Stephen Hurley has certainly refreshed the conversations and questions about the purpose of education recently on his blog, as well as about what is quality in education/schools. As the consideration continues about what questions would be most effective in framing a conversation about purpose, I thought I would deport a post I wrote on my blog recently over to this site. It focuses on Ontario’s recent priorities and goals, of course, but I ended the post with a few questions about confidence and accountability that may help and relate to the conversation about quality and purpose of education in Canadian schools (or in general). No small task..!
Here is the original text cross-posted below:
I found it interesting how many times I saw The Atlantic article, “What America Can Learn From Ontario’s Education Success” (written by Michael Fullan) get tweeted this past week….from Ontario (where I am) to other provinces, to the US, and back again. I also checked on the comments on it from time to time. I read with interest about the three “non-negotiable” priorities referred to:
“Like many school systems, Ontario had too many “top” priorities. The Ministry of Education selected three–literacy, math, and high school graduation–with a commitment to raise the bar for all students and close achievement gaps between all groups. There are other goals, of course, but these three are non-negotiable and take precedence because they leverage so many other learning goals.”
Also interesting to me were the points about teacher accountability:
“By focusing on teacher development, Ontario was also able to raise teacher accountability. Decades of experience have taught Canadian educators that you can’t get greater accountability through direct measures of rewards and punishments. Instead, what Ontario did was to establish transparency of results and practice (anyone can find out what any school’s results are, and what they are doing to get those results) while combining this with what we call non-judgmentalism. This latter policy means that if a teacher is struggling, administrators and peers will step in to help her get better. (There are, however, steps that can be taken if a situation consistently fails to improve.)”
I am trying to understand what the differences may be between “measures of rewards and punishments” and “transparency of results and practice”, and “non-judgementalism”. Is this the key and desired accountability piece, “anyone can find out what any school’s results are, and what they are doing to get those results”?
So, off I went to the Ontario Ministry website. On their “What We Do” page, I found mention of three core priorities,
“Our plan to promote a strong, vibrant, publicly funded education system is focused on three core priorities”:
- High levels of student achievement
- Reduced gaps in student achievement
- Increased public confidence in publicly funded education
There are further specifics listed for each priority. I have been thinking a lot about the third:
Increased public confidence in publicly funded education:
“Our goal is to create strong community-school partnerships and to make publicly funded schools the schools of choice for all parents. We are promoting two-way communication with the public and strengthening the role of schools in communities. By engaging the public and working collaboratively with school boards across the province, we are building a supportive learning environment.”
Following that section, is a list of supporting conditions for all three priorities, “To achieve our three goals we must also ensure a variety of supporting conditions are in place.” The list included: Early Childhood Learning; Arts Education; Character Development; Student Engagement; Safe and Healthy Schools; Parent Engagement; Peace and Progress; School Buildings; Small Class Sizes; Professional Learning; Leadership. You can read some elaboration of these conditions on the link here.
So while I ponder these conditions and specifics more, I thought I would invite others to my thinking A few of my questions so far: Whose confidence should be sought after the most – public, parents, students, other? Is there stakeholder agreement on what accountability should look like? I have also been thinking a lot about what makes me confident in publicly funded education and ensures that they are, and continue to be, the “schools of choice” for me as a parent (not that I have been asked or have the right answers).