Category Archives: Research

Ideology and the social studies curriculum in Chile

Institute for Critical Education Studies
Open Seminar
Monday, September 26, 2016
Noon – 1:oopm
Scarfe 1209
University of British Columbia

Curricular Ideologies in the Discussion and Negotiation of the Chilean Social Studies Curriculum

GazmuriRenato Gazmuri, PhD
Assistant Professor at Universidad Diego Portales (Chile). Dr. Gazmuri received his PhD at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain) 

Abstract: The Chilean social studies curriculum has been defined through processes of discussion and negotiation between diverse actors and institutions with different views on the subject. In order to identify and describe these ideologies, a sequential and recursive methodological device was designed and applied in three stages of production and analysis of information: a documentary compilation around three curricular events of debate and negotiation, application of questionnaires, and interviews. At each stage a content analysis was performed. Five curriculum ideologies are identified and described, considering their assumptions about how the curriculum should define the subject matter, as well what its aims, contents and its guidelines for teaching.

EDCP Seminar: Abraham DeLeon “A Schizophrenic Scholar out for Stroll: Multiplicities, Becomings, Conjurings”

2016-sept-edcp-seminar

ICES Seminar: Curricular Discourses, Perspectives, and Experiences From Spain & South America

Public Seminar
Institute for Critical Education Studies

September 22, 2016
11:30am – 1:30pm
Scarfe 310
University of British Columbia

Curricular Discourses with Practical Implications:
Perspectives and Experiences From Spain & South America

This seminar brings together scholars from Spain and South America working within a variety of curriculum studies traditions to discuss curriculum issues in contexts ranging from elementary education to higher education. The seminar will be an opportunity to explore how curricular discourses have implications in educational practices in local, national, and global contexts.

GazmuriA National Curriculum: Educational Standardization or Common Cultural Base
Renato Gazmuri, Assistant Professor, Universidad Diego Portales (Chile).
Dr. Gazmuri received his PhD at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain)

SDelgadotudent Activism: Building an Alternative Educational Logic in Opposition To Corporatized Learning
Sandra Delgado (Colombia)
PhD Student in Curriculum Studies, University of British Columbia

MurilloCurriculum as Symptom: Local Experiences of Global Designs
Fernando M. Murillo (Chile)
PhD Student in Curriculum Studies, University of British Columbia

 

Tosar

Critical Literacy in the Social Studies Elementary Classroom
Breo Tosar (Spain)
PhD Student in Social Studies Education, Autonomous University of Barcelona

Gomez

Human Rights in the Curriculum: Precarity and Complexity
Héctor Gómez (Chile)
PhD Student in Curriculum Studies, University of British Columbia

New Workplace Issue: Reforming Academic #Labor, Resisting Imposition, K12 and #HigherEd

New Workplace Issue #25

Reforming Academic Labor, Resisting Imposition, K12 and Higher Education

Workplace and Critical Education are published by the Institute for Critical Education Studies. Please consider participating as author or reviewer. Thank you.

New Workplace Issue: Academic Bullying & Mobbing #academicfreedom #ubc #aaup

New Workplace Issue #24

Academic Bullying & Mobbing

Workplace and Critical Education are published by the Institute for Critical Education Studies. Please consider participating as author or reviewer. Thank you.

Jan Masschelein: ‘Reclaiming the School as Pedagogic Form’ public lecture at UBC

Institute for Critical Education Studies
Faculty of Education
University of British Columbia

Public Lecture
‘Reclaiming the School as Pedagogic Form’

Dr. Jan Masschelein
(Katholieke Universiteit Leuven)

May 12, 2015
12:00 – 2:00pm

Scarfe 1214
(Education Building, UBC Vancouver)

 In my contribution I will use the word ‘school’ to refer to a specific pedagogic form i.e. a concrete way (including architecture, practices, technologies, pedagogical figures) to gather people and things (arranging their company and presence) so that, on the one hand, it allows for people to experience themselves as being able to take care of things, and, at the same time and on the other hand, to be exposed to something outside of themselves (the common world). It is a very specific combination of taking distance and (allowing for) re-attachment. As a consequence, the term ‘school’ is not used (as is very often the case) for so-called normalizing institutions or machineries of reproduction in the hands of the cultural or economic elites. There is reproduction and normalizing, of course, but then the school does not (or does no longer) function as a pedagogic form.

Put differently: schools are particular ways to deal with the new generations and to take care of the common world that is disclosed for them. If education is the response of a society to the arrival of newcomers, as Hannah Arendt formulates it, and if schools are particular ways of doing this, ways that are different from initiation and socialization, ways that offer the new generations the possibility for renewal and the opportunity of making its own future, i.e. a future that is not imposed or defined (destined) by the older one, ways that imply to accept to be slowed down (in order to find, or even, make a destiny), ways that accept that education is about the common world (and not individual resources), then we could state that the actual ‘learning policies’ of the different nation states as well as of international bodies are in fact threatening the very existence of schools (including school teachers). 

To reclaim the school, then, is not simply about restoring classic or old techniques and practices, but about actually trying to develop or experiment with old and new techniques and practices in view of designing pedagogic forms that work under current conditions, that is, that actually slow down, and put society at a distance from itself.

Jan MasscheleinJan Masschelein is head of the Laboratory for Education and Society, and of the research group Education, Culture and Society at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium). His research concerns the public and societal role of education and schooling, the role of the university, the changing experiences of time and space in the age of the network, the educational meaning of cinema and camera, the architecture of schools and architecture of the learning environment, a pedagogy of attention, the notion of ‘pedagogy’, the pedagogical role of teachers and social workers. His book, In Defense of School (with Maarten Simons) is available at http://goo.gl/NN4XeD.

It’s report card season. How should parents respond to their students grades? [Updated]

It’s report card season. Just how useful are report cards? How should parents respond to their students grades? What kind of questions can or should parents ask teachers about the assessment of their students’ performance? Should parents reward their students for good grades?

Sandra Mathison, an expert on evaluation and co-director of Institute for Critical Education Studies, offers advice on these and other issues in the UBC News Experts Spotlight.

Listen for Dr. Mathison’s comments on report cards today on Vancouver radio (News 1130 and CBC Vancouver’s On The Coast) and television (Global News BC1)

Listen to the podcast of Dr. Mathison’s comments on CBC’s On the Coast, with Stephen Quinn.

From The Province: Don’t overreact when it comes to school report cards: Expert

From Yahoo News: Don’t reward good report cards: UBC professor

From E-Valuation: Reporting Evaluation Results ~ The Case of School Report Cards

Research stories: A graduate forum #hwl #yreUBC #UBC #bced

RESEARCH STORIES: A GRADUATE FORUM

 How We Learn Media and Technology (across the lifespan)
Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy
University of British Columbia

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
10:00-11:30     Scarfe 1209
Year of Research in Education event

GIRLS DESIGNING GAMES, MEDIA, ROBOTS, SELVES, AND CULTURE
Paula (PJ) MacDowell
University of British Columbia

This research involved 30 co-researchers, girls aged 10–13, who were recruited into 101 Technology Fun, a series of intensive research camps offering learning labs in game design, video production, and robotics. Utilizing design-based and participatory techniques, including artifact production, mindscripting, and storymaking, this research examines how girls, through their artifact making and designerly practices, story themselves and express their understandings of technology. Highlighting the importance for girls’ voices to be recognized and given influence in research concerning their lives and learning circumstances, findings focus on the catalytic or generative artifacts and “little stories” that reveal how a team of girls analyze their experiences of girlhood-in-interaction-with technology.

MIGRANT MEXICAN YOUTH IN THE PACIFIC NORTWEST
Mike D. Boyer
Boise State University

 What are the stories of migrant, undocumented Mexican youth, as they struggle with language and acculturation in the English-speaking rural Northwest? As Michael Boyer describes, his own study of a set of such stories takes as its starting point narratives written and illustrated by students in his grade 7-12 ESL classroom some 10 years ago. Of course, these stories subsequently diverge as they continue to the present, and as these former students, now adults, connect back to their earlier experiences and reflect on the relation of these experiences to the present. The collection and investigation of these stories, new and old, and their relationship to past realities and future possibilities offers startling insights into the experiences of those othered and marginalized as “immigrant Hispanic children” in America. At the same time, it also entails the creative combination or a range of narratological, political and cultural categories and modes of analysis.

DESIGNING THINGS, PRACTICES AND CONCERN FOR THE GOOD LIFE
Yu-Ling Lee
University of British Columbia

 This research examines the complex relationship between design, the sacred and online learning, framed by matters of concern. It is the culmination of a yearlong ethnographic research project in the lives of Christian undergraduate students in Vancouver. Focal concerns in the form of things and practices have disclosive power if they are designed for the good life. The task of the designer, then, is to purposefully move away from matters of fact towards matters of concern. The interviews were open-ended and based on a loosely structured set of questions about faith background, Internet usage, online spiritual experiences, and other factors. Conversations and participant observations were then analyzed as matters of concern.

Class size and composition most important public policy issue in BC teachers dispute

Class size and composition is arguably the single most important public policy issue in the current dispute between BC teachers and government.

The educational and economic implications of class size and composition policies are huge, but in the context of collective bargaining and related court cases public discussion of the costs and benefits of class size reduction has been cut short.

Class size is one of the most rigorously studied issues in education. Educational researchers and economists have produced a vast amount of research and policy studies examining the effects of class size reduction (CSR).

What is the research evidence on CSR?

Since the late 1970s, the empirical evidence shows that students in early grades perform better in small classes and these effects are magnified for low-income and disadvantaged students. Most studies have focused on primary grades, but the relatively small number of studies of later grades also shows positive results of CSR.

Randomized experiments are the “gold standard” in social science research. One such study, known as Project STAR, involved 11,500 students and 1,300 teachers in 79 Tennessee schools produced unequivocal results that CSR significantly increased student achievement in math and reading.

A CSR experiment in Wisconsin illustrated student gains in math, reading, and language arts. In Israel, which has high, but strict maximum class size rules, a rigorous study of CSR produced results nearly identical to Project STAR. Studies in Sweden, Denmark, and Bolivia find similar results.

Do all studies of CSR produce unequivocal positive results? No, but the vast majority of research, including the most rigorous studies, leave no doubt about the positive effects of CSR.

The research evidence on CSR led to class-size caps in California, Texas, Florida, and British Columbia, before the BC government stripped them from the teachers’ contract in 2002.

Why are smaller classes better?

Observational research in reduced size classes finds that students are more highly engaged with what they are learning. That is, students have higher participation rates, spend more time on task, and demonstrate more initiative.

In turn, teachers in smaller classes spend more time on instruction and less time managing misbehavior. They also have more time to reteach lessons when necessary and to adapt their teaching to the individual needs of the students.

One, perhaps counter-intuitive, finding from the research is experienced teachers are better able to capitalize on the advantages of smaller classes than more novice teachers.

How small is small enough?

Project STAR reduced class size from an average of 22 students to 15. Previous research found significant positive effects of CSR at below 20.

Based on these findings some have argued that CSR is not effective unless these levels are attainable. But, the broad pattern of evidence indicates a positive impact of CSR across a range of class sizes.

What about the costs?

There are demonstrable costs involved in reducing class size. As with all public policy questions both benefits and costs must be considered. The potential future costs of not creating smaller classes in public schools also must be taken into account.

Reduced class size boosts not only educational achievement, but has a positive impact on variety of life outcomes after students leave school.

Results from a number of studies show that students assigned to small classes have more positive educational outcomes than their peers in regular-sized classes including rates of high school graduation, post-secondary enrolment and completion, and quality of post-secondary institution attended.

Additionally, students from small classes have lower rates of juvenile criminal behavior and teen pregnancy; and better savings behavior and higher rates of homeownership than peers from regular-size classes.

What are the policy implications of CSR research?

Class size in an important determinant of a broad range of educational and life outcomes, which means policy decisions in this area will have a significant impact on future quality of life in the province.

The money saved today by not reducing class size will be offset by more substantial social and educational costs in the future, making class size reduction the most cost-effective policy.

Sample of CSR Research Articles:

Angrist, J.D., & Lavy, V. (1999). Using Maimonides’ rule to estimate the effect of class size on scholastic achievement. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 114(2), 533-575.

Browning, M., & Heinesen, E. (2007). Class Size, teacher hours and educational attainment. The Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 109(2), 415-438.

Chetty, R., Friedman, J.N., Hilger, N., Saez, E., Schanzenbach, D.W., & Yagan D. (2011). How does your kindergarten classroom affect your earnings? Evidence from Project STAR. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 126(4), 1593-1660.

Dynarski, S., Hyman, J., & Schanzenbach, D.W. (2013). Experimental evidence on the effect of childhood investments on postsecondary attainment and degree completion. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 32(4), 692-717.

Finn, J., Gerber, S., & Boyd-Zaharias, J. (2005). Small classes in the early grades, academic achievement, and graduating from high school. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97(2), 214-223.

Fredriksson, P., Öckert, B., & Oosterbeek, H. (2013). Long-term effects of class size. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 128(1), 249-285.

Krueger, A.B. (1999). Experimental estimates of education production functions. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 115(2), 497-532.

Krueger, A.B., & Whitmore, D. (2001). The effect of attending a small class in the early grades on college test taking and middle school test results: Evidence from Project STAR. Economic Journal, 111, 1-28.

Krueger, A.B., & Whitmore, D. (2002). Would smaller classes help close the black-white achievement gap? In J.Chubb & T. Loveless (Eds.), Bridging the Achievement Gap (pp. 11-46). Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.

Molnar, A., Smith, P., Zahorik, J., Palmer, A., Halbach, A., & Ehrle, K. (1999). Evaluating the SAGE program: A pilot program in targeted pupil-teacher reduction in Wisconsin. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 21(2), 165-77.

Word, E., Johnston, J., Bain, H.P., et al. (1990). Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR): Tennessee’s K-3 class size study. Final summary report 1985-1990. Nashville: Tennessee State Department of Education.

Urquiola, M. (2006). Identifying class size effects in developing countries: Evidence from rural Bolivia. Review of Economics and Statistics, 88(1), 171-177.

The Amazing E. Wayne divines, predicts and bends #bced Ministry’s back-pedal #bcpoli #whystopatfinland

E. Wayne Ross, WTBHNN, May 8, 2014– On Tuesday May 6, 2014, the “Amazing E. Wayne”—renowned mystic, soothsayer, prophet, knower of things about BC politics—wrote the following about BC Minister of Education Peter Fassbender’s announcement of an investigation into the bizarre story of Rick Davis, the BC Ministry of Education official who commissioned a $16,000 report on Finnish teacher education from a 19-year-old high school graduate he met when she as deejaying at a wedding:

I’m doubtful we’ll get any real insights into this bizarre episode, at least in the short term, because Education Minister Peter Fassbender indicated that the investigation would focus on contract “procedures” rather than substance of the decision making process.

As predicted the Fassbender investigation found that everything is hunky-dory in the Ministry. Read all about it here.

Fassbender’s, technical investigation into procedures of doling out single-source contracts, misses the larger point, which is the misguided judgment of education ministry staff in this case, particularly Rick Davis. Opting to CYA politically reinforces the point I have been hammering on since this imbroglio came to light last September, that is, the BC Ministry of Education actions demonstrate a profound lack of respect for the teaching profession, teacher education, and educational research in general.

BC Ministry @FassbenderMLA may allocate $864m for #bced grad research projects #16kpergrad #bcpoli #whystopatfinland

In all fairness to the balance of BC grads overlooked in research allocations last year, the BC Ministry of Education will do the right thing: Allocate $16,000 for each grade 12 student to conduct a comparative education research project of their choice. This could help those seniors who may not graduate actually complete. Yes, in the face of budget cuts and bad faith bargaining in provisioning fair contracts for BC teachers, allocating $864m to grads may seem a bit frivolous. Or not.

But fair is fair. Guaranteed, BC high school seniors should be knocking on the Ministry’s door for their allocations.

In this developing scenario, the BC Ministry of Education will continue its comparative education research agenda. Why stop at Finland?

Grads could hit the pavement, traveling to each and every country– no, not just country (there are only about 200), but every province and state in the world– to compare the educational system with that of BC. But are there 54,000 provinces and states? No, so expand the comparative ed research agenda to cities– there are about 37,000 cities. Obviously, some will have to go to small towns.

OK, theres the math. The ministry will allocate $864m to send 54k grads to cities and towns around the world the compare their ed systems with BC.

It’s not easy to get reports from grads so make that $900m. But then you might ask, why stop at grade 12? Isn’t that ageist?

Equity, Governance, Economics and Critical University Studies #criticaled #edstudies #ubc #ubced #bced #yteubc

Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor
Equity, Governance, Economics and Critical University Studies
No 23 (2014)

As we state in our Commentary, “This Issue marks a couple of milestones and crossroads for Workplace. We are celebrating fifteen years of dynamic, insightful, if not inciting, critical university studies (CUS). Perhaps more than anything, and perhaps closer to the ground than any CUS publication of this era, Workplace documents changes, crossroads, and the hard won struggles to maintain academic dignity, freedom, justice, and integrity in this volatile occupation we call higher education.” Workplace and Critical Education are published by the Institute for Critical Education Studies (ICES).

Commentary

  • Critical University Studies: Workplace, Milestones, Crossroads, Respect, Truth
    • Stephen Petrina & E. Wayne Ross

Articles

  • Differences in Black Faculty Rank in 4-Year Texas Public Universities: A Multi-Year Analysis
    • Brandolyn E Jones & John R Slate
  • Academic Work Revised: From Dichotomies to a Typology
    • Elias Pekkola
  • No Free Set of Steak Knives: One Long, Unfinished Struggle to Build Education College Faculty Governance
    • Ishmael Munene & Guy B Senese
  • Year One as an Education Activist
    • Shaun Johnson
  • Rethinking Economics Education: Challenges and Opportunities
    • Sandra Ximena Delgado-Betancourth
  • Review of Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think
    • C. A. Bowers

BC schools class composition worse than ever #bced #bcpoli #ubc #yteubc #edstudies

BCTF New Release, January 8, 2014– Data on BC’s education system released by the government shows our province’s class composition is worse than ever before, said BCTF President Jim Iker. There are over 16,000 classes with four or more children with special needs.

“BC teachers fully support including all students, like those with special needs, in our classrooms, but 12 years of cutbacks have meant those kids are not getting the support they need,” said Iker. “Ever since the BC Liberal government stripped our collective agreement in 2002, learning conditions for all students have deteriorated. We see the results today because more teachers than ever before are dealing with overly complex classrooms without the support of specialist teachers to support students.”

The data released by the Ministry of Education shows there are 16,163 classes with four or more students with special needs. That represents one in four of all classes in BC. In addition, a staggering 3,875 classes have seven or more children with special needs in them. The data also highlights concerns with the support available for English Language Learners (ELL) formerly known as ESL in BC. There are 4,636 classes with seven or more English Language Learners (ELL). Within that total are 1,956 Kindergarten to Grade 3 classes with seven or more English Language Learners.

“Class composition is one of the most important aspects in education,” said Iker. “An overly complex class puts immense pressure on the teacher to meet the needs of all students. As teachers, we fully support and embrace diversity in learning styles and needs in our classrooms, but we can only do so much without extra support before students lose out.”

Iker also pointed out that the worsening of class composition year-over-year has coincided with dramatic cuts to learning specialist teachers. For example, since 2002 BC has lost approximately 700 special education teachers and over 300 English Language Learner teachers. Furthermore, BC has the worst student-educator ratio in Canada and funds education $1,000 less per student than the national average.

“BC teachers are among the best in the world, but this government is making it harder for them to do their jobs and harder for students to get the education they deserve,” said Iker. “It’s time for government to step up, correct their past mistakes, and address BC’s worsening class composition.”

Click here to view the Class composition chart.

The New Academic Labor Market and Graduate Students: new issue of Workplace #occupyeducation #bced #yteubc

The Institute for Critical Education Studies (ICES) is extremely pleased to announce the launch of Workplace Issue #22, “The New Academic Labor Market and Graduate Students” (Guest Editors Bradley J. Porfilio, Julie A. Gorlewski & Shelley Pineo-Jensen).

 The New Academic Labor Market and Graduate Students

Articles:

  • The New Academic Labor Market and Graduate Students: Introduction to the Special Issue (Brad Porfilio, Julie Gorlewski, Shelley Pineo-Jensen)
  • Dismissing Academic Surplus: How Discursive Support for the Neoliberal Self Silences New Faculty (Julie Gorlewski)
  • Academia and the American Worker: Right to Work in an Era of Disaster Capitalism? (Paul Thomas)
  • Survival Guide Advice and the Spirit of Academic Entrepreneurship: Why Graduate Students Will Never Just Take Your Word for It (Paul Cook)
  • Standing Against Future Contingency: Activist Mentoring in Composition Studies (Casie Fedukovich)
  • From the New Deal to the Raw Deal: 21st Century Poetics and Academic Labor (Virginia Konchan)
  • How to Survive a Graduate Career (Roger Whitson)
  • In Every Way I’m Hustlin’: The Post-Graduate School Intersectional Experiences of Activist-Oriented Adjunct and Independent Scholars (Naomi Reed, Amy Brown)
  • Ivory Tower Graduates in the Red: The Role of Debt in Higher Education (Nicholas Hartlep, Lucille T. Eckrich)
  • Lines of Flight: the New Ph.D. as Migrant (Alvin Cheng-Hin Lim)

The scope and depth of scholarship within this Special Issue has direct and immediate relevance for graduate students and new and senior scholars alike. We encourage you to review the Table of Contents and articles of interest.

Our blogs and links to our Facebook timelines and Twitter stream can be found at http://blogs.ubc.ca/workplace/ and http://blogs.ubc.ca/ices/

Thank you for your ongoing support of Workplace,

Sandra Mathison, Stephen Petrina & E. Wayne Ross, co-Directors
Institute for Critical Education Studies
Critical Education

New articles from Critical Education

Please note that the Institute for Critical Education Studies‘ (ICES) flagship journal, Critical Education, has just published its latest issue. We invite you to review the Table of Contents here and then visit the journal to review articles and items of interest.

  • Pedagogy and Privilege: The Challenges and Possibilities of Teaching Critically About Racism
    Ken Montgomery
  • Race and Fear of the ‘Other’ in Common Sense Revolution Reforms
    Laura Elizabeth Pinto
  • The Struggle for Critical Teacher Education: How Accreditation Practices Privilege Efficiency Over Criticality and Compliance over Negotiation
    Jean Ann Foley
  • Race and Fear of the ‘Other’ in Common Sense Revolution Reforms
    Laura Elizabeth Pinto
  • The Relationship of Teacher Use of Critical Sociocultural Practices with Student Achievement
    Annela Teemant & Charles S. Hausman
  • Coring the Social Studies within Corporate Education Reform: The Common Core State Standards, Social Justice, and the Politics of Knowledge in U.S. Schools
    Wayne Au
  • Catch-22 and the Paradox of Teaching in the Age of Accountability
    Christopher Leahey

We encourage you to consider Critical Education and Workplace for publishing and circulating your research.

Thanks for the continuing interest in our work,

Sandra Mathison
Stephen Petrina
E. Wayne Ross

Institute for Critical Education Studies

 

Evaluating Education: Great Schools Project v Fraser Institute

A great example of how fact becomes fiction, and in return how fiction becomes fact, a process critical theorists generally call reification, is the Fraser Institute’s annual ranking of schools in British Columbia. Yesterday, on 17 June 2013, the Fraser Institute published its rankings of secondary schools in BC. The Fraser Institute’s annual School Report Card is based on a single indicator in BC– “results of the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) exams in Grades 4 and 7 and provincial exams in Grades 10, 11, and 12.”

Fact becomes fiction: Individual students’ test scores on the controversial and hotly contested (by the BCTF, ICES, etc) FSA exams are aggregated and turned into a rating along a scale from 1 (worst) to 10 (best). A fiction of the quality of a school is generated out of the fact of individual students’ test scores.

Fiction becomes fact: The individual schools are then rank ordered, pitting school against school to capture the competitive nature of education, at the school level, in BC. The fiction of quality is represented as fact within the annual research-based School Report Card. The Fraser Institute exploits a fairly easy, common process.

Of course, there are many alternatives for evaluating education or judging the quality of schools. One of the most comprehensive alternatives has been taken up by the Great School Project, headed up by a group of experienced, insightful educators and researchers.

The purpose of the Great Schools Project is to develop methods to assess schools that support students, communities, and the public education system, so that we can provide the best education possible for every child—so that we have a useful answer to that Mum’s questions: How is our school doing? How well is our school meeting the needs of my child? It’s also an attempt to live up to our responsibility to move beyond simply criticizing — to make concrete proposals we believe will improve the public education system for kids.

Working methodically to offer productive ways of judging quality, the Great Schools Project has offered a set of Principles that ought to be at the base of any evaluation system.

Henry Giroux: The Educational Deficit and the War on Youth

Truthout Interview with Henry Giroux

Truthout contributor, director of Truthout’s Public Intellectual Project and Board member Henry Giroux responded on June 10, 2013, to questions concerning varieties of pedagogy and fundamentalism, markets, and the prospects for public schools raised by his latest book: America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth

Leslie Thatcher for TruthoutDidn’t teachers open themselves up for attack when they used the agency acquired through strong teachers’ unions in the service of self-interest rather than modeling critical pedagogy? And hasn’t that begun to change? How would you contrast the real versus the ostensible goals of education “reformers”? What has to happen now? And concretely, what must each of us do?

The narrative about the contemporary assault on public schools doesn’t begin with the failings of public schools. One can’t even talk about them in such monolithic terms; some are outstanding and some are a disgrace, which is largely the result of a funding structure that has always been deeply unequal. But a critical understanding of the current war on public and higher education might begin in the seventies when right-wing billionaires and ideologues decided that the biggest problem with public schools was not that they were failing – but that they were public. The so-called new “reformers” are really radicals who want to transform the entire structure of public and higher education to serve elite, corporate and military interests. The project that informs their understanding of education is anti-humanistic, unjust, iniquitous and authoritarian in its attack on all things public, which also includes public servants such as teachers and especially teachers’ unions. The so-called new “reformers” are thoroughly ideological, politicized and market-driven missionaries who camouflage their intentions and their interests by advancing elements of a progressive discourse to push their deeply conservative agenda. Terms like “freedom,” “choice,” “equity” and “democracy” are emptied of meaningful content and bandied about in order to promote the neoliberal script of privatization, standardization, high stakes testing, commodification and unchecked competition. The new reformers are reactionaries who assume the posture of committed, avant garde patron saints of educational renewal. But in reality they are a new breed of philanthro-capitalists looking to dictate the educational experiences of entire generations of students – their aptitudes, their competencies, their consciousness, their aspirations – and make a lot of money at the same time. They are as disingenuous as they are backward looking. The new “reformers” are, in reality, pushing an old right-wing attack on schools and teachers. According to them, teachers are the problem because they lack accountability and unions promote a self-interested bureaucracy. Underlying this claim is a refusal to address how larger structural issues such as racism, income inequality and exploding poverty impact on school failings or how they should be reformed in light of these forces. Fixing public education is reduced to bashing teachers, unions, public servants, and funneling taxpayer money “away from the public school system’s priorities (hiring teachers, training teachers, reducing class size, etc.) and into the private sector (replacing teachers with computers, replacing public schools with privately run charter schools, etc.).”(7) The alleged new “reformers” are in reality a mix of conservative billionaires, hedge fund managers, bankers and right-wing ideologues that constitute an anti-public education movement that has produced “just another get-rich-quick scheme shrouded in the veneer of altruism.”(8)

Unlike current “reformers,” those who advocate egalitarian reforms – who promote education as the practice of freedom – are well aware that if public schools are going to improve, they have to be defined and appropriately funded. Such schools should serve as laboratories of democracy, critical and accommodating spaces where young people have access to the expertise, skills and experience that both deepen their understanding of history, the arts, sciences – of humanistic traditions and archives in general – and the new world of advanced technologies, digital communications and screen culture. The acquisition and mastery of such diverse technologies, knowledge and skills are important not only so young people can find meaningful work but also so they can determine judiciously and rigorously their appropriate and inappropriate uses. In short, so they can rise to the level of critical and engaged citizens of the world.

Public schools must be defended as public goods that benefit not just individual children and their parents but an entire society. Critical reformers must also fight to protect teacher autonomy, struggle for equitable modes of financing, and recognize that any talk about improving schools under conditions of alleged austerity has to include an analysis of the failed domestic war on drugs and the wars abroad and the devastating effects they have had on such basic social services by diverting funds from public schools and increasingly criminalizing the behavior of low-income white and poor minority students. True reformers have to fight against the neoliberal onslaught on teachers, unions, curricula, diverse modes of accountability, and reclaim democratic values and civic education as crucial for creating quality public schools. The most important starting point for creating genuine educational reform is the necessity of acknowledging that the crisis of education cannot be separated from the war on youth, the rise of the neoliberal state, the war on terrorism, and the ongoing financialization and militarization of the entire society. To not understand these basic connections is to misrecognize the real drivers in shaping currently proposed changes and misdiagnose meaningful educational reform. Those market and corporate forces that now undermine public education in the name of fixing it have little to do with democracy and critical teaching and learning, except to weaken both as part of a larger corporate restructuring and militarization of public education as a securitized, profit-based entity. Battling against those forces clearly puts one on the side of genuine educational reform.

In strategic terms what would this mean? In my view, genuine educational reform should begin with rejecting the financing of schools through local taxes, which is fundamentally out of step with the funding models for public education in every other advanced, industrialized nation. Moreover, the struggle over the proper funding of public education should coincide with the struggle for smaller schools and classes, more resources, and more full time quality teachers – which would also entail a robust commitment to critical and comprehensive teacher education and so a rejection of its current debased state. Schooling is a public necessity that is as important as national defense and should be funded as such. Secondly, all attempts at the privatization and corporatization of schools must be rejected so as to make education truly public and widely accessible, removed from those who see it largely as another source of profits harnessed to corporate power. Schools must be defined as democratic public spheres and not simply as sites whose worth is determined by the morally truncated, narrow instrumental standards of measurable utility. Teachers need to work under conditions that provide them with the autonomy that enables them to take risks, be creative, and draw upon a range of educational approaches and pedagogies. Schools must be defined as sites of political and moral practice deeply involved in the production of democratic agents. Moreover, matters of vision, agency, and support should be connected to the struggle against those pedagogies of repression that reduce teaching to the imperatives of standardization and testing. We need modes of pedagogy that enliven the imagination, create thoughtful and curious students, incorporate an ethic of civic responsibility, and teach the practice of freedom. That means connecting pedagogy to the histories, experiences, and narratives that young people bring to any learning situation – the very educative contexts denied by the standardization juggernaut. Pedagogy should not mimic economic models with their reductionist worship of method, stripped of any sense of morality or social context. Instead, pedagogy should provide the conditions for students to invest in robust and critical forms of self and social agency. Pedagogy is not a neutral method, but a deeply political practice that is always connected to the acquisition of agency, a practice that demands that educators be vigilant about what identities are being produced under what conditions and for what purposes.

Critical educators, in concert with concerned citizens, need to raise the bar so as to demand modes of education in which teachers are knowledgeable and reflexive, function as agents of civic education, and create pedagogies that are provocative and illuminating in their ability to get students to come to terms with their own power as individual and social agents. Any viable mode of critical pedagogy must treat young people with respect and enable them to develop their own voice and sense of agency, and do so in an environment that is thoughtful, critical, humane and challenging. In the end, I think it is reasonable to argue, as I do in this book, that education at all levels is the fundamental precondition that makes democratic politics possible, provides a space where meaningful histories, voices and cultural differences can flourish, and enables students to grow intellectually and morally, reflect critically about their relationship with others, and interrogate thoughtfully their relationship with the broader society and the larger world. I make no apologies in arguing that the project that informs this book furthers the attempt to establish a connection between learning and social change, educate young people to be able to translate private troubles into broader social considerations, and create the pedagogical conditions for the development of a formative culture that expands and deepens the possibilities of a democratic society. The Education Deficit and the War on Youth is a call for educators and others to organize collectively both within and outside of schools to further develop the ideas, values and institutions necessary to sustain a world where justice prevails and individual and collective consciousness does not fall asleep.

Read More: Truthout

7. David Sirota, “It’s No Coincidence that the Public Education and Poverty Crises are Happening at the Same Time,” AlterNet (June 3, 2013). Online:http://www.alternet.org/education/us-department-education-releases-study-schools-and-poverty-rate

8. Ibid., David Sirota, “It’s No Coincidence that the Public Education and Poverty Crises are Happening at the Same Time.”

Cyberbullying and cybermobbing: What ought teachers do?

Heritage Minister James Moore announced $250,000 in funds this week to support the Federal government’s Youth Take Charge initiative. The new funding supports a youth-led anti-bullying project, primarily through the Canadian Red Cross’s Stand Up to Bullying and Discrimination in Canadian Communities project, building on the Red Cross’s Beyond the Hurt program. The Red Cross funds will be used to train 2,400 teens ages 13 to 17 to deliver workshops for their peers. The announcement was made at the Ottawa high school where Jamie Hubley was a student when he heart-breakingly took his life in the throes of bullying on 15 October 2011.

The new initiative and funds signal increasing concerns with bullying and cyberbullying, which is receiving due attention; mobbing, including cybermobbing, is also drawing attention. Although mobbing can refer to a group of bullies, it less obviously refers to scenarios where students, teens, etc. succumb to peer pressure to gang up on one or a few individuals. Any one of those joining into mobbing may never be suspected of bullying per se, as they are unlikely to single-handedly act against a target, but collectively all too readily assume the characteristics of the pack.

In the past year were two highly publicized suicides of young women in tormented by cyberbullying and cybermobbing through social media. The tragic story of Amanda Todd, who took her life on 10 October 2012 after posting on YouTube an emotional cry for help and description of how she suffered, generated a wave of compassion and questions: how could this have happened to a 15 year-old high school student at CABE Secondary School in Port Coquitlam, BC. Who and what are responsible? Why? Canadians relived a nightmare again when Rehteah Parsons, a 17 year-old student in Coal Harbour, NS, took her life on 7 April 2013. This young woman was a tragic victim of rape and subsequent malicious social media practices. Yet the deaths of these young women followed three suicides in 2011– young women all of which were tormented through social media practices maligning and targeting them: Emily McNamara, Jenna Bowers-Bryanton, and Courtenay Brown took their lives in March and April 2011. There is no getting over these young women, Jamie Hubley, or the many others who lost or took their lives for similar reasons.

Teachers have for years been taking stands against bullying and mobbing and need help and support, and they need insights into how to protect themselves from making a mistake in the selection of resources. For instance, on 29 May 2013, a Winnipeg teacher at École Julie Riel in St. Vital showed a popular anti-bullying movie titled Love is All You Need?, using the YouTube version. It’s a professionally produced movie with a powerful message. Writer and director Kim Rocco Shields defended the movie, noting that “it was created to open eyes of more adults and maybe teenagers, late teens, that couldn’t really grasp the idea of why kids were being bullied and why kids were taking their own lives.” Contemplating an edited version for use in schools, she reported that “some of the experts said, right then and there, we must change the ending so it’s more uplifting.”

Image from Love is All You Need?

With the explicit peer-induced and self-inflicted violence of the video, a student fainted in class and the boy’s parents understandably became quite upset. The boy’s father was straightforward: “A teacher chose something that was viewed that was not part of the official curriculum.” Superintendent Duane Brothers called the video “clearly inappropriate.”

Hopefully, in addition to the $250,000 for youth-led anti-bullying project more funds will be forthcoming forthcoming from federal and provincial governments for teacher-led initiatives.

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.