When reading through Paul Bennett’s most recent opinion piece on education in Nova Scotia, “Extended school year: More of the same not good enough” I was a bit puzzled by some of his statements.
Firstly, the author makes the inaccurate claim that inequity between students “can no longer be ignored”. I’m not exactly sure who Mr. Bennett feels is ignoring what, but I can assure you that none of the people I work with are ignoring inequity among students. Providing a quality education to all in our care is a keystone to our profession, and unlike private or charter schools, we welcome all comers. Public education, by its very nature, is society’s means by which inequity is addressed.
Secondly, Mr. Bennett cites the KIPP schools as a model that is “highly successful”. Well, that is again, not entirely accurate. While it may be argued that KIPP schools have had some success, the jury is still out on why or to what extent. One of the largest complaints about KIPP schools is that they lose students. Up to 60% drop out rates by some reports. (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/charter-schools/myths-and-realities-about-kipp.html) The students that make it through may do better than kids from public schools on standardized tests, but perhaps that has much more to do with who is getting to take the test than the education they are receiving. Regardless, few educators in this Province would be willing to risk higher drop out rates in the name of higher test scores.
Finally, in the online forums, someone writing under the name “Educhatter” (Mr. Bennett’s own blog) seemed to be indicating that the NSTU was responsible for not allowing KIPP schools to move forward in this province. “What’s stopping us from looking at more flexible schedules better serving kids and parents? Hint: It’s an invisible hand, known by an acronym with four capital letters.” Although anti-union sentiment seems to be the norm nowadays, only the most paranoid of us would assume that any union could wield this kind of clout.
This is simply another example of Mr. Bennett trying to gain support for his idea of charter schools in Nova Scotia by playing on parents’ concern for their kids education.
If we actually want to improve schools in Nova Scotia instead of focussing on things that “might” work, why not look at models that are proven to breed success? Consider Finland, where kids actually spend less time in school than they do in Canada, and where teachers have autonomy to do what they were trained for. Finland has recently gained a reputation as a world leader in the field of education, mainly by removing many of the artificial barriers that bureaucracy so often throws up in the name of accountability and standards. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/Why-Are-Finlands-Schools-Successful.html?c=y&page=2
Teachers of this province welcome dialogue on improving the education system for Nova Scotia’s students. It is a dialogue we have professionally and daily in our classrooms, our staffrooms, and during those much maligned PD days. However, until flexible scheduling and extended hours are shown to be worth in achievement what they cost in drop out rates, the idea is without merit. It simply is not worth the price.