TDSB increasing alternative schools, choice

Re-posted from a Google cached document on April 1st because original was lost. Unfortunately, however, the comments were not available.

Start of article: In my opinion, it’s all about semantics. Whether you are talking about specialty schools, alternative schools, charter schools or publicly funded independent schools, it is about parent choice.  It is about parent choice because decisions are not based on a ”system” need but on the needs of each child as understood by the parents. Such decisions are however, NOT about privatizing public education. They are about expanding public education and diversifying a monopoly by providing alternatives and choice in public education.  

So, when I read in today’s Globe and Mail that the Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) Education Director, Chris Spence, wants to expand the number of alternative schools the board has from 41 to 45 — I was delighted. 

We had already heard that he wanted an all-boys elementary school – the “Boys Leadership Academy” — which would be marketed to boys in JK to Grade 3. Now, however, we hear that he also wants an all-girls elementary school, called the “Girls Leadership Academy,” for girls in Grades 4 through 8, as well as a sports school and a choir school.  

So, what does all this mean? It means that the TDSB and Mr. Spence, wants to be competitive and, not only retain students, but recruit others. As such, I highly commend them for that. How will they do that? By providing parents with enough choice that they consider moving their children from private schools or the Toronto Catholic Board to the TDSB.

Yet, interestingly, I have heard no criticism from the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) about the proposal. And, the reason seems obvious. ETFO members will be teaching in these alternative schools. Which is fine. I am all for choice and I am all for qualified teachers doing what they were trained to do.

However, I am not in favour of the kind of hypocrisy we hear when anyone outside a public school board suggests such alternative schools as charter schools or funding vouchers that would follow a student — because they are, functionally, the exact same thing. They are about parents and students choosing to attend an alternative school which is publicly funded — not about destroying the public education system as we know it.

A case in point is how the Chair of the Society for Quality Education (SQE), Malkin Dare, was recently condemned online as a hard right privatizing zealot because her privately funded advocacy organization feels pretty much the same as the TDSB”s Chris Spence.

I mean, given my reading of what is on the SQE website, they simply want the provincial government or school boards to provide parents with school choice based on the needs of children — such as a school that might specialize in phonics, numeracy and competency-based curricula as opposed to the more typical child-centered discovery approaches used in most schools.  In other words, Ms. Dare just seems to be stating the obvious — that the public school system as it is now constituted all too often doesn’t offer enough options.

As such, it is my opinion that the verbal hypocrisy on websites like “The Little Education Report“ reflect nothing more than semantics, differences of opinion and politics because what Education Director Chris Spence is proposing is a variety of specialty schools under the TDSB public umbrella.

So, let’s stop the war of words. Whether you call a school an “alternative” or a “charter,” they are similar in intent.  And, if the Ontario government went in that direction, they would both be publicly funded and within the jurisdiction of the Ontario Ministry of Education. 

Therefore, if the TDSB is not seen as attempting to destroy or privatize the Ontario public school system as we know it, neither is the SQE or anyone else who sees choice as the future of education, not only in Ontario but across Canada.

Check out Alberta and B.C. where they already light years ahead of Ontario by recognizing the value of alternative choices, or as they are called in B.C., independent schools.

c/p at Jack’s Newswatch.

15 thoughts on “TDSB increasing alternative schools, choice

  1. Nomdeblog — I am so glad to hear from you. You wrote some amazing comments on the previous thread that was lost — as did so many others. As I was working late into last night downloading each and every post, it was that kind of dialogue that kept me going, otherwise I would have given up.

    Happy Easter to you too.


  2. Thanks Doug. I have to admit I almost let the whole thing go this time. But, thought I would try once more. I had a helper this time to make sure no files were left contaminated. I continue to have a captcha plugin, one called Captcha Free so that visitors do not have to identify numbers or letters. Since I added that I at least haven’t had any new comment spam.


  3. The good news is that I was able to salvage this article from a Google cached entry. Unfortunately, however, the comments weren’t with it. They were, however with the previous post on the “Little Education Report.”


  4. Interesting a lot of trustees are pulling on every loose thread of the boutique schools proposal. Inside dope says chaos in Afro-centred school.


  5. Hmm. Doug — that’s very interesting scuttlebutt. Sometimes when you can have too much community and parent input and no decisions ever get made. Or, people are running the show who don’t understand the expectations of the Ontario government — e.g., they still have to teach Canadian history.


  6. From todays NP, , which seems positive for Ontario. Sure works in Alberta and we are seeing more in BC (Vancouver Island is a hot bed for soccer/sport academies).

    My daughter teaches at an arts oriented academy and loves it from a teaching point of view and she reports that the children love it too. Win win.


  7. WCT — Alternative schools should be a win-win every time. But, I suspect the Africentric school in Toronto that Doug is talking about has too much political interference about what should be taught, etc. I mean, that was what the decision-making process was like. Anyone who complained about anything was labelled a racist. Not conducive to discussion and consensus.

    I seem to remember that your daughter was in teacher training a couple of years back. I may be mixing her up with someelse, however. Just glad things worked out for her.


  8. By the WCT — thanks for that link. If it wasn’t a long weekend I would write a post about the issue of choice catching on — choice for everyone involved.


  9. You are welcome … yes daughter is now teaching full time and loving it (likes the money and the time off too!!). She is dedicated and learns as much from her little ones as they do. She chose grades 3-4 and is amazed at their creativity.

    Your comment about interfering in the decision making reminded me of the issues at the First Nations University in Regina – it seemed to be all about the power and not about the students.


  10. I guess everybody saw Konrad Yakabuski’s piece in the Globe supporting Diane Ravitch and trashing testing and charters. No solution in those phoney reforms.


  11. Doug — If you are going to mention articles, please provide a link so others can read it as well. In that way, my readers can make up their own minds as to whether there is any validity in the writer’s argument. Diane Ravitch is just one opinion among many, some agree with her, some don’t. I don’t.


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