Category Archives: Research

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.

Standardized Testing in Canada: Real Accountability or an Illusion of Success?

Action Canada public dialogue taking place Friday, November 30th, from 8:00am to 9:30am. Moderated by Tom Clark (Chief Political Correspondent and Host of Global TV ‘s The West Block), the theme we will be exploring is:

 Standardized Testing in Canada: Real Accountability or an Illusion of Success?

Focusing on British Columbia’s K-12 education systems, our guest speakers for this session include Peter Cowley (Senior Vice-President Operations and Director of School Performance Studies, The Fraser Institute), April Lowe (Grade 3 Teacher, Garibaldi Highlands Elementary School), and Joel Westheimer (University Research Chair, Sociology of Education, University of Ottawa).

This event will take place in the Asia Pacific Hall of Vancouver’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue (580 West Hastings Street). Following this session will be two more dialogues hosted by other Action Canada Task Forces: “Teaching Questions Not Answers” (at 9:30am) and “Who Cares about Young Caregivers (at 11:00am).

This event is free, but registration is required: Vancouver Public Dialogue

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

-Sébastien Després and the Action Canada Task Force on Standardized Testing

Great Schools Teach-in

Great Schools Teach-In:
How Should We Assess Our Schools?

Saturday, December 1
10 am to 12:30 pm–coffee from 9:30
Simon Fraser University Surrey Campus (Surrey Central Sky Train)
250 – 13450 – 102nd Avenue

The Great Schools Project is a collaboration among individuals who want to strengthen and protect public education in British Columbia. For almost four years, educators, parents, researchers, and leaders, both inside and outside the education system, have met to discuss how to improve the way we evaluate and assess our schools.

We feel the current system is both too narrow (focused on only a portion of the important work schools do) and too punitive (with substantial negative impact on individual students and educators).

After extensive discussions of the current system of Foundation Skills Assessment (FSAs) and their use to rank schools, the GSP working group has developed ideas about alternatives that would better serve both students and public schools.

The Great Schools Teach-In provides an opportunity for us to present some of these ideas and for you to debate them and provide your input.

 Program:

  1. Alfie Kohn, outstanding critic of standardized testing and proponent of richer ways of understanding how well our children and their schools are doing (by videocast).
  2. Speakers from the Great Schools Project
  3. Discussion and debate.

Please RSVP to: dlaitsch@sfu.ca

For more information see our website: Great Schools Project

Great Schools Project Working Committee

  • David Chudnovsky (retired teacher; former MLA; BCTF President 1999-2002
  • Janet Dempsey (retired teacher; ESL specialist)
  • Iglika Ivanova, (Ecomomist and Public Interest Researcher CCPA)
  • Bill Hood (recently retired teacher; current PDP Faculty Associate SFU)
  • Larry Kuehn (Director Research and Technology BCTF)
  • Daniel Laitsch (Associate Professor Education Leadership, SFU Surrey; Founding Director SFU Centre for the Study of Educational Leadership and Policy; Co-Editor International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership)
  • Sandra Mathison (Professor of Education UBC; Co-Director Institute for Critical Education Studies)
  • Adrienne Montani (Provincial Coordinator First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition; former Chair, Vancouver School Board)
  • Marion Runcie (former Chairperson BCTF Teacher Personnel Services Committee; Facilitator, Programme for Quality Teaching; co-designer, Burnaby School District Professional Growth Programme)
  • Paul Shaker (Professor Emeritus, Dean of Education SFU 2003-2008)
  • Michael Zlotnik (retired teacher; retired BCTF staff person: President, Public Education Network Society 2007-2012)

Workplace #21 Launched: “In/stability, In/security & In/visibility: Tensions at Work for Tenured & Tenure Stream Faculty in the Neoliberal Academy”

We are extremely pleased to announce the launch of Workplace Issue #21, “In/stability, In/security & In/visibility: Tensions at Work for Tenured & Tenure Stream Faculty in the Neoliberal Academy” at http://ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/workplace/issue/view/182389

This Special Issue was Guest Edited by Kaela Jubas and Colleen Kawalilak and features a rich array of articles by Kaela and Colleen along with Michelle K. McGinn, Sarah A. Robert, Dawn Johnston, Lisa Stowe, and Sean Murray.

In/stability, In/security & In/visibility provides invaluable insights into the challenges and struggles of intellectuals coping with everyday demands
that at times feel relentless. As the co-Editors describe the Issue:

A tapestry of themes emerged… There were expressions of frustration, confusion, self-doubt, and disenchantment at having to work with competing agendas and priorities, both personal and institutional. Authors also spoke to how, even in challenging times and places, it is possible to find and create opportunities to survive and thrive, individually and collectively.

Narratives and findings therein will resonate with most if not all of us. We encourage you to review the Table of Contents and articles of interest.

Workplace and Critical Education are hosted by the Institute for Critical Education Studies (http://blogs.ubc.ca/ices/), and we invite you to submit manuscripts or propose special issues. We also remind you to follow our Workplace blog (http://blogs.ubc.ca/workplace/) and Twitter @icesubc for breaking news and updates.

Thanks for the continuing interest in Workplace,

Stephen Petrina & E. Wayne Ross, co-Editors
Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor
Institute for Critical Education Studies
http://blogs.ubc.ca/ices/
http://ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/criticaled
http://ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/workplace

Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor
No 21 (2012): In/stability, In/security, In/visibility: Tensions at Work for Tenured & Tenure Stream Faculty in the Neoliberal Academy
Table of Contents
http://ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/workplace/issue/view/182389

Articles

In/stability, In/security & In/visibility: Tensions at Work for Tenured &

  • Tenure Stream Faculty in the Neoliberal Academy (Kaela Jubas, Colleen Kawalilak)
  • Navigating the Neoliberal Terrain: Elder Faculty Speak Out (Colleen Kawalilak)
  • Being Academic Researchers: Navigating Pleasures and Pains in the Current Canadian Context (Michelle K. McGinn)
  • On Being a New Academic in the New Academy: Impacts of Neoliberalism on Work and Life of a Junior Faculty Member (Kaela Jubas)
  • “You Must Say Good-Bye At The School Door:” Reflections On The Tense And Contentious Practices Of An Educational Researcher-Mother In A Neoliberal Moment (Sarah A. Robert)
  • If It’s Day 15, This Must Be San Sebastian: Reflections on the Academic Labour of Short Term Travel Study Programs (Dawn Johnston, Lisa Stowe)
  • Teaching and Tenure in the Vocationalized University (Sean Murray)

Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor
http://ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/workplace

New Issue of Workplace Launched

Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor has just published Issue #20, “The New Academic Manners, Managers, and Spaces.”  This issue includes key conceptual and empirical analyses of

  • the creation and avoidance of unions in academic and business workplaces (Vincent Serravallo)
  • the new critiquette, impartial response to Bruno Latour and Jacques Ranciere’s critique of critique (Stephen Petrina)
  • the two-culture model of the modern university in full light of the crystal, neural university (Sean Sturm, Stephen Turner)
  • alternative narratives of accountability in response to neo-liberal practices of government (Sandra Mathison)
  • vertical versus horizontal structures of governance (Rune Kvist Olsen)
  • teachers in nomadic spaces and Deleuzian approaches to curricular practice (Tobey Steeves)

We invite you to review the Table of Contents for Issue #20 for articles and items of interest. Thanks for the continuing interest in Workplace (we welcome new manuscripts here and Critical Education),

Institute for Critical Education Studies (ICES)
Workplace Blog

Consumers or Critical Citizens? Financial Literacy Education and Freedom–New Issue of Critical Education

Critical Education
Vol 3 No 6
http://ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/criticaled/article/view/182350

Consumers or Critical Citizens? Financial Literacy Education and Freedom
Chris Arthur
Toronto District School Board
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

Abstract

Given the recent and ongoing economic crisis and high levels of consumer debt, the teaching of financial literacy in elementary and secondary schools has received widespread support. Too often, however, financial literacy education policy documents promote the individualization of economic risk and privilege the autonomy of the consumer or consumer-citizen over that of the critical citizen. This article argues for the necessity of a critical financial literacy education aimed at supporting critical citizens by providing a Marxist critique of the dominant liberal and neoliberal notions of freedom and responsibility reproduced in financial literacy education policy documents. The choice highlighted here is not between financial illiteracy and financial literacy but between accommodating oneself to neoliberal capitalism’s needs so as to remain in perpetual competition with others or understanding and collectively altering an economic system that promotes alienation, insecurity and exploitation.

Critical Education Vol 3, No 5: ‘Critical Thinking’ And State Mandated Testing: The Collision Of State Rhetoric And Teacher Beliefs

Critical Education has just published its latest issue at http://ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/criticaled.

We invite you to review the Table of Contents below and then visit our web site to read articles and items of interest.

Critical Education
Vol 3, No 5 (2012)
Table of Contents
http://ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/criticaled/issue/view/182244

Articles
——–
‘Critical Thinking’ And State Mandated Testing: The Collision Of State Rhetoric And Teacher Beliefs
Melissa Freeman, University of Georgia
Sandra Mathison, University of British Columbia
Kristen Wilcox, University at Albany, SUNY

Abstract

Based on case studies of two school districts in New York State, the authors analyze the contradictory and hegemonic discourse of critical thinking proffered in State curriculum standards and as manifest in state mandated student assessments. Using Gramsci’s (1971) notion of hegemony, the analysis illustrates that dominant groups (such as state administrators or federal policy makers) gain and maintain dominance by projecting their own way of seeing the world so that those who are subordinated by it (such as teachers) accept it as ‘common sense’ and ‘natural.’ The ways in which this hegemonic relationship is created and sustained, and it’s consequences, are illustrated in the way teachers make sense of fundamentally contradictory rhetoric and lived practice.

Keywords
Hegemony; Accountability; Critical Thinking

Critical Education: “Water is a Right: A Critique of Curricular Materials and Learning Experiences in Schools Sponsored by the Transnational Water Utility Service Industry”

Critical Education has just released a new issue, featuring the article “Water is a Right: A Critique of Curricular Materials and Learning Experiences in Schools Sponsored by the Transnational Water Utility Service Industry” by J. Hall.

Critical Education 3(3), 2012
Water is a Right: A Critique of Curricular Materials and Learning Experiences in Schools Sponsored by the Transnational Water Utility Service Industryd
J. Hall

Abstract

There is no longer an infinite supply of fresh water on the planet. In large part, the global water crisis is a result of large-scale, destructive, industrial “innovations.” In just fifteen years, two-thirds of the people on the planet will feel the impact of the diminishment of safe drinking water. Given the global water crisis, the focus is this analysis is on the transnational water utility service industry as well as the larger shift from the notion of drinking water as a public right to a commodity to be privately owned and sold on the global marketplace. I discuss the very different ways these corporations are entering communities in the Southern compared to the Northern hemisphere, including attempts to re-brand their image after public failures. I then consider the particular strategies these conglomerates use to seep into cities and towns in the North. Emphasis is placed on how this sector of the water industry is becoming involved in schooling through sponsoring curricular materials and activities. I also provide initial analysis of the messages distributed in a sample of such materials and activities intended for K-12 students. While literature exists that explores curricular materials in schools provided by transnational corporations involved in direct control of natural resources, surprisingly, the privatization of the world’s fresh water supply receives little attention in both education-based scholarship and media.

Ross delivers keynote at International Conference on Research in Teaching of Social Sciences in Barcelona

Last month, E. Wayne Ross, Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy and ICES member, gave the keynote address at the Ninth International Conference on Research in Teaching of Social Sciences at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain). Organized by GREDICS (Research Group on the Teaching of Social Sciences) this year’s conference theme was “The Formation of Social Thought and the Construction of Democracy in the Teaching of Social Science, Geography, and History.”

Ross’ talk, titled “Social Control and the Pursuit of Dangerous Citizenship”, can be streamed online here (in Catalan).

The PowerPoint presentation of Ross’ talk is available in English, Spanish, and Catalan.

The abstract of his talk follows:

Social Control and the Pursuit of Dangerous Citizenship

Yes, citizenship—above all in a society like ours, of such authoritarian and racially, sexually, and class-based discriminatory traditions—is really an invention, a political production. In this sense, one who suffers any [or all] of the discriminations…does not enjoy the full exercise of citizenship as a peaceful and recognized right. On the contrary, it is a right to be reached and whose conquest makes democracy grow substantively. Citizenship implies freedom…Citizenship is not obtained by chance: It is a construction that, never finished, demands we fight for it. It demands commitment, political clarity, coherence, decision. For this reason a democratic education cannot be realized apart from an education of and for citizenship. (Paulo Freire, Teachers as Cultural Workers, p. 90)

The nature of citizenship and the meanings of citizenship education are complex, as are their multiple and contradictory implications for contemporary schooling and everyday life. The issues citizenship education presents are critical and inexorably linked to the present and future status of public schooling and the maintenance, strengthening, and expansion of individual and democratic rights.

In his classic book Democracy and Education (1916), John Dewey opens with a discussion of the way in which all societies use education as a means of social control. Dewey argues that education as a social process and function has no definite meaning until we define the kind of society we have in mind. In other words, there is no “objective” answer to questions about the means and ends of citizenship education, because those purposes are not things that can be discovered.

In Normative Discourse, Paul Taylor (1961) succinctly states a maxim that has the potential to transform our approach to the civics, citizenship education and the whole of the social studies curriculum: “We must decide what ought to be the case. We cannot discover what ought to be the case by investigating what is the case” (p. 278). We—educators and citizens—must decide what ought to be the purpose of citizenship education. That means asking what kind of society, what kind of and world we want to live in and then taking action to make it a reality. And, in particular, in what sense of democracy do we want this to be a democratic society? In order to construct meaning for civics and citizenship education, we must engage these questions not as merely abstract or rhetorical, but in relation to our lived experiences and our professional practice as educators.

Not surprisingly then civics and citizenship education—which is generally accepted as the primary purpose the social studies education—has always been a highly contested curricular area. The tapestry of topics, methods, and aims we know as social studies education has always contained threads of social reconstructionism. Social reconstructionists in the USA, such as George S. Counts, Harold Rugg, and later Theodore Brameld argued that teachers should work toward social change by teaching students to practice democratic principles, collective responsibility, and social and economic justice. Dewey advocated the democratic reconstruction of society and aspects of his philosophy inform the work of some aspects of citizenship education. The traditional patterns of social studies teaching, curriculum, and teacher education, however, reflect little of the social reconstructionist vision of the future, and current practices in these areas are more often focused on implementing standardized curriculum and responding to high-stakes tests than developing and working toward a vision of a socially just world. Indeed, the self-described social studies “contrarians” in the USA who advocate the “transmission” of “facts” and reject pluralism in favor of nationalism and monculturalism seem to be have the upper hand in most schools and classrooms, despite spirited resistance.

Undoubtedly, good intentions undergird citizenship education programs in North American. And yet, too often their oppressive possibilities overwhelm and subsume their potential for anti-oppression and anti-oppressive education, especially as states, the national government, and professional education associations continue their drive to standardize, to impose a singular theory and practice of curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

Social studies educators must pursue, as some already do, an agenda dedicated to the creation of a citizenship education that struggles against and disrupts inequalities and oppression. Classroom practice must work toward a citizenship education committed to exploring and affecting the contingencies of understanding and action and the possibilities of eradicating exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence in both schools and society. Freire, as illustrated in the above quotation, like Dewey, teaches us that citizenship education is essential to democratic education, and that democratic education is essential to a free and democratic society. Students must know that birth, nationality, documents, and platitudes are not enough. They must understand that the promises of citizenship (freedom), the fulfillment of its virtues, are unfinished, and that they remain an ongoing, dynamic struggle. And they must come to act in a variety of creative and ethical ways, for the expansion and realization of freedom and democracy, the root of contemporary notions of citizenship, is in their hands, and it demands of them no less than the ultimate in democratic and anti-oppressive human reflection and human activity.

Contemporary conditions demand an anti-oppressive citizenship education, one that takes seriously social and economic inequalities and oppression that result from neoliberal capitalism and that builds upon the anti-oppressive possibilities of established and officially sanctioned approaches. Some new and potentially exciting directions and alternatives exist, however, within the recent scholarship surrounding Freirean and neo-Freirean pedagogy, democratic education, and cultural studies.

The pedagogical power “dangerous citizenship”, which I explore in the balance of this paper, resides in its capacity to encourage students and educators to challenge the implications of their own education/instruction, to envision an education that is free and democratic to the core, and to interrogate and uncover their own well-intentioned complicity in the conditions within which various cultural texts and practices appear, especially to the extent that oppressive conditions create oppressive cultural practices, and vice versa.

Trinational Coalition for the Defense of Public Education to meet in Mexico City, May 2012

The 10th Tri-national Conference in Defense of Public Education will be held in Mexico City, Mexico on May 17 – 19, 2012 at Centro de Educación Continua – Unidad Allende del IPN, en el Centro Histórico de la Ciudad de México.

The topic of our conference is: “Putting the public back in public education: Alternatives for the future”

Download the Final Declaration of the 2010 Conference of the Trinational Coalition for the Defense of Public Education, May 9, 2010 – Montreal Canada.