All Posts Tagged With: "high school"
Prof. Pettigrew on why remedial courses aren’t the answer
Ask any university professor if their students come to university well prepared and you are likely to hear some laughter. And then more laughter. And then the word “no” spoken with emphasis. English students who don’t know what a semi-colon is, biology students who know nothing about evolution—none of this is a secret.
So it was hardly news to me that the students of Memorial University’s Judith Adler don’t know basic geography.
Despite its ubiquity, this lack of basic knowledge among high school graduates is frustrating because those students don’t make up for their lack of basic skills with an abundance of advanced skills. If they knew few facts but were, let’s say, excellent critical thinkers or writers, that might be okay—one can’t expect everything.
Sadly, however, most students arrive with neither basic factual knowledge nor critical thinking nor writing skills to speak of. How exactly they have spent their time in secondary school is actually a bit of a mystery to those of us in higher education.
Certain private schools may be boosting grades
The Alberta government says it will investigate after the Calgary Herald found wide gaps between final grades awarded by certain high schools and their students’ pitiful exam performances.
The newspaper’s data show that, in most courses, marks tend to drop about 10 per cent after final exam scores, which are worth 50 per cent of the grade, are added to the 50 per cent awarded at the teacher’s discretion. But in some private schools, grades dropped a lot more after the tests.
For example, in one class at the International School of Excellence (ISE), grades fell by 38.9 per cent after an exam, which only two of 19 students managed to pass. Despite the poor exam results, everyone in the class was given their credit on the strength of high marks from their teacher.
An investigation in Ontario last year uncovered apparent “credit mills.” At these private schools, students said it was much easier to get high grades than at public schools they had attended.
We’re good enough already, says Prof. Pettigrew
Over in the UK, there’s more talk about university professors needing formal teacher training. One hears similar proposals more and more lately in this country, too. But in the end, it is, like so many ideas about higher education, a meretricious scheme masquerading as commonsense reform.
On the surface, the notion that university professors should have some kind of formal Education credential has a certain appeal. Professors, after all, spend a lot of their time teaching, why wouldn’t it make sense to require them to have the same level of training as other teachers? Just because you know about your discipline, the thinking goes, doesn’t mean you know how to teach it.
Advice for first-year students from our resident professor
Ever heard the story about the university student whose paper was too long, so his professor tore off the extra pages and graded the remainder? It’s just an urban legend. But there are some big differences between high school and university that freshmen should prepare themselves for.
1. How you write matters. In high school, your teachers were likely happy if you wrote anything at all, and were probably ecstatic if you wrote something clear and gave an opinion or two. That won’t cut it at university. Professors expect essays to be formally structured and to provide analysis backed by evidence. They expect papers to be properly formatted, and they expect you to cite sources according to professional style guidelines. Dashing something off at the last minute — no matter how smart you are — won’t cut it.
Teen has received death threats
The 13-year-old pop star who was made famous by what some consider the worst music video ever made has left high school due to bullying, her mother told ABC News. She has also received death threats.
Rebecca Black became famous after the video she paid $4,000 to have produced went viral. It has now passed 170 million views on YouTube, but “Friday” has also been highly criticized for its simplistic lyrics and the heavy use of voice-modifying software.
Although her mother wouldn’t elaborate on what students in her high school had said, Black has faced extremely harsh comments on YouTube. One of the most hurtful to Black read: ”I think you should get an eating disorder because that will make you prettier.”
But it’s not only bullying that has caused her to shift into homeschooling. Black has been too busy for regular schooling. She recently appeared in the Katy Perry music video, Last Friday Night, received an award at the MTV Awards and filmed the video for her new single, My Moment.
What’s David Marrello’s secret to success?
A Toronto high school student has earned a 100 per cent average in his high school courses, reports the Toronto Star.
David Marrello says his academic success is the result of constantly asking questions and being a perfectionist. He also makes time for extracurricular activities, including watching the famous quick show Jeopardy, playing the piano and heading up The Bishop Allen School’s Reach for the Top team.
Although he had his pick of schools, he chose to enroll close to home at York University’s Schulich School of Business. He will, of course, be attending for free thanks to a four-year scholarship.
Teacher took student to opera and plays
A former B.C. high school teacher will go to jail for a year for having sex with a student, reports the Vancouver Sun. Victor Wiens, 64, pleaded guilty to the charge of sleeping with a minor. He taught the victim social studies at Sutherland Secondary in North Vancouver until a janitor caught him having sex with a girl in a utility closet after class in February 2010, at which point he was supspended.
“He made the absolute worst choice over and over again,” judge Carol Baird Allan told the court, explaining why she gave him a year in jail when the law requires a minimum of 45-days.
The relationship started when, during a hug with the student in June 2008, Wiens ran his hands through the student’s hair and put the other on her back in a sexual fashion, according to an agreed statement of facts. Later that summer, Wiens text-messaged the student about his marital problems and the pair would meet to talk in the park. With the permission of her parents, he took her to theatrical performances and the opera. In November 2009, the relationship progressed to nudity and fondling. The victim’s age was not stated.
Canadian tenth graders report quiet classrooms and helpful teachers
Learning environments need to be kept public
With yesterday’s announcement, the Ontario College of Teachers is likely trying to prevent as much social media abuse from both students and teachers as possible.
While most teachers’ first reaction is “duh” to the news that they shouldn’t “friend” their students in Facebook or follow them on Twitter, in reality this rule now exists because some teachers don’t share that same reaction.
Most teachers, and even most students, recognize that becoming Facebook or Twitter friends with a teacher presents a host of uncomfortable — and potentially damaging — situations. That’s why even university professors like Leslie Chan have strict rules governing online interaction with current students.
But in what is widely being described as a prudent advisory to set the appropriate tone for all teachers, the College is making sure the rule is hereby carved in stone. And it’s a good thing, too.
All learning should take place in public where the opportunity for teachers and students to take advantage of each other is next to nothing. Engaging with students in any unregulated online capacity — whether it’s Facebook, email or instant messaging — effectively closes the door on any checks and balances that currently exist in the school system.
It’s the same logic that keeps parents from letting their children spend time alone with a teacher in an uncontrolled environment. Even teachers with the best of intentions can get caught in some very hot water.
This is where abuse happens. Just yesterday a teacher in Idaho pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a junior high school student. The teacher was suspended by the school district after he was accused of impersonating a teenage boy and engaging in sexual conduct online with a 14-year-old student. He is now facing up to 25 years in jail and a $50,000 fine.
Students and teachers are a bit like church and state: They should be inherently separate. But just as in the separation of church and state, sometimes people try to blur the lines of division and must be reigned in. It’s inappropriate — and often criminal — when it happens, and we all shake our heads. But we have to recognize that it does happen and it makes rules like this one all the more necessary.
Officials call Samantha Ardente’s actions ‘inappropriate’ and ‘unacceptable’
The Quebec high school office assistant who was suspended for moonlighting in pornographic videos has been officially fired by the school board. Members of the Des Navigateurs board in Levis voted unanimously to terminate the secretary, who goes by the screen name Samantha Ardente. “We believe the facts and actions that led to this incident were inappropriate, unacceptable and incompatible not only with our mission but also with the values that we are trying to pass on to our young students,” board chair Leopold Castonguay said in a statement. Ardente’s other career was brought to the attention Etchemins Secondary School officials last month after a student who recognized her approached her for an autograph. Ardente is appealing the board’s decision and has been reportedly asked to appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
High school dropouts cost taxpayers $15,850 a year
A United Way study calls on the Alberta government to raise the high school dropout age from 16 to 17. “It’s shocking that in 2011 we have 3,000 students a year that are dropping out of high school in Calgary,” United Way’s director of poverty initiatives, Loreen Gilmour, said. The organization estimates that youth who dropout cost taxpayers $15,850 in health care, social assistance, crime and other costs. Gilmour said that while many young people who leave high school before graduation would prefer to return, they may be discouraged because they would be unable to pay their living expenses. “We just need to figure out how to reduce some of these barriers so we don’t trap people,” she said. Other recommendations from the report are providing free secondary education until age 24, instead of 19, and creating a provincial youth secretariat.
Officials will determine whether she keeps her job by next week
A high school secretary in Quebec has been suspended after it was learned that she has moonlighted as a porn actress. The discovery was made after a student at Les Etchemins, in Levis Que., recognized the clerical worker, whose porn name is Samantha Ardente, in a video and requested an autograph. Ardente reportedly requested the student maintain some discretion but the video was widely distributed and the website that hosts her videos closed down to all but paying customers because of higher than usual traffic. School board officials will decide by next week whether Ardente will keep her job.
Study confirms what nerds have believed for years
University of California researchers say that popular students are more likely to bully their peers than “social outcasts.” An increase in social status is linked to an increase in aggression, for both males and females, confirming what nerds like me have believed for years: it’s the cool kids who make high school a nasty place.
The study, which was recently published in American Sociological Review, used data from The Context of Adolescent Substance Use survey, which is based on 3,722 eight, ninth and 10th-grade students at 19 different public schools in North Carolina. A student’s popularity was determined by their position in the school’s “web of friendships,” and the authors of the study defined aggression as physical, verbal, or indirect behavior directed toward harming or causing pain to another student. The study followed students throughout a school year.
However, the researchers found that students at the top of the social hierarchy were generally not as aggressive. Those in the top 2 percent of a school’s social hierarchy–along with those at the bottom– were found to be the least aggressive.
“If an adolescent at the top of the social hierarchy were to act aggressively towards his or her peers, such action could signal insecurity or weakness rather than cement the student’s position,” said Robert Faris, an assistant professor of sociology at UC Davis. “And, it’s possible that, at the highest level, they may receive more benefits from being pro-social and kind.”
As for those students at the bottom of the pecking order, they simply don’t have the power to act out aggressively.
The fact that there’s a correlation between popularity and bullying doesn’t seem too surprising. In high school I experienced plenty of ‘correlations’ with popularity. Like the negative correlation between popularity and chess club membership.
Survey shows 72% of Ontario high school students would prefer to leave cellphones out of the classroom
Ontario high school students say using cellphones as part of classroom instruction would be a distraction, according to a survey released today by the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association. “Students use (cellphones) to text or communicate with friends. It’s a great communication tool, not necessarily an educational tool,” grade 12 student and student trustee for the Toronto District School Board, told the Toronto Star. Of the 2,656 Ontario students who participated in the study, 72 per cent opposed bringing cellphones into the classroom. Further, around 82 per cent of students said they wanted to be educated about “all sexualities,” including 90 per cent from the Toronto Catholic District School Board.
Niagara school would provide extra supports for low income students
A proposal to start a special school in Niagara for poor children is drawing harsh rebukes from Queen’s Park, the Toronto Star reports. Ontario Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky says she is “concerned about the stigmatization.” Although the minister said it was too early to ban the school, she noted that “We are watching this very closely.” Earlier in the week, New Democrat Peter Kormos went further by likening the proposed school to “educational apartheid.”
District School Board of Niagara is designing the school in an effort to boost the district’s high school graduation rates. Students from low income families, who are more likely to dropout, will receive extra supports including a longer school day and a focus on skills development. Rejecting the suggestion that the new school will stigmatize students, board chair Dale Robinson said,”[b]eing poor is a stigma already… this is something to give people dignity, to give people hope. It’s not about where they’re coming from, it’s where they can go.”
Starting school an hour later sounds crazy but it might help students perform in the classroom
“The difference is like night and day.” So, perhaps with tongue slightly in cheek, says retired principal Wayne Erdman of Eastern Commerce Collegiate Institute’s experiment in late high school start times. Eastern Commerce C.I., located just off Danforth Avenue east of Toronto’s Greektown, is in the middle of its second year of starting classes at 10 a.m. That’s a shockingly late hour by contemporary North American standards, and some traditionalists will never learn to like the idea. The working world that Eastern’s students are about to enter, they say, doesn’t compromise with late sleepers; it fires them. The sooner the kids learn the harsh truth, the better.
But Erdman tells the Toronto Star that the late-start concept, though not yet subject to its first full scientific analysis, looks like a hit when it comes to educational outcomes—and parents and students seem to agree. Local trustee Cathy Dandy is an aggressive advocate of research showing that there are good reasons to give adolescents a break that neither children nor adults may need; if she had gotten her way, Eastern classes would be starting as late as 11:30 a.m.
That sounds crazy, but it might be less crazy than the old way of doing things. It is starting to look as though a forward shift in sleep patterns is a natural accompaniment to sexual maturation—not just in humans, but in mammals generally; rats and monkeys, it seems, engage in their own version of what parents witness in their recalcitrant 16-year-olds. Teenagers have an ability to stay up late and sleep in that a 2004 Dutch-German study characterized as “unsaturable,” and even proposed it as a defining feature of adolescence. You’re officially an adult when you can’t stay up all night anymore.
This appears to be a feature rooted in biology, not just social arrangements. It has been confirmed in studies using “actigraphs”—wristwatch-like devices that measure tossing and turning in bed—and the sampling of melatonin, the hormone that serves as the mammalian body’s clock. Practical research into school start times, meanwhile, suggests that teenage behaviour and attitudes can worsen when the day begins earlier, and improve when it kicks off later. Academic impacts are harder to confirm, but in 2009, a study of 3,000 Houston children aged 11 to 17 found that students getting less than six hours of sleep a night were twice as likely to report poor grades upon follow-up a year later. And the benefits of late starting, if they exist, will not be confined to the classroom and the home. In a 2008 study conducted in Fayette County, Ky., a one-hour forward shift in the start times at public schools was associated with longer reported hours of sleep—and a 17 per cent reduction in accident rates among teen drivers, during a period when rates for all other drivers increased eight per cent.
Innate skepticism of research claims like these is always warranted, and educational research, in particular, is notorious for half-hearted compliance with good scientific practices. What stands out in the late-start issue, though, is that many lines of evidence—biological, pedagogical, social—appear to be pointing in the same direction. The general phenomenon of sleep is still poorly understood, but it seems clear that treating teenagers as if they were adults cannot be appropriate.
Still, the traditionalists might have a point. School is not just about trowelling the maximum volume of information into the heads of children. It’s also about encouraging good habits, about teaching responsibility and productivity. The verdict will not truly be in on the Eastern Commerce C.I. experiment until several cohorts of its students have entered post-secondary education or the workforce, and their outcomes in those settings have been checked.
But in the meantime, God be praised, a little more diversity is being introduced into an education system that badly needs it. The homogenizing factory model that our schools have followed for the last century isn’t even all that popular in factories anymore. Eastern Commerce’s unusual school day may be bad or good in itself, but most likely it’s very good for some particular students who, biologically, just aren’t early-morning people. And let’s face it: most of the graduates of Eastern won’t be entering a simple world of classic nine-to-five work governed by a steam whistle. Even if they wanted single-career lives, punching the same clock every day for the same company for 40 years, they would have a hell of a time finding them. It’s one thing to emphasize enduring traditional values; it’s quite another to insist on obsolete ones.
From the editors
But 10th percentile scores decline
Canada’s high school dropout rate has significantly declined over the past 20 years. The National Post summarized the results of three recent reports, including one from Statistics Canada that reported a declining high school dropout rate. For young adults aged 20-24, the rate was 8.5 per cent in 2009/2010, down about half from 20 years ago.
The Canadian high school dropout rate for adults aged 25-34 is 8 per cent, which compares favourably to an OECD average dropout rate of 20 per cent.
The third report, from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), measured the strength of school programs internationally. Despite doing well for average scores, Canadian schools didn’t do so well when it came to the 10th-percentile scores, which declined in many provinces over the past ten years. The Post pointed out that the highest provincial dropout rate, in Quebec, is twice as high as the lowest, in B.C.
Lastly, the dropout rate declined for First Nations aged 45-plus and those aged 35-44 among. The rate did not decline for those under the age of 35, which means a third of First Nation adults between the ages of 25-44 have no high school certification.
No more ‘uniformity’
There are lots of reasons why university is a million times better than high school. Never mind all the obvious ones, like the fact that the courses are way more interesting, or that you have more control over your marks. When I started my first year of university, a nice bonus that I didn’t expect: you don’t have to worry about what you’re wearing.
In high school, everyone wears a uniform. Sure, there are a couple variations of this “uniform.” And certain styles go in and out of popularity. But the High School Uniform is partly why distinguishing between two 15-year-olds is more difficult than making a Jurassic Park 4 with an original plot. Meaning, something that doesn’t involve a bunch of archaeologists wandering around a tropical island and getting eaten one by one, except for the main character wearing a fedora.
That’s why it’s kind of ironic when high school students get in an uproar about actual school uniforms. They’re all wearing the same thing, anyway.
Some people don’t wear the uniform, sometimes because they’re truly individuals, and sometimes because they’re completely oblivious and need their older sister to point out why wearing that sweater and those pants is a really, really bad idea.
University is completely different. When you’re sitting in a lecture hall with hundreds of students, nobody is paying any attention to you.
Or what you’re wearing.
-Photo courtesy of Jim.landover3
Here’s what you need to know
It all starts with choosing your undergraduate degree. The first thing to consider: you don’t necessarily have to go into the sciences. Although a degree in the health sciences is the traditional route to med school , it’s certainly not your only option. Most med schools across Canada treat every undergraduate degree equally, and embrace “well-rounded applicants.” Meaning, a degree in music or sociology might actually give you an advantage in terms of standing out from the crowd.
However, there’s a huge barrier facing non-science students: the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), an exam that assesses problem solving, critical thinking, writing skills, and scientific knowledge. In order to score well on the MCAT, med school hopefuls should have at least a basic background in the sciences, something that a music or sociology degree doesn’t exactly cover. Further, many med schools have prerequisite science courses, such as organic chemistry or physics. A more traditional pre-med program- such as the Biomedical Sciences- has the prerequisite science courses automatically built-in, which also has the helpful side-effect of preparing you for the MCAT.
Of course, a music or sociology student can still take these science courses as electives and prepare for the MCAT. Not to mention, some med schools don’t require the MCAT, such as the Faculty of Medicine at McGill and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. The bottom line: although there is no “right” undergraduate degree, when pursuing a non-traditional degree, you have to chase down those science prerequisites and keep the MCAT in mind.
Secondly, pay attention to the details. Specific admissions requirements vary between particular schools, and you don’t want to ruin your chances by missing something minor. For instance, to be considered at the University of Western Ontario’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, each year of undergraduate study must contain at least 3 full course equivalents whose published academic level is at or above the year of study. This means in your second year of study, 3 of 5 full course equivalents must be at the second year or above, and in your third year of study, 3 of 5 full course equivalents must be at the third year or above (in your fourth year, a mix of third and fourth year courses is acceptable).
There are plenty of other details that vary from school to school: Western considers an applicant’s two best years of study (the whole “3 full course equivalents” rule only applies to these two years), whereas McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine considers every single undergraduate course ever taken. Other med schools consider your two most recent years of study, while others let you drop a certain number of low marks.
Most importantly: although high marks will help your chances of success at any med school, they’re only one part of your application. Most med schools consider extracurricular experience and hobbies, volunteer work, medically-related experience, research experience, and so on.
-Photo courtesy of The National Guard
Forcing Alberta high school students to stay an extra year won’t teach them the value of education
It wasn’t that long ago that I was a high school student, so I can still remember how much my 17-year old self loathed high school. While dropping out seemed unfathomable to me, I’ll admit, I used to ditch class frequently. The classes my friends and I chose to be “absent” from were always the classes where we didn’t feel like we were learning anything, and if we weren’t there, it wasn’t as if anyone was going to call us out on it later.
The classes we always went to were the classes where we felt engaged with what we were learning. We didn’t want to fall behind in the course work, and if we ran into our teacher in the hallway after being absent the day before, we knew we were in for an earful. Its not that my school didn’t have a policy against absenteeism, but if no one was looking and we thought we could get away with it, we would. Maybe not every student was as delinquent as I was, but I think that generally sums up many students’ mode of operation.
Students need to see concrete consequences for their actions, and they need to see them fast. That’s why I don’t see how Alberta Education Minister Dave Hancock thinks that bumping the compulsory school age to 17 in Alberta will boost the province’s high school graduation rate without additional enforcement strategies in place to back it up. Despite a country-wide boost in high school graduation rates over the past 20 years, the dropout rate in Alberta remains the third highest in the country at 10.4 per cent, ahead of Manitoba at 11.4 per cent and Quebec at 11.7 per cent.
Hancock proposed the change as part of the province’s new Education Act that is likely to be introduced to the legislature this spring. “If the focus of society is to have an educated population, I think it’s worth saying most people don’t finish at the level we want them to by age 16,” He told the Herald.
There are not many people who would agree that at 16, you are finished your formal education.What is confusing, however, is how Hancock believes that young people will stay in school a year longer just because a law is telling them to, without any enforcement tools in place: “By the time people get to age 15 and 16, enforcement is not the biggest tool. It’s societal attitudes,” he said. “People comply to a great extent because it’s the law.”
Enforcing such a law would be difficult, as it could be a challenge to keep track of students if they don’t live at home and their parents don’t have much control over them. However, Hancock’s assumption that people will comply to a law because it’s the law, is setting the law up for failure.
That’s not to say raising the compulsory school age couldn’t be part of an effective strategy in curbing the dropout rate in Alberta. After Ontario raised its compulsory school age to 18 in 2005, the province saw its high school graduation rate climb from 68 per cent in 2003 to 77 per cent in 2009. However, this could probably be credited with the introduction of approved out-of-school programs such as trade apprenticeships and co-op programs for students who want to get out of the classroom, and enforcement measures tied to students’ driver’s licenses, which were coupled with the rising drop out age.
Like Ontario and most provinces across the country, Alberta has also expanded their work experience programs to try and keep high school students interested in working in manufacturing or trades from dropping out. Recognizing that education isn’t one-size-fits all is definitely a step in the right direction towards getting students to value their education. However, thinking that requiring students by law will simply make everything fall into place when it comes to raising the high school graduation rate is simply foolish.
As spokeswoman for Alberta Education, Carolyn Stuparyk, told the Globe and Mail, a large part of the challenge in keeping Alberta students in school is combating the notion that taking a high paying physical labour job in a still relatively strong economy is more exciting than sitting in a classroom.
With that in mind, even if raising the dropout age to 17 does lower the dropout rate in the 16 to 17 age group, its not much of an accomplishment if you’ve raised those statistics by simply forcing students to stay an extra year. I doubt that students will be convinced that taking that $25 an hour job on the oil sands instead of gaining a high school education may not be the best decision another year down the line because someone legislated they should.