Tag Archives: education reform

Cookie-cutter solutions for First Nations education won’t work #idlenomore #edstudies #bced #ubc

PM Stephen Harper and Chief Weasel Head

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Chief Charles Weasel Head at last week’s announcement about changes to First Nation education. (Photo by Arnell Tailfeathers)

Angela Sterritt, CBC News, February 12, 2014– Twila Singer knows a thing or two about education on-reserve.

All five of her children are part of the Kainai First Nation and went to school on the Blood Tribe Reserve – in Blackfoot territory – close to Stand Off in southern Alberta. Her eldest son is now in college and her youngest is in Grade 1.

So when Singer caught wind of a community event last week, where Prime Minister Stephen Harper was to announce a historic education agreement between the federal government and First Nations, she put her ear to the ground.

“No one knew what was going on, we were left in the dark,” said Singer.

The release also publicized a peaceful rally outside the Kainai Nation High School, where Prime Minister Stephen Harper made his announcement related to First Nations education.

On the day of the event, Singer made the decision to go inside for the announcement.

“We just prayed and decided that it would be OK, it would be safe to go in,” she said, but she didn’t expect what unfolded once they arrived inside.

Blue dots for uninvited guests

“We were separated at the door and given either a blue dot or a yellow dot. The blue dots were uninvited guests and were ushered to the gymnasium, and the invited guests were the yellow dots and they were brought to the auditorium where the dignitaries were.”

Along with about 40 others in the gym, Singer and her daughters, aged seven and 17, viewed what was happening in the auditorium on TV monitors. At the end, the invited guests were directed to go to the gym for a feast.

That’s when Singer was kicked out – for tweeting.

“I was so confused. Everyone around me was on their phone. My baby has never experienced violence or anger, she started to cry, so I left. In all honesty I was really embarrassed.”

Then, her 17-year old daughter was asked to leave.

In a video posted online, Singer’s teen daughter, Bryn Taylor, is seen being confronted by three men, two standing in front of her, and one man at her side. The man on the side wraps his arm around her back for almost a minute, and then lifts her up by her arm.

As people behind her shout “leave her alone” and “this is what my reconciliation looks like,” two men pick her up by each arm and she hits the floor, then they pick her up and escort her out.

“Our families were in there, our people were in there, people who we love and interact with every day, and I think she was wanting somebody to say something,” said Singer.

She said the air of silence mixed with confusion captured the essence of the announcement about changes to the First Nations Education Act that day.

“We didn’t develop it, or have a referendum on it, we were left out of the loop,” she said.

Lacking consultation

The Blood Tribe and Kainai Board of Education also put out a press release on the day of the announcement that said the proposed act “has not met the Crown’s legal duty to consult and accommodate.”

The release said the “proposed legislation is being forced on the Blood Tribe and it is similar to how the government assimilated Blood children through Indian residential schools.”

But consultation is something the engineers of the proposed First Nations control of First Nations education act tout. According to the official website, the agreement is the result of “intensive consultations, discussions, dialogue and studies.”

It stated that “the first phase included eight consultation sessions across Canada, more than 30 video and teleconference sessions, and online consultation activities, was completed in May 2013.”

Arnell Tailfeathers, who was at the announcement as an invited guest in a media capacity tweeted to @CBC_Aboriginal, “Treaty 7 chiefs had a teleconference with Valcourt in Calgary. Valcourt hung up on them after he was done speaking.”

For Saddle Lake councillor Shannon Houle, the federal government’s assertion of consultation could not be further from the truth.

Read More:  CBC News

Education for Revolution special issue of Works & Days + Cultural Logic launched

Education for Revolution a special issue collaboration of the journals Works & Days and Cultural Logic has just been launched.

Check out the great cover image (Monument to Joe Louis in Detroit) and the equally great stuff on the inside. Hard copies of the issue available from worksanddays.net and Cultural Logic will be publishing and expanded online version of the issue in the coming months.

Rich and I want to thank David B. Downing and his staff at Works & Days for the fabulous work they did on this issue, which is the second collaboration between the two journals. Read Downing’s foreword to the issue here.

Works & Days + Cultural Logic
Special Issue: Education for Revolution
E. Wayne Ross & Rich Gibson (Editors)
Table of Contents

Barbarism Rising: Detroit, Michigan, and the International War of the Rich on the Poor
Rich Gibson, San Diego State University

Resisting Neoliberal Education Reform: Insurrectionist Pedagogies and the Pursuit of Dangerous Citizenship
E. Wayne Ross, University of British Columbia
Kevin D. Vinson, University of The West Indies

Reimaging Solidarity: Hip-Hop as Revolutionary Pedagogy
Julie Gorlewski, State University of New York, New Paltz
Brad Porfilio, Lewis University

Learning to be Fast Capitalists on a Flat World
Timothy Patrick Shannon, The Ohio State University
Patrick Shannon, Penn State University

Contesting Production: Youth Participatory Action Research in the Struggle to Produce Knowledge
Brian Lozenski, Zachary A. Casey, Shannon K. McManimon, University of Minnesota

Schooling for Capitalism or Education for Twenty-First Century Socialism?
Mike Cole, University of East London

Class Consciousness and Teacher Education: The Socialist Challenge and The Historical Context
Curry Stephenson Malott, West Chester University of Pennsylvania

The Pedagogy of Excess
Deborah P. Kelsh, The College of Saint Rose

Undermining Capitalist Pedagogy: Takiji Kobayashi’s Tōseikatsusha and the Ideology of the World Literature Paradigm
John Maerhofer, Roger Williams University

Marxist Sociology of Education and the Problem of Naturalism: An Historical Sketch
Grant Banfield, Flinders University of South Australia

The Illegitimacy of Student Debt
David Blacker, University of Delaware

Hacking Away at the Corporate Octopus
Alan J. Singer, Hofstra University

A Tale of Two Cities ¬– and States
Richard Brosio, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

SDS, The 1960s, and Education for Revolution
Alan J. Spector, Purdue University, Calumet

Teach for America and the Future of Education in the US (Critical Education special series)

Critical Education
Special Series
“Teach for America and the Future of Education in the US”

Founded in 1990 by Princeton graduate Wendy Kopp, Teach for America (TFA) has grown from a tiny organization with limited impact to what some supporters call the most significant force in educational reform today. Indeed the organization has recently been embraced by both the president of the National Educational Association and U.S. Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan as a force for tremendous good.

Critics argue otherwise, pointing to data that is mixed at best while questioning the almost $500 million annual operating budget of the non-profit, a significant portion of which comes from U.S. taxpayers. In light of questionable results and practices (such as using non-certified TFA recruits to work with special education students in direct violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) organizations are working to end TFA’s “highly qualified teacher” provision in 2013, an effort TFA is aggressively trying to thwart.

In an effort to provide assistance to those organizations working to maintain the integrity of the teaching profession, Critical Education is publishing a series of articles on TFA’s practices, procedures, outcomes, and impacts.

Articles in the series will be published across three issues of the journal:

  • “Problematizing Teach for America” (October, 2013)
  • “Life as a Corps Member” (November, 2013)
  • “Altering TFA’s Trajectory” (December 2013)

Guest Editors of the special series are Philip E. Kovacs, (University of Alabama, Huntsville) and Kathleen deMarrais, (The University of Georgia).

1. Problematizing Teach for America
Bringing Teach for America into the Forefront of Teacher Education: Philanthropy Meets Spin
Kathleen P. deMarrais, The University of Georgia
Julianne Wenner, University of Connecticut
Jamie B. Lewis, Georgia Gwinnett College

Teach for America and the Dangers of Deficit Thinking
Ashlee Anderson, University of Tennessee

Teach For America and the Political Spectacle of Recruiting the “Best and the Brightest”
Kara M. Kavanagh, Georgia State University
Alyssa Hadley Dunn, Georgia State University

An Analysis of Teach for America’s Research Page
Philip E. Kovacs, University of Alabama, Huntsville
Erica Slate-Young, University of Alabama, Huntsville

2. Life as A Corps Member
From the Trenches: A Teach For America Corps Member’s Perspective
T. Jameson Brewer, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Are Teach For America Corps Members Highly Qualified to Teach English Learners?: An Analysis of Teacher Preparation for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Populations
Megan Hopkins, Northwestern University
Amy J. Heineke, Loyola University Chicago

Infinite Jurisdiction: Managing Student Achievement In and Out of School
Katherine Crawford-Garrett, University of New Mexico

Personal Responsibility: The Effects of Becoming a Teach For America Teacher
Patricia Maloney, Texas Tech University

3. Altering TFA’s Trajectory
“I want to do Teach For America, not become a teacher.”
Mark Stern, Colgate University
D. Kay Johnston, Colgate University

An Issue of Equity: Assessing the Cultural Knowledge of Preservice Teachers in Teach for America
Eric Ruiz Bybee, The University of Texas at Austin

The Outsized Effects of Equating Teaching with Leadership: Implications of Teach for America’s Vision for Engaging Teachers in Reform
Laura Gutmann, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Refashioning the Master’s Tools: Imagining a Teach for America that Really is for America
Erinn Brooks, North Carolina State University
Kathleen Greene, Beloit College

Some BC and Alberta schools dump percentage grading

Should schools move away from grading students? Yes!

Of course, it’s a time “honoured” tradition to use grades as the key means of sorting students to meet the demands of business. But, if you’re more more interested in motivating students to learn and less interested in treating education like a commodity, there’s really little room to debate the point.

School boards in Ridge Meadows, BC and Battle River, AB have decided to stop giving percentage grades to their students.

The Vancouver Sun recently ran a story on the Ridge Meadows Schools (Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows BC) that have adopted an alternative approach to student assessment in which elementary teachers are no longer required to give letter grades to students.

Rather than assigning As, Bs or Cs to kids from grades 4 to 7, teachers can instead use the conference model to assess how well children are grasping course material, as well as their learning style, readiness to progress and comprehension of overall concepts. The standard reporting system does not assign letter grades for students in kindergarten to Grade 3, but under the new system, students in all elementary grades will be invited to participate more fully in their evaluations by completing self-assessments and setting future learning goals.

The alternative system will engage students while providing more meaning to parents than a simple letter grade, said Ridge Meadows school trustee Susan Carr, who has two children in the school system.

Ridge Meadows school trustees were unanimous in their support for the new approach, which was developed over the past two years by a district committee. The Ridge Meadows News reported that “Committee members noted the feedback from parents who have been involved so far is “through-the-roof positive.”

In Alberta, the Battle River School District’s has adopted an alternative grading system that replaces percentage grades with categories.

Under the assessment model, students are marked with an achievement level that indicates they are within a percentage range. A student scoring between zero and 50 per cent would be at the “beginning” level. A “developing” student is within the 50-66 per cent range, “achieving” is between 67 and 83 per cent and “excelling” ranges from 84-100 per cent. (The Edmonton Journal)

Camrose, AB parents don’t seem to be has uniformly positive about Battle River’s decision as about 150 recently protested the move.

Today on CBC Radio’s The 180 with Jim BrownSandra Mathison, a UBC education professor and member of the Institute for Critical Education Studies discussed the issue of grading students and provided some sharp counter-point to Michael Zwaagstra, a high school teacher who is affiliated with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (a Fraser Institute clone that is primarily funded by right-wing outfits like the Donner Foundation).

The Frontier Centre and Zwaagstra’s views on education get a lot of play on the editorial pages of Vancouver’s daily papers, both of which prominently embrace and espouse neoliberal public policy, which places the interests of corporate capital and their shareholders over the interests of people.

It was interesting to hear Zwaagstra shift to center when confronted with Mathison’s counter-point.

Get the podcast of this episode of The 180 with Jim Brown here.


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