“We Canadians like to congratulate ourselves that our society is less unequal than it is in the United States. Our schools are better, our income distribution is fairer, and our poverty is less entrenched. We should stop feeling smug. We already have a two-tier society, and it starts in childhood.”
In fact, Canada’s provincial governments, particularly in the larger centres, have been turning their public education systems into giant pretzels, trying to be equitable or inclusive when the reality is that kids from disadvantaged backgrounds need a whole different approach.
Just two examples of how much a whole different approach can make can be found at Britannia Elementary School on Vancouver’s east side and the Pathways Program in Toronto, as well as in several other cities in Ontario.
Wente also wrote: “When kids start at KIPP – usually in middle school – most are already a grade or two behind. But the teachers tell them constantly that they are smart – and they are. Every student knows the year when he or she will go to college. In New York last year, 94 per cent of KIPP eighth graders scored at or above grade level in math. In northwestern Baltimore, every eighth-grade KIPP student who’d enrolled in Grade 5 passed the state’s math test – compared with 19 per cent in the control group. Almost every KIPP school decisively outperforms its district.
But it takes a lot more than high expectations to get results such as these. Students clock a huge amount of classroom time. The school day runs from 7:30 to 5, with homework every night, classes every other Saturday, and three weeks of school every summer. One of the school’s slogans is: “There are no shortcuts.” Another is: “No excuses. You are responsible for getting smart.” The teachers have cellphones so the students can call them after hours if they run into trouble with their homework. The teachers are young, idealistic, incredibly hard-working, and very good.”
So, what are we waiting for? Interestingly, in the U.S., the KIPP schools are charter schools because they need to be flexible. Yet, my guess is that if any jurisdiction in Canada tried to emulate this program, the teachers’ unions would object — because it would mean longer hours for teachers because of the additional time allocated to their students — including those prepaid cellphones.
What an absolute pity. The very societal groups who claim they are “progressive” and want to help the disadvantaged are the very groups that are holding them back.
H/T Educ8m for the Wente article. Originally published on March 25, 2009.