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Education

Schools shouldn’t sacrifice student performance to vague notions of ‘equity’

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From the Fraser Institute

By Derek J. Allison

According to a new study published by the Fraser Institute, if Canada wants to remain competitive with emerging economies around the world, we must increase our math, science and reading scores—and not simply pursue high levels of “equity and inclusion” as the primary goal for our schools.

Indeed, highly equitable and inclusive schools—with declining PISA scores, as is currently the case in Canada—do a disservice to students and society at large.

Why? Because higher test scores translate into greater “knowledge capital”—that is, the full body of knowledge available to an economy—and boost economic growth (and, incidentally, the tax revenues that fund our schools).

Indeed, the goal should be equitable access to a quality education. And the most realistic and meaningful way to measure student progress is through PISA tests, which every three years assess the performance of 15-year-olds worldwide in core subjects of math, science and reading rather than the limited curriculum objectives used in provincial testing, which can only show progress or decline within individual school systems. In today’s world, where competition is truly global, we must know how our students and schools perform compared to their peers in other countries, especially the “Asian Tigers” of Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and Tiawan whose rapidly growing economies have been driven by rising PISA scores.

Obviously, countries with higher test scores can teach other countries how to improve—although there are limits and some traps here. Attempting to cut and paste Singapore’s or Korea’s much more meritocratic systems of highly competitive student assessment and selection would be impractical and impolitic in Canada. Even so, policymakers should consider reinstating more meaningful meritocratic norms in Canadian schools to encourage and recognize academic achievement. Nothing succeeds like success, except recognized and rewarded success.

Closer to home, other provinces could benefit from considering why Quebec is such a stellar performer in math and why Alberta has the highest overall PISA test score average of all provinces.

But fair warning, recent attempts at school improvement in Canada show that top-down one-size-fits-all changes—including extending compulsory attendance, reducing average class size and tinkering with course content—have had little positive effect on student performance, although they may please teacher unions. If policymakers want to achieve more equitable success for more students, they should introduce more flexibility, school autonomy and choice into our top-heavy centrally regulated school systems. In this respect it may be no accident that the three highest performing, mid-spending provincial K-12 education systems (Alberta, Quebec and Ontario) offer relatively high levels of school choice, although of quite different kinds.

Equity and inclusion are noble goals, but they shouldn’t interfere with student progress. There’s too much at stake, for students and the country.

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Alberta

Alberta parents want balance—not bias—in the classroom

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From the Fraser Institute

By Tegan Hill and Paige MacPherson

74 per cent of parents in Alberta believe teachers should present both sides of controversial issues (e.g. sexuality/gender, climate change) or avoid them entirely.

With the Alberta government set to test its new draft social studies curriculum in September, a new poll reveals a clear consensus: Alberta parents of K-12 children want schools to provide balance—not bias—in the classroom. And when it comes to controversial material in schools, they want to make their own choices for their children.

Specifically, the poll (conducted by Leger and commissioned by the Fraser Institute) found that 88 per cent of Alberta parents (with kids in public and independent schools) believe teachers and the provincial curriculum should focus on facts—not teacher interpretations of those facts, which may include opinions. Only 10 per cent of Alberta parents disagreed.

Moreover, despite ongoing debates in the media and among activists about K-12 school policies, curriculum development, controversial issues in the classroom and parental involvement, according to the poll, the vast majority of parents agree on how schools should handle these issues.

For example, 74 per cent of parents in Alberta believe teachers should present both sides of controversial issues (e.g. sexuality/gender, climate change) or avoid them entirely.

An overwhelming majority of Alberta parents (86 per cent) believe schools should provide advance notice when controversial topics will be discussed in class or during formal school activities. This isn’t surprising—many parents may want to discuss these issues with their children in advance.

In fact, when controversial topics arise, about three quarters (73 per cent) of Alberta parents believe parents should have the right to remove their children from those lessons without consequence to their children’s grades. Of the minority who do not believe parents should have this right, most said “children need to learn about all topics/viewpoints, regardless of their parents’ bias.”

And almost nine in 10 Alberta parents (89 per cent) believe classroom materials and conversations about potentially controversial topics should always be age appropriate.

These polling results should help inform provincial and school-level policies around parental information, consent, school curricula and teacher curriculum guides. For instance, given that parents overwhelmingly favour facts in classrooms, curriculum guides should require the teaching of specific details (e.g. the key players, dates and context of specific historical events). Currently, teachers are allowed to interpret events based on their opinions, which means students may hear completely different interpretations depending on the particular teacher.

While the preferences of parents with kids in K-12 schools are often presented as contentious in media and politics, polling data shows a clear consensus. Parents overwhelmingly value balance, not bias. They want their kids taught age-appropriate facts rather than opinions. And they expect prior notice before anything controversial happens in their kids’ schools. According to most parents in Alberta, none of these opinions are controversial.

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Education

Red Deer Graduate earns $100,000 scholarship

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News release from Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools

École Secondaire Notre Dame High School student Olivia McAuley awarded prestigious Schulich Leader Scholarship

École Secondaire Notre Dame High School is proud to announce that Olivia McAuley has been selected as a 2024 Schulich Leader at the University of Calgary. This prestigious scholarship comes with $100,000 in funding and is awarded to only a handful of exceptional students across Canada for their excellence in Science, Technology, or Mathematics.

Olivia McAuley’s achievement marks a significant milestone for both her and our school community. She is one of the 50 recipients of a Science, Technology, and Math Scholarship from across the country, recognized for her academic excellence and entrepreneurial leadership. She will be studying for a Bachelor of Science.

“We are proud to celebrate the continued success of Schulich Leader Scholarships, the premiere STEM scholarship program in Canada. This group of outstanding students will represent the best and brightest Canada has to offer and will make great contributions to society, both on a national and global scale. With their university expenses covered, they can focus their time on their studies, research projects, extracurriculars, and entrepreneurial ventures. They are the
next generation of entrepreneurial-minded, technology innovators,” said program founder Mr. Schulich.

Olivia expressed her gratitude and excitement, stating, “Receiving the Schulich Leader Scholarship is a life-changing opportunity for me. It not only eases the financial burden of university but also provides me with the freedom to fully immerse myself in my studies and pursue my passion for innovation in science, technology and math.”

Ike Hanna, Principal of École Secondaire Notre Dame High School, also shared his pride in Olivia’s accomplishment: “We are incredibly proud of Olivia’s hard work, dedication, and achievements. Her selection as a Schulich Leader is a testament to her exceptional talent and potential. We look forward to seeing all the great things she will accomplish in the future.”

About Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools serves over 10,650 students in 21 schools in Red Deer, Blackfalds, Sylvan Lake, Rocky Mountain House, Innisfail, and Olds. It also supports the learning of over 850 students in a Home Education Program. The Division is committed to serving children and parents with a complete offering of learning opportunities delivered within the context of Catholic teachings and within the means of the Division.

About Schulich Leader Scholarships Canada

Recognizing the increasing importance and impact that STEM disciplines will have on the prosperity of future generations, businessman and philanthropist Seymour Schulich established this $100+ million scholarship fund in 2012 to encourage our best and brightest students to become Schulich Leader Scholars: the next generation of entrepreneurial-minded, technology innovators.

Through The Schulich Foundation, these prestigious entrance scholarships are awarded to 100 high school graduates enrolling in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) undergraduate program at 20 partner universities in Canada. Every high school in Canada can submit one Schulich Leader Nominee per academic year based on academic excellence in STEM, entrepreneurial leadership, and financial need.

About The Schulich Foundation

The Schulich Foundation is one of Canada’s largest foundations, having donated in excess of $350 million. Seymour Schulich established and funded The Schulich Foundation. He holds Canada’s highest civilian award, the Order of Canada, and is among Canada’s greatest philanthropists. Having benefited greatly from a scholarship that enabled him to do his MBA, Mr. Schulich has built a well-earned reputation as a champion for education and access to education in Canada and around the world. The Schulich Foundation has endowed university faculties of business, engineering, medicine, law, education, music, chemistry, nursing, and dentistry; libraries, dormitories, courtyards, medical health centers, lecture and music halls. Over 6,000 scholarships are awarded annually to students in Schulich Schools.

The Foundation’s largest initiative is the $200 million Schulich Leaders Scholarships program, spanning 25 universities across Canada and Israel, in support of students pursuing STEM education.

For more information, visit: schulichleaders.com.

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