Ontario shows us we should support our teachers, not shame them | Education | The Guardian - 0 views
shared by Teachers Without Borders on 19 Mar 12 - No Cached
When the provincial government in which Levin served was elected, the Ontario school system was in trouble. In Canada each province has sole responsibility for education, and previous administrations had made structural changes, slashed funding, over promoted testing and gone to war with the unions. Perhaps most important, Levin writes: "The government was vigorously critical of schools and teachers in public." The result was industrial unrest, plummeting teacher morale, low parental confidence and stagnating pupil achievement. Maybe not surprisingly, in 2003 a new government was elected on a platform of renewing and improving public education. Today Ontario is widely acclaimed, not least by both the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) and the OECD for its rare combination of excellence and equity for all.
The Ontario government chose a few targeted and ambitious, but not unusual, objectives: raising standards for all, narrowing gaps, increasing participation rates, and growing public confidence in state schools. But rather than experimenting with US-style marketisation policies and tinkering with structures, it developed a rigorous programme based on evidence, and began a relentless focus on implementation and building capacity at every level.
"Skill" and "will" became the watchwords, not just for teachers but for everybody involved in the education system, which progressed rapidly thanks to massive investment in leadership and professional development at school, district and ministerial level.
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Public statements from government and ministers were switched to be deliberately supportive rather than dismissive of state schools. Finally, and most crucially, the government set out to build a respectful, collaborative relationship with teachers, unions, pupils and parents. "You cannot threaten, shame or punish people into top performance," writes Levin.