Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Alberta Education's misleading class size averages

Alberta Education quietly updated their class size average data for the 2014-2015 school year.

In my school district, Alberta Education reports that there should be 24.1 students in my grade 6 classes, and 25.2 students in my grade 8 classes.

Because I live in the real world, I feel compelled to share with you that these average class sizes do not accurately reflect my students' reality.

I teach two grade 6 classes language arts and social studies. I also teach two grade 8 classes social studies.

I have 32 students in every single one of my classes.

Both of my grade 6 classes have 7.9 more students than Alberta Education reports.

Both of my grade 8 classes have 6.8 more students than Alberta Education reports.

I teach 29.4 more students every single day than Alberta Education reports. To be clear, that's more students than what Alberta Education reports are in any one of my classes.

Real accountability is about providing the public with the information they need about their public schools. Public assurance is about transparency, but there is nothing transparent about these average class sizes reported by Alberta Education. This Alberta Education class size report conceals more than it reveals. I wonder who benefits from this misleading information?

Class size and class composition matter because they have a huge affect on students' learning conditions and teachers' working conditions.

In 2013, the PCs cut 14.5 million from School Boards, but 11,000 new students enrolled. Today, a 9% cut is projected which could cut 2,500 teachers while 19,000 new students enrol.

Since 2008, Alberta's K-12 student population has grown by more than 70,000 students.

Unstable and inadequate government funding has meant that the number of teachers has not kept up with the surge in student numbers.

A five percent cut in funding next year could mean the loss of an additional 2,500 teaching positions at a time when another 19,000 students are likely to be added.

Check out this telling infographic that asks: Who Will Teach Us?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

My Talk on Education as Crime Prevention

My talk today focused on 3 big ideas:

1. It's easier to build strong children than repair broken people.

2. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

3. If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

My talk today about rethinking Crime Prevention was based on these blog posts:

3 big ideas about teacher workload

3 things I learned teaching in the hospital

Alberta isn't broke but the PC's ideas are

Alberta: 11,000 new kids with 14.5 million less dollars

Budget cuts could result in 2500 fewer teachers

Better Way Alberta

Alberta Could

15,000 qualified post-secondary students turned away

5 Reasons why I left the PCs for the Alberta Party

Making school worse, faster

This post appeared in a series titled: The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs that answered the question: What are the biggest mistakes teachers make when integrating technology into the classroom.

“Before the computer could change school, school changed the computer.”

-Seymour Papert

I love technology, and I use it every single day. I teach with it, and I learn with it. Without technology, my teaching and learning would suffer.

However, too much of what is being sold as “Education Technology” merely shoehorns technology in a way that supplements traditional, less-than-optimal teaching and learning practices which ultimately leads the classroom to revert to the way it was before.

Here are three mistakes schools and teachers make when integrating technology:
1. Technology is used to prove, instead of improve: Test and punish accountability regimes have convinced (and often mandated) that technology be used to mine students for spreadsheet friendly data. For too long, teachers have been lured by the efficiency of multiple-choice tests, and with the use of technology, it is easier than ever to reduce learning to tests and grades.
Psychologist Carol Dweck reminds us to ask, “Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better?” Proving and improving are not the same thing and if we aren’t careful, technology can be used in wonderful ways to prove the quality of our schools and teachers without improving learning.
2. Technology is used by the teacher, not the students: Interactive White Boards (Smartboards) are the definitive example of how schools can spend a lot of time, effort and money on technology that is almost exclusively used by the teacher while students sit passively, waiting to be filled with knowledge.
In his book The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire called this the banking concept of education where, “Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor”. Too much of our school’s technology demands that students simply sit and do nothing.
3. Poor Pedagogy + Technology = Accelerated Malpractice: Classroom management and tracking programs like ClassDojo are used to elicit compliant behaviour and are sold as a daring departure from the status quo when really they are a tactic taken from the same behaviourist strategies that have been strangling the life out of classrooms for decades.
Schools and teachers who ignore technology risk becoming irrelevant to their students, and this is unacceptable. However, it is equally wrong to use technology as a 21st century veneer on the “sit-and-get, spew-and-forget” model of learning that has dominated our schools for too long.

Teachers and schools must be mindful of their pedagogical practices, because if they are not, technology will only make things worse, faster.

Friday, March 13, 2015

PCs decline to attend Alberta Teachers' all-party forum

PCs decline to attend ATA forum
On Saturday, March 14, The Alberta Teachers' Association is hosting an all-party forum education. The Liberals, NDP and Wildrose are attending but the PCs declined.

Is it too much to ask the PCs to engage with teachers at an all-party forum on education with Alberta teachers?

Why is Education Minister Gordon Dirks not finding the time and making the effort to engage with Alberta teachers at such an important event?

If Gordon Dirks and the PCs can't be bothered to attend, then I suggest that their empty chair could be filled by the Alberta Party's Greg Clark who will already be in attendance.

Because the Alberta Party now has a sitting MLA in Laurie Blakeman, it makes sense that Greg Clark represent the Alberta Party at the ATA's forum.

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