Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Curriculum overload?

Getting a little clever with that topic line, given the smorgasbord of coverage in the past two days on the Ontario Ministry of Education's elementary curriculum review. For the record, I posted about this a few days after People for Education sent out news of the review back in October.
It just goes to show how the media works when it comes to education stories-- something I'm mindful of given an event notice I received earlier this week for a study released today in Washington D.C. under the title of "Invisible: 1.4 per cent coverage for education is not enough." As best I can tell from my media monitoring (which has some significant gaps), the CBC picked up on the curriculum story earlier this week and since then everyone across the province has gone hog-wild localizing it for their audiences. This is not atypical for most provincial stories, mind you, and I've certainly localized my share of provincial and national topics over the years. However, it goes Meanwhile, it received scant coverage when PFE sent its notice out over six weeks ago.
I shudder to think what -- if there was even an equivalent academic environment in Canada to conduct such a study -- a similar report might have to say about Canadian education reporting.
I'm particularly swayed by the following recommendations in the report's executive summary:
4. Reporting should become more proactive and less reactive. Much of coverage today is episodic and driven by events. Focusing on long-term trends would help to inform communities about the content of education and ways schools are seeking to move forward.
6. Newspapers and other media outlets that have cut back on education reporting should reconsider these decisions both on public interest grounds, and also because there is widespread interest in the issues surrounding education – on the part of parents especially, but also among employers and other community leaders. It is only through on-going, day-to-day beat reporting that journalists develop an understanding of the subject, gain a sure feel for the issues at stake, and develop sources who keep them informed.
Meanwhile, Bill 177, the biggest omnibus education bill of this government's term, passed Monday night with nary a whimper in most if not all media. Mind you, two PC MPPs staging a sit-in in the legislature distracted us all. Good thing that protest was so effective at changing practice or policy.

Addendum: Looking at my own site stats, it's important to note that pages on Bill 177 are among the most-read individual pages. Google tells me the top search term that brings people here is "education reporter," with the second-highest being "Bill 177." Hundreds of hits since my first post about the bill went up in May, showing there are enough people out there coming here for information on this bill. Perhaps because they're not finding anything anywhere else? If so, that's a pretty indicative statement to the research paper noted above.


Anonymous said...

You raise some excellent points ER re: the timing of media getting the reports.

Rumor has it that People for Education have the Minister's ear stemming from when Kidder and Wynne were a tag-team heading parent years ago.

I assume that P4E gets advance notice of most things because they receive gov't funding for their efforts.

It's still a tag-team as far as I'm concerned.

I also don't agree with the watering down of the curriculum.

The dog has been wagged yet again to help this government reach graduation targets before the next election.

Imagine! Asking educators and students to reach beyond their potential with the learning and measuring of skills.

ER - Imagine if your boss came to you and told you that you were getting a nice raise and that you were going to be required to do less. Quite the gig!

You're providing a great forum here ER. This is exactly the type of discussion I wish I'd been able to have during my time as a parent in the public system. Never too late I guess.

All I can say is that I'm so very glad my kids are out.

Child no. one had the benefit of older, more seasoned and confident teachers who left politics at the door, new what worked and encouraged the kids to not be afraid of the work. That child's Grade 6 class was only the 2nd class to do the EQAO tests and to this day, no other grade 6 class has done as well.

Child no. two, three years later got a very different education, and struggles to this day.

The difference wasn't anything at all to do with board, trustees, politics, school admin.

It had more everything to do with quality of teachers.

Actually I often advise parents that other than the teacher, the school secretary and the custodian are the other two most valuable people to establish good relationships with.

I have to say too that the strength of the parent community and the support in programs and partnerships our municipality provided also had a huge effect.

Stability in education? Nope.
There is no such animal.


Anonymous said...

People for Education gets first dibs because they sit on the Minister's select Education Roundtable, along with the school boards & trustees associations, teachers' federations, and the two PTA (Catholic & Public)associations.

Why they are there as a group representing parents in Ontario I have no idea. Probably for the same reasons that CC gives above.

Education Reporter said...

There's no doubt PFE put it out there for the reasons discussed above. Some boards had posted notice of the consultation around the same time, when they received the info from the ministry. I'm sure ETFO, OECTA and their French-language counterparts did the same.

The point still stands however— the Star (admittedly not one of the papers I do a good job of following) has always received an early leak here or there on items of significance. I can't search back to October on their site, but they wrote about the curriculum consultation this week, after everyone else did. Bill 177? One, tiny story since its passage that reads like it was written from the press release. I would point out the Star is the only media I'm aware of in Canada with two full-time reporters covering K-12 education.


Anonymous said...

"..the Star is the only media I'm aware of in Canada with two full-time reporters covering K-12 education"

Maybe that's because if it's bad news education it's sure to be happening in one of the Toronto boards(tongue firmly in cheek).

Yes, but ER I know a few really good small town writers who cover education that could give those two a run for their money.

Would the fact that the Atkinson Foundation also funds P4E give you a hint about tips to the Star ER?


Anonymous said...

PS - allow me to underwrite my last post with the fact that speculation has run rampant on P4E for years, perhaps how that they're seeing gov't funding they are somewhat accountable to the Ontario taxpaying parent?

Anonymous said...

I'd add CC & ER that the Curriculum working group was struck way back before August. It is made up of the "usual suspects" Is there no fresh blood anywhere in this province????

Anonymous said...

"is there no fresh blood anywhere in this province?"

Is there no fresh blood in this province under the age of 50??

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Education Reporter said...

Anon 7 Dec. 19:59 (and earlier)
re: "fresh blood"
I'm sure some are aware of the minister's roundtable. The minister and ministry also have constant communication with the various groups involved in education-- ie: federations, trustee associations, etc.

I'm pretty sure these are the 'old blood' people who are routinely consulted.

Since most are at the table representing their own organizations, any change must come from within, no?