Educators gathered at the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) President’s Forum on July 9-10 in Halifax sounded and looked dazed and confused by the notion of “quality education.” Trying to define “quality education” is perplexing when you eschew higher academic standards, still resist testing and accountability, and espouse what CEA Director Ron Canuel calls “soulful education” Even Dr. Charles Underleider, former BC Deputy Minister and CEA consultant, seemed baffled by the stubborn persistence of a Canadian public longing for more than a periodic taste of excellence. http://www.ctf-fce.ca/Events/?index_id=121317&lang=EN&id=91095
The “Quality Education” Forum did not really raise our expectations. The Opening Speaker was Dr. Joel Westheimer, a New Yorker in happy exile from the Land of “No Child Left Behind” and a sworn enemy of standardized testing. http://www.cea-ace.ca/video/joel-westheimer-mary-lou-donnelly-will-canada-follow-americas-no-child-left-behind-policy Once again, People for Education’s Annie Kidder bore the heavy responsibility of representing all parents and”outsiders” clamouring for better schools. How could this be a Forum on “Quality Education” without the Canadian Society for Quality Education? And where was Nova Scotia’s Education Minister, Ramona Jennex, Chair of CMEC, during an event held in her backyard?
The terrifying “bad guys” were, as usual, not on the invitation list of the Teachers’ Union Forum purporting to gather opinion from a “diversity of perspectives” on the state of Canadian K-12 education. P4E’s Annie Kidder was there as a “pet reformer” to provide intelligence on “how to win the battle for the hearts and minds of the public.” The elephant in the room was the Fraser Institute, a devil-like, monolithic colossus threatening the entire system. In this imagined world, all legitimate education reformers from AIMS to SQE are bereft of “independent thought” and take their direction from Vancouver or Alberta, the deviant “school choice” province.
The CTF’s President’s Forum was a sad spectacle for those seriously interested in reforming public education and restoring “quality standards” for today’s students. Worried educators took to the microphone to rail against standardized testing and to further demonize the Fraser Institute. One tortured soul assured the invited group of of 100 teachers that it was possible to be “a good Leftie” and still be in favour of improving numeracy and literacy skills.
The CTF Forum attendees are worried sick about a new, insidious influence: the Weston Awards for Educational Excellence. Recognizing the 30 to 60 most outstanding schools in BC, Ontario, and Alberta, was doing incalculable damage. Identifying the “most improved” schools was an even more diabolical move. The Garfield Weston Foundation, working together with the Fraser Institute, might actually “seed” a dangerous spirit of competition into a system promoting an “equality of outcomes.” http://www.forexcellenceineducation.org/News_Releases/News/2011/AwardsON2011.aspx
The latest answer to “riding out” the wave of accountability came in the form of a new CTF-CEA initiative, “Teaching the Way we Aspire to Teach.” With provincial testing entrenched, “teacher quality reform” is beginning to show its ugly face, possibly threatening iron clad tenure and even contract entitlements. What’s the antidote? Smarten up — and become the “reflective practitioner” you once aspired to be. http://www.cea-ace.ca/publication/teaching-way-we-aspire-teach-now-and-future Simply put, get your teaching act together before “teacher quality” reform spreads into Canada.
Thoughtful, astute educators like Stephen Hurley give this initiative some instant credibility. Just as education reformers come in different stripes, so do career educators. He’s also smart enough to introduce the initiative with a core question: “Are We Teaching the Way We Aspire To Teach?” The answer, for most teachers, is “no.” But is it the right question to begin with? Whatever happened to the more challenging one- “Are we Teaching the Way Children Learn?” http://www.cea-ace.ca/blog/stephen-hurley/2012/07/1/are-we-teaching-way-we-aspire-teach
Why in the world are Canadian teacher federations so allergic to educational excellence? Why all the confusion about assessing students for what they know, can do, and actually accomplish? Will “Teaching the Way We Aspire to Teach” actually promote “quality education”? Is the whole CTF-CEA initiative just another gambit to stave-off the advance of “teacher quality” reforms?