the Liberals propose, there doesn’t seem to be any help to remedy the difficulties that are affecting public education, which in our view have been put in place by the Liberal government.”

Listen to Media Mornings podcast of VESTA President Gerry Kent

BC schools face total budget shortfall of $130 million #bcpoli

CBC News, April 29, 2013– The B.C. School Trustees’ Association says it will call on the provincial government for more money after the election, as school boards across the province struggle with a budget shortfall of $130 million.

The trustees voted unanimously at its annual general meeting this weekend to ask whichever government is elected on May 14 to re-open the issue of school funding.

School boards are required by law to have balanced budgets, but Teresa Rezansoff, the newly-elected BCSTA president, says they are faced with wage increases and other rising costs.

“We’d like to see a commitment to sustainable, predictable funding that covers those annual cost pressures that are there,” said Rezansoff.

“There is no better investment you can make than in our future citizens and it should be an absolute top priority for any government,” she added.

The Vancouver School Board, which votes on next year’s budget on Monday night, is faced with an $8 million shortfall.

As a result, the board has decided to scrap its continuing education program and have another two-week spring break next year.

But parents say the time off means extra child care costs, adding to increasing fees and fundraising demands schools already places on families.

“It’s a direct hit to the children and to the low income families,” said parent Iraj Khabazian.

Last Week, the Coquitlam School Board took the drastic measure of cutting more than 140 jobs, after announcing a potential deficit of more than $7.5 million.

Read More: CBC News Story 1 and Story 2

BC schools forced to market public education to stem trend toward private schools

Private school enrolment is rising

An “ambitious” new strategy for the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district aims to lure private school students back into the public education system.

Nanaimo Daily News, April 10, 2013

An “ambitious” new strategy for the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district aims to lure private school students back into the public education system. The district has suffered financial blows with its dropping enrolment, while the city’s independent schools have celebrated student population growth.

It’s been a grating issue for the school board, which says it is about to reveal thought-provoking and controversial recommendations for its facilities Thursday. According to school board chairman Jamie Brennan, the recommendations will improve public school offerings and aim to lure children back into the public education system.

Teacher-government disputes, “substandard facilities” and an inefficient school system have eroded families’ confidence in public schools and driven parents to enroll students in private institutions, Brennan points out. There were 140 fewer students than expected this year in the district; another blow to a district dependent on government operational studies.

Independent schools in Nanaimo, however, are following a provincial trend of population increases. Since 1997, independent school enrolment has risen by 22.4 per cent, while public schools have seen a 11.3 per cent decline, reports the Fraser Institute.

Aspengrove School is anticipating demand to continue to increase as more families become aware of its higher-learning international baccalaureate program. It has asked the District of Lantzville to change its zoning bylaw to allow the school to host 150 more students. Discovery Montessori, another independent school, says it has also already seen double the admission for next fall.

“With the availability of private education, families do have choices and they are making the choice to pull their kids out of public schools,” said Brennan. “We need to find ways to attract students back.”

Read More: Nanaimo Daily News

BC teachers want to regulate private interests in public education

GUIDELINES NEEDED TO PROTECT PUBLIC INTEREST
Straight Goods News

Delegates at the recent annual general meeeting of the BC Teachers’ Federation have voted to call on the provincial government to establish conflict-of-interest regulations governing school districts dealings with corporations.

Private businesses are seeking to profit from public education, and using increasingly sophisticated and aggressive schemes to market technology, textbooks, learning resources and many other products,” said Susan Lambert, past-president of the BCTF.

“It’s high time we had consistent and clear guidelines to protect the public interest.”

After more than a decade of chronic underfunding, schools, parents and teachers face mounting pressure to raise funds through private means to meet the needs of students across the province. Delegates voted to have the BCTF gather information on the extent of funding coming from corporate sponsorships and donations, Parent Advisory Committee fundraising and teachers’ personal donations.

“We believe it’s vitally important for British Columbians to understand the extent to which parents and teachers are subsidizing the public education system, and how hard individuals are working to bridge the gap between the needs in schools and the funding provided by government,” said Lambert. “Our study will document that.”

Read More: BCTF News release and Straight Goods News

BC Teachers’ Federation puts education front and centre in election #bcpoli

With their extensive Better Schools for BC campaign, the BCTF has placed education front and centre in the 2013 BC election. “BC teachers are worried that, after a decade of underfunding, our students are being short-changed. The latest numbers from Statistics Canada tell a story of the growing gap between education funding in BC and the rest of Canada. Teachers have a plan to build better schools for BC.”

 “After a decade of government cuts to education, too many BC students are struggling. We need to change that. This election in May, let’s vote for better schools — with smaller classes, more one-on-one time, and help when students need it.”

A Call to Review Standardized Testing in Canada

REAL ACCOUNTABILITY OR AN ILLUSION OF SUCCESS?: A CALL TO REVIEW STANDARDIZED TESTING IN CANADA

OTTAWA, ON (February 16, 2013) – The Action Canada Task Force on Standardized Testing has just released a report analyzing the place of standardized testing as an accountability measure in Canadian K-12 education systems, using Ontario as a case study focus. “A review of standardized testing in this province and others is not only timely – it’s urgently needed,” says Sébastien Després, a 2012-2013 Action Canada Fellow and co-author of the report. Després explains that when standardized testing was established in Ontario two decades ago, the Royal Commission which recommended the creation of the province’s Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) and the adoption of standardized testing in the province had also recommended that a five-year review be undertaken. Almost twenty years later, this review has yet to be done. Després concludes, “As things stand, the current testing system may or may not be facilitating the achievement of the education system’s range of objectives. A review of this accountability measure should be a top priority.”

Teaching is often said to be “the second most private act in which adults engage” (Dufour 1991) since it tends to take place behind closed doors, away from the view of many stakeholders. In its essence, however, teaching is a public and political act, and is fundamental to the continuing development of a citizenry that drives Canada’s global competitiveness and social and economic prosperity. Recognizing the importance of education, many jurisdictions have turned to standardized testing as a means of ensuring accountability for results. In some circles, this measure has become controversial, as stakeholders – and the public as a whole – are polarized as to whether standardized testing is an appropriate way of evaluating students and the overall effectiveness of education systems in light of their objectives and curricula.

Sébastien Després, a lecturer in Anthropology and Geography at Memorial University of Newfoundland, explains that standardized testing regimes are costly and time-consuming enterprises that can have an important impact on the classroom experience. “We know that not all students are motivated by marks and academic achievement. We also know that when these things are prioritized over others, instruction can become boring, and kids become disengaged.” The report also explores how standardized testing can impact teaching as a profession, and echoes earlier studies that show how an over-emphasis on test scores can diminish teachers’ role in determining the content and methods of instruction, casting teachers as efficiency experts who carry out instruction determined by someone else.

Standardized testing can also shift attention away from the presentation of the full breadth of a given province’s prescribed curriculum, to a narrowed focus on what they measure: literacy and numeracy. This is recognized by the EQAO, who in a recent report highlighted that “What gets measured gets attention.” Task Force member Marie-Josée Parent arranged for specially-commissioned artwork by Montreal artist Josée Pedneault and a short animated film featuring drawings from Winnipeg artist Ben Clarkson to accompany the report, a nod to the damaging effect that standardized testing regimes can have on the teaching of the arts, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and a list of other skills and competencies prescribed by provincial curricula. “Recognizing that the means by which we strive to make our education systems transparent necessarily have an impact on these systems is a good first step in a bold direction,” says Després, “and we are hopeful that this recognition will go a long way in occasioning a change in priorities from a focus on test scores to a focus on the ultimate purposes of education.”

To view the report in its entirety, visit: http://www.testingillusion.ca

 Task Force Twitter feed
 Task Force Facebook page

“Portrayal of the Other” in Israeli and Palestinian school books

Israeli-Palestinian Schoolbook Project

Read / download the final Report (4 February 2013): “Victims of Our Own Narratives?” Portrayal of the “Other” in Israeli and Palestinian School BooksThere were four main findings of the study:

  1.  First, dehumanizing and demonizing characterizations of the other as seen in textbooks elsewhere and of concern to the general public are rare in both Israeli and Palestinian books.
  2. Second, both Israeli and Palestinian books present unilateral national narratives that present the other as enemy, chronicle negative actions by the other directed at the self-community, and present the self-community in positive terms with actions aimed at self-protection and goals of peace.
  3. Third, there is a lack of information about the religions, culture, economic and daily activities of the other, or even of the existence of the other on maps. The absence of this kind of information about the other serves to deny the legitimate presence of the other.
  4. Fourth, while present and problematic in all three school systems, the negative bias in presentation of the other, the positive bias in presentation of the self, and the absence of images and information about the other are all statistically significantly more pronounced in the Israeli Ultra-Orthodox and Palestinian books than in the Israeli State books.

For school book project coverage in Haaretz, please click here.
For school book project coverage in the Forward, please click here.

For instruments and research methods, click here.

This project was launched by the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land in Jerusalem, in August 2009.

With the goal to study the “Portrayal of the Other” in Palestinian and Israeli school books, the project is funded by a grant from U.S Department of State and is implemented under the supervision of Prof. Bruce Wexler of Yale University and his NGO – A Different Future.

A joint Palestinian-Israeli research team – headed by Professors Daniel Bar-Tal (Tel Aviv University) and Sami Adwan (Bethlehem University) – was formed, employing 10 research assistants (6 Israeli and 4 Palestinian, all fluent in Arabic and Hebrew) to analyze texts of 370 Israeli and 102 Palestinian books from grades 1 to 12.

A Scientific Advisory Panel was also assembled, consisting of European, American, Palestinian and Israeli experts in school book analysis, history and education, who will oversee all aspects of the work.

This is the first study to constitute a joint Israeli/Palestinian research team and use identical, standardized scientific methods in a simultaneous and comprehensive study of both Israeli and Palestinian books with oversight by an expert Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP).

Research timeline:
Stage One: (August 5, 2009) Planning conference in Jerusalem to review past studies of text books in areas of conflict as well as methods of text book analysis, and present proposed methods by the Scientific Research Team for review by the international Scientific Advisory Panel.

Stage Two: (August 2009 to December 2011) Analysis of school books.
Stage Three: (January 2012 to May 2012) Review of study findings by the research team, the Scientific Advisory Panel and the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land. Public presentation of research findings, and recommendations by the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land.

BCCLA challenges “laughable” ban on free speech by Prince Rupert school board

BC Civil Liberties Association — The BCCLA is calling on the Prince Rupert School District (No. 052) to reverse its ban on teachers wearing t-shirts displaying section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the provision that protects free speech. The t-shirts display the Shakespeare-inspired question “2(b) or not 2(b)?” on the front, and the text of section 2 of the Charter on the back: 2(a) freedom of religion, 2(b) freedom of expression, 2(c) freedom of peaceful assembly, and 2(d) freedom of association.

The BCCLA argues that the ban on these t-shirts is a violation of the constitutional right to free speech displayed on the t-shirt itself. Freedom of expression guarantees the rights of speakers and listeners alike. In banning these shirts, the School District has violated both the teachers’ and students’ rights to learn, think and talk about their fundamental freedoms.

“The school district’s decision to ban free speech about free speech reminds us of a badly-written comedy sketch. But this isn’t an Air Farce skit, it’s a troubling violation of teachers’ constitutional right to free expression,” said Lindsay Lyster, President of the BCCLA. “The School District has an obligation to respect free speech, and there is no lawful justification for the District to ban these t-shirts.”

As a government body, School District No. 052 is bound by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the guarantee of freedom of expression and freedom of association. Governments can only limit such rights in a narrow range of circumstances, according to legal tests established by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Lyster added that the ban on these t-shirts is contrary to the principle that schools should be places for open discussion and inquiry: “Banning these t-shirts seems to be short-sighted attempt to cut off discussion and thinking about the basic constitutional rights that the t-shirts display. We assume that this ban has provoked a lot of discussion among Prince Rupert students. Unfortunately, the District has provided an example of a government violating the constitutional rights for its students to discuss, rather than the better example of a government respecting those rights.”

See the BCCLA’s Letter to Prince Rupert School District Board

States Push Ahead With Plans to Arm Teachers

An instructor helps a student at a teachers-only firearms training class in Sarasota, Florida on January 16. (Reuters)

The Atlantic, Emily Richmond, January 22, 2013 —  In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, lawmakers are moving quickly to respond to the public outcry to do more to ensure schools are safe. But will arming teachers — or putting an armed guard at every school in the nation, as the NRA has suggested — make a meaningful difference? Or would it actually increase the risk of harm, as some gun control advocates contend?

Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky recently addressed those concerns with a degree of candor that might not help advance his crusade to allow educators to pack heat. At an event with business leaders in Oldham County (as recorded by the Louisville Courier-Journal), Rand said the following: “Is it perfect? No. Would they always get the killer? No. Would an accident sometimes happen in a melee? Maybe.”

Labor groups and associations representing the nation’s school teachers and principals have already saidthat asking educators to be prepared to respond to an armed intruder with similar firepower is an unreasonable burden. At the same time, there’s also been a reported spike in interest among some teachers who say they want to know what their options are when it comes to protecting themselves — and possibly their students — from an armed intruder on campus.

For more than decade, the Utah Shooting Sports Council has offered free weapons training to teachers. The first class of the new year brought ten times the normal enrollment, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The class covers the fundamentals of applying for a concealed weapons permit, carrying a weapon, and using it to respond to an emergency. And the training doesn’t just focus on how to respond with a gun. Teachers are also taught techniques such as “gouging an attacker’s eyes, choking an attacker and how to hide,” according to the Tribune.

Utah teachers are far from the only ones expressing increased interest in concealed weapons. There has also been a jump in inquiries at gun training clinics in Florida, according to the Palm Beach Post, even though the state bans nearly all weapons at public schools.

Read More: The Atlantic

Henry A. Giroux | The War Against Teachers as Public Intellectuals in Dark Times

Truth-Out December 17, 2012. The tragic deaths of 26 people shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., included 20 young children and six educators. Many more children might have been killed or injured had it not been for the brave and decisive actions of the teachers in the school.  The mainstream media was quick to call them heroes, and there is little doubt that what they did under horrific circumstances reveals not only how important educators are in shielding children from imminent threat, but also how demanding their roles have become in preparing them to negotiate a world that is becoming more precarious, more dangerous – and infinitely more divisive.   Teachers are one of the most important resources a nation has for providing the skills, values and knowledge that prepare young people for productive citizenship – but more than this, to give sanctuary to their dreams and aspirations for a future of hope, dignity and justice. It is indeed ironic, in the unfolding nightmare in Newtown, that only in the midst of such a shocking tragedy are teachers celebrated in ways that justly acknowledge – albeit briefly and inadequately – the vital role they play every day in both protecting and educating our children.  What is repressed in these jarring historical moments is that teachers have been under vicious and sustained attack by right-wing conservatives, religious fundamentalists, and centrist democrats since the beginning of the 1980s. Depicted as the new “welfare queens,” their labor and their care has been instrumentalized and infantilized[1] they have been fired en masse under calls for austerity; they have seen rollbacks in their pensions, and have been derided because they teach in so-called “government schools.”  Public school teachers too readily and far too pervasively have been relegated to zones of humiliation and denigration.  The importance of what teachers actually do, the crucial and highly differentiated nature of the work they perform and their value as guardians, role models and trustees only appears in the midst of such a tragic event. If the United States is to prevent its slide into a deeply violent and anti-democratic state, it will, among other things, be required fundamentally to rethink not merely the relationship between education and democracy, but also the very nature of teaching, the role of teachers as engaged citizens and public intellectuals and the relationship between teaching and social responsibility.  This essay makes one small contribution to that effort.

The War Against Public School Teachers

Right-wing fundamentalists and corporate ideologues are not just waging a war against the rights of unions, workers, students, women, the disabled, low-income groups and poor minorities, but also against those public spheres that provide a vocabulary for connecting values, desires, identities, social relations and institutions to the discourse of social responsibility, ethics, and democracy, if not thinking itself.  Neoliberalism, or unbridled free-market fundamentalism, employs modes of governance, discipline and regulation that are totalizing in their insistence that all aspects of social life be determined, shaped and weighted through market-driven measures.[2] Neoliberalism is not merely an economic doctrine that prioritizes buying and selling, makes the supermarket and mall the temples of public life and defines the obligations of citizenship in strictly consumerist terms. It is also a mode of pedagogy and set of social arrangements that uses education to win consent, produce consumer-based notions of agency and militarize reason in the service of war, profits, power and violence while simultaneously instrumentalizing all forms of knowledge.

The increasing militarization of reason and growing expansion of forms of militarized discipline are most visible in policies currently promoted by wealthy conservative foundations such as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute along with the high-profile presence and advocacy of corporate reform spokespersons such as Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee and billionaire financers such as Michael Milken.[3] As Ken Saltman, Diane Ravitch, Alex Means and others have pointed out, wealthy billionaires such as Bill Gates are financing educational reforms that promote privatization, de-professionalization, online classes, and high-stakes testing, while at the same time impugning the character and autonomy of teachers and the unions that support them.[4] Consequently, public school teachers have become the new class of government-dependent moochers and the disparaged culture of Wall Street has emerged as the only model or resource from which to develop theories of educational leadership and reform.[5] The same people who gave us the economic recession of 2008, lost billions in corrupt trading practices, and sold fraudulent mortgages to millions of homeowners have ironically become sources of wisdom and insight regarding how young people should be educated.

Read More: Truth-Out: Henry A. Giroux | The War Against Teachers as Public Intellectuals in Dark Times