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Red Deer Polytechnic celebrates valued partners at 2023 Community Awards

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Red Deer Polytechnic celebrated its 2023 Community Awards which honour the meaningful impact of individuals, partners and alumni who contribute to the success of RDP and its students.

“Red Deer Polytechnic is fortunate have such a strong and vital community of supporters and champions who genuinely care about the future of our institution and its students,” says Stuart Cullum, President of Red Deer Polytechnic. “These awards recognize the individuals and organizations who have helped us deepen our economic and social impact through their selfless contributions and partnership.”

At the ceremony, the following award recipients were honoured:

• Lyn Radford – G.H. Dawe Memorial Award of Excellence

o Lyn Radford is known for her unparalleled and passionate dedication as a community builder and leader. She has contributed to the success of many organizations in support of central Albertans. Her commitment to RDP includes past service as a member of the Board of Governors, and Chairing the 2019 Canada Winter Games Host Society, which contributed to the construction of the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre. Lyn also received an Honorary Degree from RDP in 2019.

• Gord Inglis – Alumni Legacy Award (awarded posthumously)

o Gord contributed to the Polytechnic community for 32 years in a variety of capacities. He served as an instructor, chairperson, athletic director and volleyball coach. Through his leadership and ability to forge positive connections, Gord made a positive impact on his students, colleagues, student-athletes, institution and community. Gord passed away on May 27, 2023, but his legacy lives on.

• Rieley Kay – Distinguished Alumni Award

o As an RDP alum and co-owner of Cilantro & Chive, Rieley has dedicated his time and expertise to support education, charitable causes and communities. Since graduating from RDP in 2010, Rieley has remained closely connected to the institution in several ways, including as a member of the RDP Alumni Association Board of Directors. Through Cilantro & Chive’s Burger of the Month program, Rieley has contributed more than $140,000 to local charities.

• Hockey Alberta – Community Partner Award

o Through Hockey Alberta and the Polytechnic’s partnership, RDP students, athletes and community members have benefited. When Hockey Alberta relocated to the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre, the organization had the opportunity to use an inclusive, world-class space as its Provincial Training Centre. This partnership has also facilitated collaborative programming initiatives, along with practicum and field placement opportunities, for Red Deer Polytechnic learners.

For the past 60 years, community members, alumni and partners have enriched Red Deer Polytechnic and the experiences of its learners, as well as creating a positive impact felt across Alberta and beyond.

Each year, RDP is pleased to acknowledge these contributions during its annual Community Awards celebration. These contributions have come in a variety of forms, including through volunteerism, financial support and offering work-integrated learning opportunities to students.

More information about Red Deer Polytechnic’s Community Awards, including how to nominate individuals, is available online.

DEI

School boards need leaders who focus on education not politics

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From the Fraser Institute

By Michael Zwaagstra

Canada’s largest school board is looking for a new leader. Colleen Russell-Rawlins, director of education of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), will retire this fall.

To say her tenure has been controversial would be an understatement. During her three years in the top job, TDSB doubled down on its diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies, with tragic consequences. Former TDSB principal Richard Bilkszto took his own life last year after facing relentless harassment from other administrators for challenging DEI orthodoxy during a professional development session.

The harms caused by DEI extend even further. Two years ago, TDSB voted to abolish its merit-based admissions policy at specialized arts and sports schools in the name of “equity.” Parents of students in these schools were not happy about this erosion of standards. After spending years building up these specialized schools, TDSB is now tearing them down.

Add to this the ongoing harassment of Jewish students in TDSB schools and the failure of administrators to crack down on employees who disseminate blatantly anti-Israel propaganda. Expect things to get even worse if trustees replace Russell-Rawlins with someone with a similar mindset and approach.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what will happen if TDSB follows the guidelines provided by the Ontario Public Supervisory Officers’ Association (OPSOA), the organization representing superintendents and directors of education in Ontario.

To be eligible for the position, prospective directors of education must complete the OPSOA’s Supervisory Officer’s Qualification Program. However, this program looks like a woke propogandist’s dream. According to the OPSOA’s website, the qualification program focuses on “anti-oppression, anti-racism, [and] anti—colonialism.” No wonder education directors appear obsessed with these topics.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce has stated that he wants school boards to focus more on academics. He’s even gone so far as to publicly rebuke school boards that get mired in debates over secondary issues such as masks or transgender policy. Lecce is right to be concerned. From 2003 to 2022, Ontario’s PISA math test scores declined from 530 to 495. That’s the equivalent of nearly two years of learning loss. Clearly, something needs to change.

However, things will only change for the better when school boards start hiring education directors who reject DEI ideology and who put academics first. This means choosing men and women who haven’t climbed the career ladder by pushing DEI initiatives.

At a minimum, the province must drop the requirement for education directors to hold supervisory officer’s qualifications. Making the completion of a program replete with DEI buzzwords such as “anti-oppression” and “anti-colonial” mandatory is a surefire way to ensure that education directors will focus on non-academic issues.

Fortunately, the Ford government has started making at least some changes. Back in 2020, Ontario removed the requirement for directors of education to be former teachers. Considering the uselessness of most Bachelor of Education courses, it’s legitimate to ask why anyone would need an education degree to run a school board.

Obviously, none of this means that qualifications don’t matter. The Ford government’s recent announcement that all future teachers must pass a math proficiency test shows that basic competency matters. People working for school boards, particularly those in the top job, must also be familiar with the education system and know how to lead effectively.

It’s important to remember why we have schools in the first place. The purpose of education is to help students master the academic basics, acquire important life skills, and become responsible Canadian citizens—not to indoctrinate students into woke ideology.

Schools can only function if they have the trust of the communities they serve. If parents feel that teachers are ignoring their concerns or are disrespecting their beliefs, they will pull their kids out of the government school system and pursue other educational options. While parents should always have this right, it’s unfortunate when they are forced into it by administrators who are hostile to their values.

TDSB trustees have a real opportunity to make a change for the better by hiring an education director with a track record of putting academics first. Otherwise, TDSB will continue its downward spiral.

Real change starts at the top. Hopefully, TDSB trustees realize the importance of the decision they are about to make and hire the right person for the job.

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Education

Simply throwing more money at schools will not increase student test scores

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From the Fraser Institute

By Derek J. Allison

Alberta, Quebec and Ontario had the highest average test scores, with each spending markedly less per student than Manitoba (C$15,473) and Saskatchewan (C$17,194), the two highest-spending provinces who both had significantly lower test scores than lowest-spending B.C. (C$12,132).

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance” was a popular bumper sticker back in the day. These days there’s broad acceptance of the need for adequate spending on this inherently expensive process. But do we get our money’s worth? Do Canada and the provinces get a good return on their education spending or should we spend more?

To help answer that question, it helps to broaden our perspective beyond Canada’s borders. According to a recent study published by the Fraser Institute, in 2018 (the latest year of complete and comparable data) there was a wide range of K-12 education spending among 33 high-income countries, ranging from Luxembourg (US$21,968 per student) to Lithuania, (US$6,551 per student). Canada (US$11,771) ranked 14th-lowest, just above the average and well below higher-spending Norway, Austria, Korea, Denmark and the United States.

There was less variation in provincial spending, with highest-spending Saskatchewan and Manitoba spending similar amounts to the U.S. and Germany, and British Columbia spending notably less, close to amounts spent by Finland and Japan.

So, Canada’s K-12 spending was in the mid-range of spending among high-income countries. What did we get, in terms of student performance, for this level of spending?

Based on results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which tests 15-year-old students worldwide every three years on reading, math and science, Canada’s average test performance was significantly higher than most other countries—specifically, Canada’s 15-year-olds had higher average scores than their peers in 11 higher-spending countries including Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

There was a similar pattern between school spending and student performance in the provinces. Alberta, Quebec and Ontario had the highest average test scores, with each spending markedly less per student than Manitoba (C$15,473) and Saskatchewan (C$17,194), the two highest-spending provinces who both had significantly lower test scores than lowest-spending B.C. (C$12,132).

Of course, due to the many differences between education systems in different countries, global comparisons are less than precise, but clearly higher K-12 spending is not reliably associated with higher test scores. And there’s obviously a lot more to good education than doing well on standardized tests. Yet doing well in reading, math and science—the core PISA subjects—is important because these subjects provide a necessary foundation for future higher-level study and employment.

These findings raise a fundamental question. How can we close the gaps between test scores among countries and provinces if poorer-performing systems already spend more than those achieving higher scores? Given the poor track record of popular and expensive reforms such as smaller class sizes and extended teacher education, there’s no obvious answer to this question. Simply shovelling more money into school budgets will not, by itself, make a difference unless effective ways to improve student performance can be found.

Instead, education systems should encourage greater school-level decision-making to better serve local circumstances. And there’s also much to gain by paying at least as much attention to student performance as spending.

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