Category Archives: funding for schools

Une École des Emotions/The Possible School

We are fortunate at the University of Toronto to have the Dr. Eric Jackman Laboratory School (Jackman ICS) as part of our community. “The Lab School” is a small elementary school that has just over 200 students from nursery to sixth grade. I (Yiola) have had the privilege of working with and learning from the teachers, students and administrators at the school. Together we teach pre-service teachers in our Master of Arts in Child Study teacher education program and student-teachers practice teach in the classrooms,  I have conducted longitudinal, observational research at the school and have been so deeply inspired by the daily teaching of young children. The children — oh the children — are truly the evidence of what is possible when a school community focuses on the child.
Recently a documentary film has come out that gives a small glimpse into the life of the school.  Jackman ICS was featured in a documentary film by Daisy Gand, a Masters student from France who visited Jackman ICS last year and is titled, “Une École des Emotions”/“The Possible School”. The link to the film is here and it is a must see:
Principal Richard Messina states:
At the Jackman Laboratory School, the student, parents, and teachers all benefit from the secure learning philosophy and pedagogical approaches that inspires deep understanding, creativity, curiosity, and confidence to flourish.  Our environment honors diversity and values an interconnected community, in which all members feel known, respected, and supported as active, engaged participants. 
 Children currently in our Early Years classes will graduate in the 3rd decade of the 21st Century, an era that will demand creativity and ingenuity, responsibility and compassion.  Their ability to thrive depends largely on the experiences they have at school.  
The latter part of Richard’s statement reflects the sentiments of Clive’s blog that was posted just yesterday… children need to experience “real life” at school in order to feel a sense of purpose. The laboratory school does this in so many ways: through its pedagogy, philosophy, curriculum, and approach.
What happens at the Jackman ICS can happen in any school and classroom;  yet, public schools often struggle with an inquiry-based pedagogy that places the child at the centre of the learning.  All students should have opportunity to learn at a “possible school”.  In light of this the Lab School is working hard to broaden student admission and retention policies that support all forms of diversity in equity and accessibility.
To make this happen the school has a fund that offers tuition support that accounts for  economic diversity.  Please see the link below if you would like to learn more about the fundraising efforts and support the work of the Laboratory school.
 This is JICS’s biennial fundraiser for tuition support.  Please purchase your tickets here:  https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/jackman-ics-diana-rankin-tuition-fundraiser-gala-tickets-32296391376?aff=es2 or donate to the JICS Diana Rankin Muncaster Family Tuition Support Fund at https://donate.utoronto.ca/give/show/40
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Finally — A Different Perspective on Underperforming Schools!

I (Clare) read this amazing article on Salon.com about school reform. I suspect many many of us in education will resonate with the findings. It is so refreshing/hopeful that teachers and teacher educators are not being blamed for the problems in schools. You will find some of the stats/findings truly unsettling. Thank you David Sirota for your fine piece of journalism. Here is the link to the article: http://media.salon.com/2011/03/paranoid_michelle_rhee_blames_her.jpg

Monday, Jun 3, 2013 12:30 PM EDT

New data shows school “reformers” are full of it

Poor schools underperform largely because of economic forces, not because teachers have it too easy

David Sirota

In the great American debate over education, the education and technology corporations, bankrolled politicians and activist-profiteers who collectively comprise the so-called “reform” movement base their arguments on one central premise: that America should expect public schools to produce world-class academic achievement regardless of the negative forces bearing down on a school’s particular students. In recent days, though, the faults in that premise are being exposed by unavoidable reality.

Before getting to the big news, let’s review the dominant fairy tale: As embodied by New York City’s major education announcement this weekend, the “reform” fantasy pretends that a lack of teacher “accountability” is the major education problem and somehow wholly writes family economics out of the story (amazingly, this fantasy persists even in a place like the Big Apple where economic inequality is particularly crushing). That key — and deliberate — omission serves myriad political interests.

For education, technology and charter school companies and the Wall Streeters who back them, it lets them cite troubled public schools to argue that the current public education system is flawed, and to then argue that education can be improved if taxpayer money is funneled away from the public school system’s priorities (hiring teachers, training teachers, reducing class size, etc.) and into the private sector (replacing teachers with computers, replacing public schools with privately run charter schools, etc.). Likewise, for conservative politicians and activistprofiteers disproportionately bankrolled by these and other monied interests, the “reform” argument gives them a way to both talk about fixing education and to bash organized labor, all without having to mention an economic status quo that monied interests benefit from and thus do not want changed.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that many “reformers’” policies have spectacularly failed, prompted massive scandals and/or offered no actual proof of success, an elite media that typically amplifies — rather than challenges — power and money loyally casts “reformers’” systematic pillaging of public education as laudable courage (the most recent example of this is Time magazine’s cover cheering on wildly unpopular Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel after he cited budget austerity to justify the largest mass school closing in American history — all while he is also proposing to spend $100 million of taxpayer dollars on a new private sports stadium).

In other words, elite media organizations (which, in many cases, have their own vested financial interest in education “reform”) go out of their way to portray the anti-public-education movement as heroic rather than what it really is: just another get-rich-quick scheme shrouded in the veneer of altruism.

That gets to the news that exposes “reformers’” schemes — and all the illusions that surround them. According to a new U.S. Department of Education study, “about one in five public schools was considered high poverty in 2011 … up from about to one in eight in 2000.” This followed an earlier study from the department finding that “many high-poverty schools receive less than their fair share of state and local funding … leav(ing) students in high-poverty schools with fewer resources than schools attended by their wealthier peers.”

Those data sets powerfully raise the question that “reformers” are so desperate to avoid: Are we really expected to believe that it’s just a coincidence that the public education and poverty crises are happening at the same time? Put another way: Are we really expected to believe that everything other than poverty is what’s causing problems in failing public schools?

Because of who comprises it and how it is financed, the education “reform” movement has a clear self-interest in continuing to say yes, we should believe such fact-free pabulum. And you can bet that movement will keep saying “yes” — and that the corporate media will continue to cheer them as heroes for saying “yes” — as long as public education money keeps being diverted into corporate coffers.

But we’ve now reached the point where the economics-omitting “reform” propaganda has jumped the shark, going from deceptively alluring to embarrassingly transparent. That’s because the latest Department of Education study isn’t being released in a vacuum; it caps off an overwhelming wave of evidence showing that our education crisis has far less to do with public schools or bad teachers than it does with the taboo subject of crushing poverty.

In 2011, for instance, Stanford University’s Sean Reardon released a comprehensive study documenting the new “income achievement gap.” The report proved that family income is now, by far, the biggest determining and predictive factor in a student’s educational achievement.

A few months later, Joanne Barkan published a groundbreaking magazine report surveying decades worth of social science research. Her conclusions, again, came back to non-school factors like family economics and poverty:

Out-of-school factors—family characteristics such as income and parents’ education, neighborhood environment, health care, housing stability, and so on—count for twice as much as all in-school factors. In 1966, a groundbreaking government study—the “Coleman Report”—first identified a “one-third in-school factors, two-thirds family characteristics” ratio to explain variations in student achievement. Since then researchers have endlessly tried to refine or refute the findings. Education scholar Richard Rothstein described their results: “No analyst has been able to attribute less than two-thirds of the variation in achievement among schools to the family characteristics of their students.”

Then, just a few months ago, Reardon chimed in again to contextualize all of this. In a follow-up New York Times article, he noted that it is no coincidence that these out-of-school factors — and in particular economic conditions — have created the “income achievement gap” at the very moment economic inequality and poverty have exploded in America.

Taken together with the new Department of Education numbers, we see that for all the elite media’s slobbering profiles of public school bashers like Mayors Rahm Emanuel and Michael Bloomberg, for all of the media’s hagiographic worship of scandal-plagued activist-profiteers like Michelle Rhee, and for all the “reform” movement’s claims that the traditional public school system and teachers unions are to blame for America’s education problems, poverty and economic inequality are the root of the problem.

One way to appreciate this reality in stark relief is to just remember that, as Barkan shows, for all the claims that the traditional public school system is flawed, America’s wealthiest traditional public schools happen to be among the world’s highest-achieving schools. Most of those high-performing wealthy public schools also happen to be unionized. If, as “reformers” suggest, the public school system or the presence of organized labor was really the key factor in harming American education, then those wealthy schools would be in serious crisis — and wouldn’t be at the top of the international charts. Instead, the fact that they aren’t in crisis and are so high-achieving suggests neither the system itself nor unions are the big factor causing high-poverty schools to lag behind. It suggests that the “high poverty” part is the problem.

That, of course, shouldn’t be a controversial notion; it is so painfully obvious it’s amazing anyone would even try to deny it. But that gets back to motive: The “reform” movement (and its loyal media outlets) cast a discussion of poverty as taboo because poverty and inequality are byproducts of the same economic policies that serve that movement’s funders.

To understand this pernicious bait and switch that writes economics out of the education story, simply think through the motives.

Think first about how the dominant policy paradigms in America — tax cuts for the rich, deregulation and budget cuts to social services — exacerbate inequality and poverty, but also benefit the major corporations that fund the “reform” movement. Then think about how it isn’t a coincidence that the “reform” movement’s goal is to divert the education policy conversation away from anything having to do with poverty and economic inequality.

You can tell that’s not a coincidence because unlike other issues, the topics of poverty and economic inequality will inevitably prompt a conversation about changing the underlying economic policies (regressive taxes, deregulation, etc.) that create crushing poverty and inequality. For corporations served by the existing economic paradigm and for the politicians and activists those corporations underwrite, such a conversation is simply unacceptable because changing the policies that create poverty and inequality potentially threatens their existing financial power and privilege. Thus, those corporations, politicians and activists in the “reform” movement do whatever they can — bash teachers, scream strong-but-meaningless words like “accountability,” criticize public school structures, etc. — to shift the education conversation away from poverty and inequality.

Reality, though, is finally catching up with the “reform” movement’s propaganda. With poverty and inequality intensifying, a conversation about the real problem is finally starting to happen. And the more education “reformers” try to distract from it, the more they will expose the fact that they aren’t driven by concern for kids but by the ugliest kind of greed — the kind that feigns concerns for kids in order to pad the corporate bottom line.

Funding for Private Schools

Image Flag AustraliaClive and I (Clare) are still in Australia where we are having a great time. On Friday, July 17th I was reading an article in The Sydney Morning Herald by Eryk Bagshaw about funding for schools. Australia has a significant number of private (independent) schools – approximately 35% of pupils attend private schools. From my Canadian perspective this number is staggering! Having so many children in private schools impacts on the viability of public schools. Unlike Canada private schools in Australia receive government funding – substantial funding. Eryk Bagshaw reports that by 2020 the average public school student could receiver $100 less a year in state and government funding than a similar independent school student. Just wondering why private schools are receiving any funding let alone more funding than public schools.