Monday, December 13, 2010

2010 year in review

Ah, the joys of a scheduled post. I'm somewhere in Europe on fellowship and/or personal travel as this post crosses the wire, but I did this in 2009 after seven months of blogging and wanted to do it again this year after a full year of blogging (despite doing it less frequently).
The past year has seen some of the issues from 2009 carry on, as well as others enter into the fray given the fall election.
Some of the constant top issues:
  • School accommodation: School-closure reviews, their committees, reports, discussions, disagreements, impacts, unsuccessful court challenges and moving on. Many of the first reviews completed after the guidelines were reintroduced by the provincial government that led to school closures were acted on this year-- new and expanded schools opened in September and the old schools closed in June. What didn't happen? Coverage of students and families in their new schools-- talking about how they hate it or love it or whatever.
  • Help not wanted: Yet another year where with a startling few exceptions publicly funded school boards barely needed to hire any new teachers. Yet our teachers colleges continue to admit thousands of prospective candidates (it's OK, they're training them to teach the world).
  • Sunshine: Still surprised at how surprised / upset people get when the annual list comes out. The contracts were signed. The dollars were crunched at the time. Simple math tells us exactly how many more people in education will get added to the 100K list based on the jobs they have and the contract their employee association and school board (with financial backing from the province) signed.
Stuff that came of age in 2010?
  • Full-day learning for four- and five-year-olds / early learning program / full-day kindergarten: Whatever the heck you call it, this program saw some meat put on its bones this year. Decisions to staff classrooms with teachers and ECEs, to setup a before- and after-school program component and then later allow boards to exempt themselves from it. Then, finally, the launch of the first classrooms in hundreds of schools across the province. Lots of coverage in early September. Still waiting for the second part of that promised Globe feature that committed to checking in with a handful of families across the country with four- and five-year-old kids. Or anything similar from any other media. With plenty of ECE contracts left to finalize and another round of bargaining for the whole sector just around the corner (sort of), this one should continue its prominence in 2011.
  • Moaning about fundraising: With a h/t to two of my fellow education reporters at the London Free Press, this one makes my list for 2010. People for Education helped as well, with two separate reports that spoke to the amount of school-generated funds in our publicly funded education system. Can't wait, hopefully, in 2011, for people to actually speak about this issue properly and separate fundraising for school items and activities from all that other cash that flows through a school before heading elsewhere outside the system.
  • A new minister: After several years of stability in the portfolio with Kathleen Wynne, a cabinet shakeup moves Leona Dombrowsky into the education slot. A feisty member of cabinet, it doesn't feel as though that talent has really been brought out. However, under her watch we've seen the FDK implementation, as well as another budget year of increases in education in a deficit fiscal climate where overall school enrolment continues to drop. The provincial-interest regulations and a provincial election lie around the corner. I expect to hear and see more of Leona.
  • Bullying: It's always been an unfortunate facet of life and school. It seems despite earlier suicides, etc. this year was a breakout year for everyone to hate bullying and start talking about its presence in the school system. There are few shining lights on this, however encouraging efforts are coming out of the London area as well as in Ottawa.
  • EQAO opposition: This could just as easily go in the 'constant issues' list (really, when have teachers' federations ever liked EQAO?), but the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario ramped up a campaign surrounding its annual meeting on the tests. When are we going to stop talking about this as though the tests might ever go away? They're reality.
  • Now for more of the same: Trustee elections result in changes, but no real sweeps across the province.
  • Community Schools what?: Oh, the Community Schools Alliance and how, despite a few agreements with one school board, it's faded from our consciousness.
In 2011, we'll have to see how some of the issues above continue to play out. With an 'education premier' gearing up for another provincial election in October, it will also be interesting to see how this government faces its opposition on education, and whether that opposition will actually come out of the hole it's been hiding in when it comes to educational issues.
As of the day this post was drafted, the blog has seen just over 18,700 visits since inception -- about 11,800 of those in 2010, with a grand total of just over 28,000 individual page views. With the drop in posting frequency, it's been averaging about 30-40 visitors a day. Small,  but still better than I expected given fewer than half as many posts in 2010 compared to seven months of 2009. I don't IP-snoop, but have been told this page is read across district school boards, in the ministry and among other education reporters in Ontario. As an aside, as I posted last year, here were the top-10 posts measured by unique page visits (metric doesn't include over 6,600 hits to the front page). Which to me is a more interesting measure since it means the hit came from someone searching for the post's topic or arriving at the post because they were led to it.
  1. Bill 177 (Still! Second year! Which just goes to show how it is among the few things out there on this legislation) - 708 views (1,240 since it was posted in May 2009)
  2. Full-day kindergarten = ECE shortage? (another one from 2009) - 686 views
  3. Bill 242 introduction (showing another piece of legislation where there has been little written) - 442 views
  4. A thought on teacher education and the job market - 272 views
  5. ETFO goes after ELP ECEs - 251 views
  6. ELP's impact on childcare providers - 234 views
  7. On teaching - 185 views
  8. Reflections on a week I'll not soon forget - 177 views
  9. CUPE first out of the gate? - 166 views
  10. Busy days in NOTL - 154 views
 Thanks for stopping by. I don't completely know what the next 12 months will bring in terms of my employment situation and the time I have to dedicate to this blog, but it will survive.


RetDir said...

Thanks for such a good summary - and congratulations on your sabbatical - sounds wonderful. You can rest assured that ETFO will continue to make the EQAO a focus of its election campaign, which is now posted on its website. They hate anything to do with accountability for what they are responsible for, so will continue to hammer away at it. It will be interesting to see who they support in the election - OSSTF is pretty clearly in the Liberal re-election camp, but ETFO is less certain.
Very nice distinction about fundraising - the huge bulk of reported money is in fact flow through, to charities, student trips to various exotic locales, sports teams going to tournaments, etc. I suspect that a relatively small proportion goes to what should be essentials - this will be an election issue for the NDP, but it's hard to see how the PCs can make hay out of people paying for service when much of their philosophy is geared to that as a principle.
We now have the first law suits alleging boards are negligent in dealing with bullying - it will be interesting to see how those play out.
Except for local circumstances accommodation is now a moot issue - boards are following the rules, the rules allow them to close schools, and the chief stopper is enough capital funding to build replacements. Capital will also be a huge issue for boards in dealing with full-day kindergarten, and the move to continuing to allow third party providers for the before and after program, while insisting boards offer it where demand exists and third party providers don't, gives boards welcome flexibility.
One you missed - the growing emphasis on the need for good children's mental health programs and services - expect to see that as a campaign issue.
And then there's exposure to wireless radiation - schools will become the focal point for those who see it as a health issue. ETFO's position that it isn't a health and safety issue is a welcome one - but expect to see both employees and students looking for accommodations...and a run on tinfoil helmets as a result.
The election has started - the unions will be using it to advance their bargaining goals moving into the 2012 bargaining - unsure at this stage if that will be provincial or local, and the results of the election will play a big part in that should have lots to blog about in the coming year!

Education Reporter said...


Thanks for your thoughts! And welcome back, I've felt the lack of your commentary.


Anonymous said...

I can't get too excited about education in this province any more.
The issues you present Hugo aren't any different from those presented twenty years ago - different year, same issue, different twist.

Here's a list I like from Paul Bennett's Educhatter -it yips up the positives as well as the usual.

I think that the participation to this blog is an indication that people are tired of hearing the rhetoric offered and want something new to chew on.

Education Reporter said...

Anon 1 Jan. 9:04:

Thanks, I think. No doubt the topics are cyclical. So is our collective memory, so ongoing coverage and discussion is never a bad thing.

I've been meaning to add Paul's blog to the blogroll for a while and keep forgetting. Thanks for the reminder-- he's an engaging guy who I had the chance to meet here in Toronto in late 2010.

Glad you've kept reading.


Anonymous said...

I like Educhatter, and Education Reporter forums because both offer a balance that's missing from other blogs on your list. One tires of the constant complaining and pulling of politics over education. It turns people off big time. Educhatter and your forum give me something I can use and share easily with others in the system. Practical information that we can all relate to is sometimes hard to find on other education discussion vehicles.


Anonymous said...

Presently as a participant in an ARC process , I agree with you that the lack of information following up on closures, more specifically related to small communities , would help with preparations and foresight in the event of a closure. Unfortutnately the true impacts to a community might not be revealed in the short term.

Education Reporter said...

Anon 7 Jan. 2011 19:59:

Absolutely true. I'm not aware of any Ontario-based studies or post-closure analyses that have been completed and are available.

I mean, anecdotally, school closure and consolidation has been continual and cyclical since the end of one- and two-room schools in the 1950s and 1960s. There's plenty of fodder out there to look at what happens to the built community after a school closes. I just don't know if anyone has done it yet.