Having Just One Black Teacher Can Keep Black Kids In School : NPR

Interesting and, I think, significant:

How important is it to have a role model?

A new working paper puts some numbers to that question.

Having just one black teacher in third, fourth or fifth grade reduced low-income black boys’ probability of dropping out of high school by 39 percent, the study found.

And by high school, African-American students, both boys and girls, who had one African-American teacher had much stronger expectations of going to college. Keep in mind, this effect was observed seven to ten years after the experience of having just one black teacher.

The study is big. The authors, Seth Gershenson and Constance A. Lindsay of American University, Cassandra M.D. Hart of U.C. Davis and Nicholas Papageorge at Johns Hopkins, looked at long-term records for more than 100,000 black elementary school students in North Carolina.

Then the researchers checked their conclusions by looking at students in a second state, Tennessee, who were randomly assigned to certain classes.

There they found that not only did the black students assigned to black teachers graduate high school at higher rates, they also were more likely to take a college entrance exam. “The results line up strikingly well,” says Papageorge.

And this isn’t news to many African-American families who already feel strongly that their children need role models in their education. Khalilah Harris has experienced the issue both as a policymaker and as a mother of three daughters. She was the Deputy Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans under the Obama administration. She recently transferred her two older daughters, 12 and 14, to a progressive private school to expose them to more diverse teachers and curriculum.

“My youngest, who is 7, goes to supposedly the best public school in Baltimore City, but there is not any teacher of color there, and that is deplorable,” she says. “If you grow up in a world that does not reflect your essence as valuable from birth, the fact that you don’t have a teacher … who looks like you, will cause cognitive dissonance.”

Papageorge says the “role model effect” that Harris describes is quantifiable. “Sometimes when I talk about expectations, people think I’m talking about magic fairy dust,” he says, “but in economics, it’s one of the biggest things that determine the kinds of investments people make.” In other words, whether it’s money you put toward a mutual fund, or time and energy you spend on your education, how much you expect to get out can determine how much you put in.

If a low-income black boy never sees anyone in the classroom who looks like him, Papageorge says he might conclude, “‘Hey, college is just not for me’. And then why would you work hard in school?”

Yolanda Coles Jones of Charlottesville, Va., says she and her husband avoided the school system altogether. They homeschool their four children, two girls who are 9 and 7, and 4-year-old twin boys. She says they didn’t see their local public or private schools “understanding the needed emphasis on black children seeing black faces.” The family is part of a homeschooling co-op called Community Roots, that, Coles Jones says, was founded “to have an atmosphere that is safe for children of color to be in.”

In future research, Papageorge hopes to replicate the study and unpack the powerful and long-lasting effects observed. But based on the evidence he already has, he has an immediate policy recommendation. Having just one black teacher in his study made all the difference to students; having two or three didn’t increase the effect significantly. Therefore, schools could work to change student groupings so that every black student gets at least one black teacher by the end of elementary school.

“Should we hire more black teachers?” he asks. “Yeah, probably, but it requires more black college graduates … We could push around rosters tomorrow, change the way we assign kids, and have some effects next school year, not 10 years from now.”

Source: Having Just One Black Teacher Can Keep Black Kids In School : NPR Ed : NPR

BC Asia-Pacific curriculum aims to bring international perspective to high schools

Good initiative and will be interesting to see how it develops and how it deals with more controversial historical issues in the region:

B.C. schools will be the first in Canada to get Asia-related curriculum material to teach in history and socials classes through a new program that may eventually be rolled out nationwide.

The Asia-Pacific Curriculum, a $500,000 pilot program funded by the Asia Pacific Foundation and the province, launched Thursday with a website that contains teaching material to be incorporated into classes for Grades 6 through 12.

The program will also provide workshops for educators to help them teach children more effectively about understanding cultures and issues in various countries across the Pacific.

“There is very little that’s more important to the future well-being of British Columbians over the next 10 to 20 years than our people’s ability to deal with Asia,” said Asia Pacific Foundation chairman David Emerson. “You can see from recent and historic events that our relationship with the United States will always be very important, but it’s volatile. And when you think long-term, inter-generational benefits and the need for B.C. to economically diversify, there’s no market that’s going to be more important than the Asian market.”

Currently, the asiapacificcurriculum.ca website features profiles on South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines and India, as well as two key topics — China’s one-child policy and a history of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. The topics were chosen after consultation with the B.C. Social Studies Teachers Association, said Eva Busza, vice-president of research and programs at the Asia Pacific Foundation.

Busza noted that teachers want topics with a link to current events — China’s one-child policy was recently loosened after decades of strict enforcement, while the Khmer Rouge issue highlights how to deal with reconciliation, a topical point of discussion for Canadians.

Engaging teachers on what to include in the curriculum is crucial, she added, because the program is voluntary.

“Teachers have indicated to us that they want this information, and that they see this as a gap (in the current curriculum),” Busza said. “We wanted to make sure they own this work, so we’ll be doing a lot of work with the teachers in the summer, before these modules are launched in the classroom, so that their comfort level with the material is high.”

Future topics will include a history of the ongoing territorial disputes over certain islands in Northeast Asia, as well as recent controversies around South Korean textbooks. Program officials said they hope to extend the program beyond high school, and across Canada.

Brenda Ball, senior school director at North Vancouver’s Brockton School and a social studies teacher, noted that there had been a gap in Asia-Pacific studies in B.C.’s high school curriculum, but much of that has been addressed with the new provincial curriculum being implemented now.

The key for the success of the new program, Ball said, is accessibility for the teachers who want it.

“I grew up in an era where I was being taught history that was predominantly Euro-centric, and some of the publications used are still fairly Euro-centric. The only way we can make that change is if we have access to the new material.

“I think the more material, the better. And having access to free material is always welcomed by teachers, because money isn’t always endlessly available.”

Surrey Muslim School principal (and former social studies teacher) Ebrahim Bawa said his school has already begun adopting portions of the material appropriate for younger students at the K-7 institution. He urged organizers to expand the program to elementary schools as early as possible.

“If you can adapt it down to the elementary level, it is something that — especially in the Lower Mainland — a lot of kids will be able to relate to, because of the large Asia-Pacific population,” Bawa said. “If the program is marked well — if you notify the individual school principals, because they will be the ones setting the direction for the schools — this would have a higher uptake than if you leave it to individual teachers.”

Source: BC Asia-Pacific curriculum aims to bring international perspective to high schools | Vancouver Sun

ICYMI: Les allophones fréquentent les écoles francophones au Québec: From 15 percent in 1971 to 89 percent

A dramatic shift:

La très grande majorité des élèves dont la langue maternelle est autre que le français ou l’anglais fréquentent les écoles francophones au Québec: au primaire et au secondaire, ils sont passés de 15 à 89 % entre 1971 et 2015, rapporte l’Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF).

«Une progression très marquée», soit six fois plus d’élèves, note l’Office, qui a publié deux rapports vendredi, soit un sur l’enseignement collégial et un autre sur les établissements préscolaires, primaires et secondaires.

L’OQLF relève aussi une hausse importante de près de 20 points de pourcentage depuis 1976 du nombre d’anglophones qui fréquentent l’école en français, cette proportion atteignant même 28 % en 2015.

D’ailleurs, cette année-là, la très grande majorité des élèves du Québec – toutes langues maternelles confondues – apprenaient leur alphabet à l’école en français, soit 90 % de ceux du préscolaire, primaire et secondaire.

Mais cette fréquentation accrue de l’école française n’est pas toujours un choix: ces chiffres s’expliquent en partie par l’adoption par le gouvernement du Québec en 1977 de la Charte de la langue française qui oblige certaines catégories d’enfants à fréquenter l’école en français au primaire et au secondaire. Au niveau collégial toutefois, ils ont la liberté de choisir.

«C’est sûr que le fait que la Charte a été adoptée, et les nouvelles normes pour l’inscription à l’école de la langue française, cela peut être un des facteurs qui a joué», a souligné en entrevue le porte-parole de l’OQLF, Jean-Pierre Le Blanc.

Il est ainsi à noter qu’entre 1986 et 2015, la proportion d’élèves admissibles à l’école anglaise a chuté chez les anglophones et les allophones, respectivement de 12 et de 26 %.

Chez ceux ayant une langue maternelle tierce, la plus grande portion de la hausse de fréquentation de l’école en français est survenue dans les années suivant l’adoption de la Charte, entre 1976 et 1991, est-il noté dans le rapport.

Source: Les allophones fréquentent les écoles francophones au Québec | Stéphanie Marin | Éducation

Why Immigrants Do Better At Science And Math : NPR

Intuitively makes sense but nice to have more evidence that it is so:

Seventeen-year-old Indrani Das just won the top high school science prize in the country. Das, who lives in Oradell, N.J., took home $250,000 from the former Intel Science Talent Search, now the Regeneron Science Talent Search, for her study of brain injuries and neuron damage. In her spare time, she’s already working with patients as a certified EMT.

As the Times of India pointed out, Das was one of five Indian Americans among the competition’s top ten finishers. In last year’s contest, according to one study, more than 80 percent of finalists were the children of immigrants.

What is it that spurs so many recent arrivals to the United States to excel in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM disciplines? Some invoke cultural stereotypes, like that of the “Tiger Mother,” for an explanation.

Not Marcos Rangel. For a new study published in the journal Demography, Rangel, an economist at Duke University, and his co-author, Marigee Bacolod of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, looked at U.S. Census data for young adults who arrived in the United States before age 18. The data covers in detail the relative skills required for different occupations, such as physical strength, communication skills, social skills, math and reasoning. For those who went to college, they were also able to see what major they chose.

“If it were just as easy for me to write with my left hand as with my right, I would be using both. But no, I specialize,” Rangel says. In the same way, academically motivated students who have to play catch-up in English class may prefer to zoom ahead in the universal language of mathematics.

(By the way, Das, not a late arrival, is a former spelling bee champion as well as a science whiz.)

Rangel, who came here from Brazil as a young father, has seen this dynamic play out in his own family. “The younger one, who went to Pre-K in English, is different from my kid who came at five already reading Portuguese,” he says. The older one is more inclined toward math.

To be clear, Rangel doesn’t discount the notion that cultural values may also influence immigrants’ career choices. But he is out to tell a more nuanced story — “a movie, not just a photograph,” he says — of how people develop different skills and talents.

Source: Why Immigrants Do Better At Science And Math : NPR Ed : NPR

Les ultraorthodoxes font leurs devoirs

Slow process getting to this point but the change appears to be accepted and in some cases, welcomed within the community:

Las de devoir se battre avec Québec chaque année pour le renouvellement de leur permis, plusieurs écoles juives ultraorthodoxes se sont finalement résolues à faire accréditer leurs professeurs qui enseignaient jusqu’alors sans brevet. Une première vague de professeurs s’apprêtent à obtenir leur diplôme du programme de formation des maîtres de l’Université du Nouveau-Brunswick. Une expérience qui porte des fruits, comme a pu le constater Le Devoir.

« C’est un petit miracle, résume le directeur général du Centre Bronfman de l’éducation juive, Shimshon Hamerman, en entrevue au DevoirTraditionnellement, les communautés ultraorthodoxes ne suivent pas les études laïques […]. Mais les conseils d’administration des écoles ont compris qu’ils ne pourraient pas avoir de permis — et certainement pas un permis à long terme — si leurs professeurs n’avaient pas le brevet. Ils voulaient vraiment respecter la loi. »

Par l’entremise du Centre Bronfman, les directeurs d’écoles des communautés juives ultraorthodoxes ont contacté différentes universités québécoises. Mais selon leurs dires, il était difficile d’obtenir la flexibilité requise pour ce projet, car les élèves travaillent déjà comme professeurs à temps plein dans les différentes écoles associées à leur communauté religieuse.

Shashana R., Sarah Klein et Chana Biegeleisen suivent une formation de l’Université du Nouveau-Brunswick pour obtenir leur brevet en enseignement.

Ils se sont donc tournés vers l’Université du Nouveau-Brunswick, qui offre un programme de baccalauréat en enseignement adapté aux horaires des participants. Depuis quatre ans, une fin de semaine par mois, un professeur est dépêché à Montréal pour offrir une formation intensive. Des périodes d’enseignement sont aussi prévues pendant les vacances estivales et autres congés scolaires. Les soirs et les fins de semaine, les étudiants bénéficient de formations en ligne. Ils devraient obtenir leur diplôme en juin prochain.

« Ça coûte beaucoup plus cher que s’ils étudiaient dans une université locale, mais c’est la preuve de leur engagement à vouloir se conformer aux exigences ministérielles, plaide M. Hamerman. Les professeurs payent de leur poche pour obtenir cette formation qui leur donne accès au brevet d’enseignement de Québec en vertu d’une entente de reconnaissance mutuelle entre les gouvernements du Québec et du Nouveau-Brunswick. »

Former les professeurs

Dans un petit local surchauffé du Centre des enseignants de la Torah Umesorah, sur l’avenue du Parc, une trentaine d’élèves tentent de répondre à la leçon du jour : « Quel est le rôle de l’éducation ? » Les femmes, majoritaires, sont assises à l’avant. Certaines bercent leurs nouveau-nés tout en prenant des notes. « Elle peut rester tant qu’elle n’est pas tannante », blague la maman d’un poupon de neuf semaines. Les hommes restent en retrait derrière une bibliothèque qui fait office de paravent virtuel.

Photo: Jacques Nadeau Le DevoirUne classe d’élèves au travail

« Les parents sont de plus en plus exigeants quant à l’éducation laïque que reçoivent leurs enfants, alors il faut que je sois à la hauteur de leurs attentes », explique en entrevue Avrohom Biegeleisen, qui enseigne depuis 12 ans à la Yeshiva Gedola. Sa femme, Chana, professeure et mère de 10 enfants, suit également la formation. « Ça m’aide beaucoup, notamment dans la façon d’organiser mes cours. »

Professeure à l’école des filles de la communauté Skyer, Perel Brewer affirme que cela demande beaucoup d’efforts, mais que ça en vaut la peine : « Ce qui est génial, c’est que je n’ai pas besoin d’attendre quatre ans pour mettre en application les enseignements. Ce que j’apprends ici aujourd’hui, je peux l’appliquer dès demain dans ma classe. »

Sarah Klein, qui enseigne également à la Yeshiva Gedola, ne s’en cache pas : elle est une « meilleure professeure » depuis qu’elle suit le programme de formation des maîtres. Elle bénéficie d’une « tolérance » du ministère de l’Éducation, mais elle sait que son brevet va faire une « grande différence » aux yeux de Québec. La jeune femme s’y connaît en matière d’exigences gouvernementales. Le matin, elle enseigne aux enfants de la maternelle et l’après-midi, elle travaille à des tâches cléricales, qui consistent en grande partie à remplir des formulaires pour le gouvernement en vue du renouvellement du permis.

Source: Les ultraorthodoxes font leurs devoirs | Le Devoir

Helping Immigrant Students Catch Up, Fast — It Takes A Whole School : NPR

US example of how schools facilitate the integration process:

For many immigrant students, the trauma of crossing the border follows them into the classroom — affecting their performance and ability to learn. And that’s where Michelle’s school comes in.

At Langley Park, in Prince George’s County, Md., 87 percent of students are Spanish-speaking. Out of 176 students, 24 countries are represented and 15 languages are spoken at home, not including English.

The school started last fall. So far, the school sits in temporary buildings, but the kids don’t mind it too much — unless it’s raining.
Her school is part of a larger network across the country called Internationals Network For Public Schools. It serves English language learners, or ELLs, and recent immigrants.

For students like Michelle, the problem is two-fold: Not only are they dealing with trauma, but they also belong to one of the most marginalized student populations.

According to a recent Stanford study, the achievement gap between ELL-Hispanic and white students is the largest in the context of race and ethnicity. And, the average high school graduation rate of ELLs is 19 percentage points lower than the national rate, 63 percent compared to 82.

In 1985, the network opened its first school to address that long-standing disparity. Since then, it has grown to 27 schools in seven states, including Washington, D.C.

And, it seems to be working. Last year, ELLs who attended the network’s high schools in New York City graduated at a rate 16 percentage points higher than ELL students in the city’s public schools, the nation’s largest school district.

As for Langley Park, it hasn’t had a graduating class, yet — it opened last fall — but results so far look promising. In the first class of students, 98 percent showed improvement in their English language skills.

Two talented young artists — Stefany Novoa (left), 16, and Frishta Wassl, 14 — work on self-portraits in Christine Wilkin’s art class.

LA Johnson/NPR

How does the network do it when so many other schools struggle to educate ELLs? It seems to boil down to three simple things:

Every teacher is a language teacher. Tammy Tatro, who teaches technology, says implementing English-language instruction into her class curriculum is “really hard.” But she does it by repeating herself and using visual aids to get concepts across to students.

Second, one of the network’s vital principles is collaboration. That’s why the classes are a mix of students with varying English language skills.

“They all want to lift each other up,” Tatro says. “When one fails, especially if they’re working on a team project, then they all kind of fail. So, they have to help each other.”

A third key principle, Principal Carlos Beato says: the school’s partnerships.

Christine Gilliard, a phys ed teacher, used to teach at a large high school where she had “a two-story gym and two storage closets.” Now she teaches out of a trailer-sized temporary building. “We may not have the best of everything, but we have each other,” she says.

LA Johnson/NPR

CASA de Maryland, a Latino advocacy organization, is one of Langley Park’s partners. The organization offers legal advice for students and their families. Students can also take a social justice class from CASA to learn about advocacy and their rights, depending on their immigration status.

Partnerships like this are crucial, given the extra challenges many of these students face — homelessness, separation from their parents and, of course, the language barrier. Without tending to all of their social and emotional needs, Beato explains, “we wouldn’t be getting any of the academics done.”

Most of the network’s schools employ a full-time social worker. At Langley Park, that’s Lesly Lemus. Her job is to support students any way she can as they cope with life outside school, whether it’s connecting them to community resources or just listening.

Source: Helping Immigrant Students Catch Up, Fast — It Takes A Whole School : NPR Ed : NPR

Schools are teaching values. But whose values?

Interesting trend in education and assessment, and how to measure “character:”

To formally assess children’s characters, schools between Ontario and British Columbia have begun distributing a questionnaire created by psychologist Wayne Hammond. “We’ve proven that the tool is statistically predictable,” says Hammond, owner of a Calgary-based human resources consulting firm called Meritcore. “I can tell you where your character’s at.”

The questionnaire, called the Resiliency Assessment Survey, contains 62 to 82 questions, depending on a school’s preference. Students rank how strongly they agree or disagree with statements similar to “I try to avoid unsafe things” or “I feel hopeful about my future.” The tool creates profiles of each student’s top strengths and weaknesses, such as acceptance, restraint or safety. The results belong to each school board and are used to identify at-risk students and trends within schools. “It starts to give them a round-up,” says Hammond. “Who needs resources? Who needs stretching?”

Alternative measures include the Character Growth Card, invented by American Angela Duckworth, a pioneer of the character movement. Duckworth argues that character, specifically “grit,” is the key determinant of student success. Her hard-copy questionnaire gauges attributes such as gratitude, self-control and zest (defined as approaching life with enthusiasm) by asking students and teachers to rank how often they’ve done things like “kept their temper in check” and “stuck with a project for more than a few weeks.”

A third tool comes from psychologist Mark Liston at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. His online multiple-choice survey measures 11 character strengths in as many minutes, giving students and teachers percentage scores on attributes such as wisdom, empathy and “love/closeness” (one school in Denver had to remove the questions on spirituality because it feared a lawsuit from parents). The results compare each person to “national averages” derived from 1,000 Americans. Schools pay up to $500 per student to take the survey.

A “character portfolio” is another concept of Liston’s. It presents a student’s character scores through Grades 4 to 12, paired with extracurricular and community service hours, journal entries and mentor reports, decorated with personal statements and pull quotes. Liston plans to sell a portfolio program to schools and parents, for students to use in university applications. “When kids start seeing this will help them get into a better college, they’ll start to use it,” he says. “In the past, it’s pretty much been a reference letter. We can do more than that. We must do more than that.” Even if students lie about their empathy, kindness and optimism to buff up their portfolios, Liston says, “How long can you fake it before it actually becomes who you are?”

Alarmingly, some schools are taking character scores more seriously than the researchers intended. This year, nine school districts in California will begin to incorporate character assessments into school accountability, affecting their funding. “We’re nowhere near ready,” warns Duckworth in a column in the New York Times, “and perhaps never will be, to use feedback on character as a metric for judging the effectiveness of teachers and schools.” Duckworth notes that the new measurement tools may not be accurate due to cultural biases—for example, at one school, students from Korea ranked themselves lower on all attributes—and because students hold different standards for character indicators such as “comes to class prepared.” Regardless of the limitations, the measurements threaten to become “high-stakes metrics for accountability,” Duckworth writes. When a California teacher told her that she worried the school’s low scores would mean less funding per student, Duckworth writes, “I felt queasy.”

At W.J. Mouat, character grades range from 50 to 100 per cent, and final grades appear on student transcripts. Fraser hopes to learn more about the concept of character portfolios and their use for university applications. “I think it’s fascinating,” she says. Her students are currently spending their class time publicizing orange shirt day in remembrance of residential schools in Saskatchewan and planning an Aboriginal feast. Fraser expects character education to flood into Eastern Canada as schools show quantitative evidence of its success. “This wave is here,” says Fraser. “This wave isn’t going away.”

How to teach citizenship in schools | The Economist

Good discussion of what citizenship or civics education should entail:

IN 2012 David Souter, a retired justice of the Supreme Court, argued that the greatest threat to American democracy was neither a foreign invasion nor a military coup, but ignorance about how government functions. “An ignorant people can never remain a free people,” he said, referring to Thomas Jefferson, “and democracy cannot survive too much ignorance”. People become willing to hand power to a strongman who promises to solve all their problems. “That is how the Roman Republic fell…That is the way democracy dies, and if something is not done to improve the level of civic knowledge, that is what you should worry about.”

He was on to something. The World Values Survey, a global study by social scientists from over 100 countries, found that far fewer millennials object to autocracy than their elders. Only 19% of millennials in America and 36% in Europe say that if the government were incompetent or failing to do its job, a military takeover would still not be legitimate. Just a third see civil rights as “absolutely essential” to democracy. In America, more than a quarter dismiss the importance of free elections. In 1995 only 16% of American youngsters thought democracy was a “bad” system; by 2011, that number had risen to almost 25%.

One reason may be that long-standing democracies have forgotten the need for eternal vigilance. Worried about unemployment and global competition, governments and schools have focused on preparing young people for work, rather than to participate in democracy. Citizenship education, said Michael Gove, Britain’s education secretary from 2010 to 2014, was a “pseudo-subject”. In America, schools no longer bother testing it. When the subject survives, it is often recast narrowly, says Bryony Hoskins of Roehampton University, as a way to counter radicalisation or promote national values to recent immigrants.

In Britain, a positively regarded curriculum introduced by the Labour party in 2002 has been largely dismantled. There is much talk of “educating for character”, with the aim of developing “grit” and “resilience”. But it is narrow and instrumental, says Ben Kisby of the University of Lincoln, reflecting the government’s focus on pupils as future workers and consumers, rather than as voters. In Poland, a recent revision to the syllabus has thrown out all discussion of how the European Union functions; the focus is on Polish identity formation. “‘Nation’ is more important than ‘society’; ‘Pole’ is more powerful than ‘citizen’,” says Alicja Pacewicz of the Centre for Citizenship Education in Warsaw.

In America civic-education classes no longer cover what life is like in non-democracies. Schools used to educate their charges about life in the Soviet Union, points out Richard Kahlenberg of The Century Foundation, a think-tank, making the case for democracy by comparison. But when the cold war ended, that stopped. He thinks declining support for democratic values is a partial consequence. “It’s easy to be sceptical [about the value of democracy] when you don’t know anything different,” he says. Without context to help them appreciate the benefits and safeguards afforded by democracy, young people may be vulnerable to emotional appeals to nationalism and fiery rhetoric about seizing power from “elites”.

Laboratories for democracy
The best civic-education classes do more than impart knowledge about how government works. They create environments in which pupils get used to the tools of democracy, such as debating controversial issues and disagreeing respectfully. Parents may worry that schools are indoctrinating their children, and teachers can be wary of treading on thorny ground. But schools are more ideologically diverse than many other environments, making them ideal testing-grounds for such skills.

It is important to avoid crude propagandising, says Peter Levine of the Centre for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University. Pupils’ criticisms of their country’s politics and governance may be perfectly legitimate. Members of some minorities may be justified in distrusting arms of the state, such as the police; cheerleading in the classroom may alienate them further. Best to combine realism with discussions of practical steps pupils can take to bring about change, says Mr Levine. Rather than simply teaching about Martin Luther King Jr and the Voting Rights Act, for example, use the story to emphasise that social movements are driven by ordinary people, who can make a difference.

Schools in Nordic countries seek to ensure democratic values are developed right across the curriculum, and from the very start. Even the youngest children take part in age-appropriate decision-making: choosing the name of their group, for example, or what they will eat. Older pupils are expected to help develop school policy. They learn to make a case and cope with being outvoted—and that every choice, even that to abstain, has consequences.

Research suggests that these programmes work: pupils who have become used to discussing current affairs are much more likely to be politically engaged and involved in their communities, and to vote when they are old enough. Civic-education programmes also increase the likelihood that pupils will have more accepting attitudes towards people of different backgrounds. In Norway, where 95% of 14-year-olds participate in school elections, more than in any other country, nearly the same share participate in multicultural activities outside school.

A new programme, “Learning Democracy at Utøya”, has turned the Norwegian island where 69 people were killed by a far-right terrorist in 2011 into an education centre. Over three days pupils learn about the attack, as well as challenges to democratic values and how to respond to them. Much of the programme is interactive, prompting students to reflect on their values and argue their position. They then develop lessons to share with their peers back at school. Participants say it is an emotional experience: most of the victims were teenagers. In the words of Marianne Støle-Nilsen, a teacher in Bergen who took four of her pupils to the island, it is a place “where you don’t have to explain why teaching democracy and continuing to fight for it is important”.

Source: How to teach citizenship in schools | The Economist

First Nations School of Toronto ready for brighter future

While I always have mixed thoughts about ethnically (or religiously) based schooling given that it can hamper integration, understand the pressures particularly with First Nations.

It will be important to have some long-term evaluations of this school’s effectiveness, not just in terms of graduation rates (important, where I expect improvement) but 10 years post-graduation in terms of employment and income:

Twenty-five years ago, Shannon Judge was an indigenous student in a Barrie high school where sports teams were named the “Redskins.”

A generation earlier her mother, from Wasauksing First Nation near Parry Sound, wasn’t allowed to speak her first language of Ojibwe at the elementary school she attended on her reserve.

Today, Judge’s two children are finally breaking the cycle at First Nations School of Toronto. Raven, 9, and Rayne, 8, are part of a new era of indigenous education that teaches them through the lens of aboriginal experience and history.

Thanks to their school, both children now speak Ojibwe with their grandmother, which has inspired Judge to take lessons too, provided by volunteers through the school. Morning smudging ceremonies and daily 40-minute language and culture classes with an elder are part of their routine.

“I feel like my kids are getting something from school that’s not only education, but a connection to their history and identity that empowers them and gives them a sense of worthiness,” says Judge.

As of this month, students will have the option of keeping that connection until they graduate from Grade 12, following the school’s long-awaited move from its cramped quarters at Dundas Street Public School.

The Judge family - Shannon and Neal with Raven, 9 and Rayne, 8, - are shown outside the First Nations School of Toronto, which opened in its new location this month.

The move to the spacious building — site of the former Eastern Commerce Collegiate, which closed in 2015 due to falling enrolment — means that beginning in September, First Nations School will introduce a new high school grade each fall. The new Grade 9 class next September will become the first graduates in 2021.

That will make it Ontario’s first publicly-funded school to offer aboriginal education from kindergarten through Grade 12.

“The dynamics have changed,” principal Jonathan Kakegamic said following the Jan. 10 opening on the six-acre property, also home to the Aboriginal Education Centre run by the Toronto District School Board.

The kids, currently in kindergarten through Grade 8 and from all over the city, were beside themselves to see all the space, inside and out. Instead of eating breakfast and lunch in a crowded classroom, they now have a cafeteria, along with their own gym and an auditorium.

“I’m just excited to be here,” says Kakegamic, who moved from Thunder Bay last August to become principal. “It’s an honour to be part of this new era.”

Attendance has already risen to 131 students from 96 in September and the new site will accommodate 600.

Teacher Maliha Mitha reads to her Grade 1 and 2 class at First Nations School of Toronto during the children's first week at the new site.

Kakegamic and others in the community stress that expanding to secondary school is critical to reducing high dropout rates among indigenous students, who often feel lost in a larger system that doesn’t teach their perspective and history.

Source: First Nations School of Toronto ready for brighter future | Toronto Star

ICYMI: How a country gets forged in the classrooms: Salutin

Good piece on the integrative role of the public school:

My friend and neighbour Rob Vipond, who’s a political science prof and whose daughter Susanna looks after our cat and turtle when we’re at the lake, has written a neighbourhood book brimming with love. It’ll be out this spring. He says it’s the “biography of a school” — Clinton Street Junior Public, where both our kids went. It’s a nonacademic book, full of academic rigour and insight.

He had the great idea of focusing on public schools as incubators of citizenship. Private schools can teach about citizenship but can’t ever embody it, since people go there in a private role, vs. as taxpaying members of society. Public schools are labs, not just for studying citizens but for growing them.

As a poli-sci guy, Rob is also chronically fascinated by the place of the state and formal political structures, and schools are an ideal field for study since, as he says, they are “the one state institution with which many citizens have daily and recurring interaction.” In a downtown school in The Six, like Clinton, those interactions for about a century have revolved around dealing with newcomers.

So he tells three stories. One is about “Jewish Clinton,” during the first half of the last century, when Clinton was largely Jewish. Canada still saw itself as a “Christian country,” making it hard for Jewish arrivals to feel like full citizens. Then in 1944, Ontario’s Tory premier made religious i.e., Christian, instruction mandatory, like math or science.

Clinton’s response was basically to ignore the law without kicking up a fuss. It was brilliant, a subtle form of civil disobedience, which made it possible for Jewish families to gradually acquire a full sense of being Canadian rather than having second-class quality thrust upon them.

The eras of Italian Clinton and Global Clinton followed, during which Canada groped its way toward “multiculturalism” while governments added laws and bureaucracies. But at Clinton, the effort to construct “multicultural citizenship” was “all part of the daily routine.” The meaning of multicultural got sorted out right there — in classrooms and at recess. The challenge was “to pay respect to the country’s … legacy” while adapting it to “the needs and aspirations” of newcomers.

Could you integrate them without stigmatizing their heritage as “an obstacle course to overcome?” Could they contribute as themselves? “A real sense of belonging” is hard to attain if it means betraying your own identity, which you brought with you. These issues are still unresolved, as Tory leadership provocateur Kellie Leitch reminds us. But practically speaking, at Clinton, it meant “Toronto’s students might well learn something from their newly arrived classmates.”

Let me add a footnote here, based on my own teaching of a half course in the Canadian studies program at U of T over several decades. The names on my class lists have changed mightily, as Clinton’s did over a longer time. When I started, the program seemed more or less designed for people from north Toronto. The courses were basically variations on Atwood (for culture) and Innis (for social science/history): two Canadian academic staples, like timber or the beaver.

But over the years, Canadian studies added Asian-Canadian, Chinese-Canadian, Jewish-Canadian, aboriginal, etc., courses and “chairs” — the lively mélange would probably have been unimaginable to those who set it up in the late 1970s. The north Toronto contingent still attends but, as Rob says, they learn something in return from their more recently arrived classmates.

In fact, we all win. For those of us teaching, we can’t just toss out headings (federal-provincial relations, Rocket Richard, the nativity story). We can toss them out, but we also have to fill them in. It’s good for us, it reveals our assumptions, especially to ourselves, and leads to treatment of glossed-over issues.

We, in turn, learn about, oh: Model Minorities and Cooking in Madeleine Thien’s Simple Recipes; The Critical Role of Cultural Beliefs in Shaping the Perceptions of Mental Health by Chinese-Canadians; The Emergence of Queer Punk in Toronto; along with old friends like, An Appraisal of the War of 1812 and, BlackBerry: Canadian or Not? (All covered in the CanStudies student journal, IMAGINATIONS.)

This doesn’t just reflect what Canadian studies has become, it’s what Canada has become, despite the urgent efforts of Leitch and others to dictate our meaning to us, from the top down. Maybe she should sign up for some courses.

Source: How a country gets forged in the classrooms: Salutin | Toronto Star