Schools and Teacher Turnovers

In Canada, teacher turnover rates mainly refer to the public school education system. This is when teachers leave their school after only a short period of employment, essentially resulting in a conveyor belt of new teachers arriving and then leaving schools. New, younger teachers are mainly responsible for the growing turnover rate in schools. Professor Rob Tierney from UBC’s Faculty of Education says this is because new teachers often “burnout” in their early years of teaching, being unaccustomed to the workload and hectic school environment. Newer teachers also seem to be unprepared at dealing with behavioural and discipline problems among students, especially teenagers who are more likely to challenge authority. Teacher turnover rates are even higher in rural areas where new educators are viewed as “outsiders” to the community.

According to 2004 figures from the Canadian Teachers’ Federationaround 30% of Canadian teachers leave their teaching job in their first five years of employment. Why is this an issue? Take the successful Finnish school system for example. In the majority of Finland’s schools, students are taught by the same educator for many successive years. That is because students benefit from developing a lasting and meaningful relationship with their teacher. This arrangement helps students feel more comfortable in the classroom, leads them to ask questions during lessons, and the teachers have experience with each of their pupil’s needs. With a high rate of Canadian teacher turnovers, public school students are unable to building a relationship with their educators and each new teacher must try to learn about each student’s needs and personalities within a limited timeframe. Students may also be more easily overlooked in class, putting them at risk for absenteeism and falling grades.

What helps teachers from leaving their position? In 2006 Cassandra Guarino, Professor of Education and Public Policy at UC Riverside, and her co-authors found in their review of the teacher attrition literature that “schools that provided mentoring and inductions programs had lower rates of turnover for new teachers. As well, schools that gave teachers greater autonomy and support from administration had better success in keeping their teachers”. This helps explain why IB World private schools in Ontario do not experience teacher turnovers (at least not to the degree of the public school system). Teachers at IB private schools already have years of teaching experience under their belt, and they have undergone additional training to become IB certified educators. This means they have the experience and training to succeed in a rigorous teaching environment. In conjunction with guaranteed small class sizes, our private school IB teachers are able to build meaningful relationships with their students, whose academic future they take to heart. Furthermore, at St. Jude’s Academy, our professional development program ensures our teachers have a great support network.

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Private Schools: Parental Involvement

Parental involvement can be defined as: “the participation of parents in regular, two-way and meaningful communication involving student academic learning and other school activities” (107th Congress, 2002). Students whose parents take an active interest in their school activities generally have fewer behavioural problems and exhibit better academic performance, but this only works if schools encourage parental involvement.

Child Trends reported on a meta-analysis by N. E. Hill and D. F. Tyson that revealed “parental involvement in school life was more strongly associated with high academic performance for middle schoolers than helping with homework”. That is why private schools provide the ideal conduit for parental involvement because parents are viewed as a critical component of the private school experience. Parents are our “accountability partners”. You have invested a significant portion of your hard-earned income towards a private school for a reason: you expect your child to receive a high-quality education. If a parent feels that a private school is lacking in any way, the administration is accountable. They welcome parental involvement in order to ensure they are meeting the high expectations of their clientele. Private schools are built around open communication between parents and the administration, providing opportunities for frequent parent-teacher meetings and the participation of parent committees in fundraising initiatives and social events. Direct accountability to parents results in private schools being directly accountable for the well-being of our students.  

In the public school system, the perception of parental involvement is markedly different. The duty of  a parent is often limited in scope, constrained to the singular annual parent-teacher conference and evening shifts as your child’s homework helper. Public school teachers can be difficult to get a hold of with so many students assigned to one educator in overcrowded classrooms, making it difficult to receive a progress report for your child before its too late (i.e. final report cards).

Fun Fact: St. Jude’s Academy has a webpage listing all of our teachers’ classroom blogs. They are regularly updated so that parents can view homework assignments and other pertinent information to their child’s daily education progress.

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The Importance of Professional Development

When determining which school to enrol your child in, one of the key factors I recommend taking into consideration is an institution’s policy towards professional development (PD). All educators, new and experienced, benefit from continual training throughout their careers, and these benefits are directly translated to student success in the classroom. Ongoing professional development keeps teachers up-to-date on new research on how children learn, emerging technology tools for the classroom, and new curriculum resources. Adapting and acquiring these skills is imperative for teacher and student success in the Digital Age. Professional development also allows educators to remain competitive in their industry and increase their confidence.

At St. Jude’s Academy, teachers are encouraged to undergo professional development, and they participate in weekly meetings with their associates. This cooperative effort facilitates classroom success and ensures that each department remains aligned to promote the school’s mission: to nurture well-rounded, confident world citizens in a secure and inspirational setting that supports students in their social, emotional, and academic growth. I cannot overemphasize how important these weekly meetings have been for our educators’ development. The odd “PD Day” does not provide enough substantial results or development.

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How to Solve Declining Math Scores

My previous post was about the decline of the liberal arts in our Ontario education system, and the countless studies that testify to the importance of not overlooking the arts (as they provide countless skills to students). Yet here I am, a few days later, now reporting the decline of math numeracy in Ontario and other provincial schools, as evidenced by declining student scores on standardized math tests across the country!

The C.D. Howe Report—published in May 2015 by associate professor of mathematics Anna Stokke—is the definitive report on the “math crisis” in Canada. Please take a look at some of the most important statistics:

  • the portion of Grade 6 students meeting provincial standards fell to 54 per cent from 61 per cent over a five-year period
  • Ontario’s Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) showed that the proportion of Grade 3 students who meet provincial standards on math tests also dropped, from 71 per cent to 67 per cent in 2013-14

I’ve only related some of the data from Professor Stokke’s 20-page report which establishes that there definitely is a problem, and a worrying trend in regards to children’s declining math numeracy. Math students are failing to either understand the meaning of mathematical procedures or perform them quickly and efficiently without the use of a calculator. Many math students do not know basic multiplication and division, they don’t know that a remainder is different from a decimal point, and they struggle with simple algebra. But why is this an issue? 

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