Dr. Dawn C. Wallin

March 26, 2014 5:03 PM

















































































































































































































































1.   Conduct a class discussion of the main changes in society that have an impact on the schools. Put together as broad a list as you can, but don’t forget to look at some of the changes that have had positive impacts.
2.   Briefly state your view of the purposes of schools. Compare your view with those of Holmes or Barrow as cited in this chapter. Do their arguments modify your initial ideas? Why or why not?
3.   Find a goal statement from your province or a local school district. Compare it with the statement in Box 1.1 (page 8). Does it embody the same sorts of problems noted in this chapter? Why or why not?
4.   Reread the goals statement in Box 1.1 while thinking back to your own experience as a student. Which of these goals would you say were regarded as important in your school? Which were de-emphasized, ignored, or even contradicted?
5.   Consider one of the goals in Box 1.1 (e.g., developing critical thinking). Write a brief statement indicating how a school might be organized to achieve this particular goal more effectively if it were suddenly given top priority. How might these changes affect other purposes of the school? Would you advocate the changes? Why or why not?
6.   Interview three or four people involved with schools either as students, teachers, or parents. Ask them what they see as being the most important purposes of schools. Compare their answers. How much agreement is there? What disagreements occur? Why?
7.   How are schools in your community accountable to the public? Talk to people in the schools about this issue, and compare your perception with theirs.
8.   Conduct an informal survey of people in your community as to the relative power held by teachers, principals, school trustees, and parents on such matters as the curriculum, teaching methods, or school rules. Analyze and try to explain the agreements or disagreements among your respondents.
9.   Do a survey of your university class to assess the occupations of your classmates’ parents. Compare their distribution with Canadian census data. Is your class broadly representative of the Canadian population? What are the differences?
10. Write a brief description of a teacher you remember as being particularly good. What made him or her a good teacher? Are these qualities that any teacher could develop? Why or why not?


1.   The prologue to this chapter outlined some of the complexities of both school board decision making and Aboriginal education in Canada. In the prologue, Norman has to decide what to say and how to vote in an upcoming board meeting. Based on the information in this chapter, identify what you consider to be the essential issues in the case study and prepare a presentation for Norman that details what you think the board should be doing, and why.
2.   This chapter has described Canada’s public school system as being centralized at the provincial level. Find out more about the educational system of a country that is either more centralized or decentralized, and use your findings to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a centralized system.
3.   Some observers believe that school boards have outlived their usefulness and should be abolished. Write an argument either defending or critiquing this view.
4.   Does your province recognize separate (religious) schools? If so, in what ways? Trace the origins of separate schools (or lack of them) in your jurisdiction.
5.   Find out who the minister of education is in your province. What is this person’s background? What policy positions or issues is he or she presently tackling? (You may want to undertake this assignment by writing to the minister, in which case part of your study could be what sort of response you get, from whom, and when.)
6.   Interview a trustee from your local school board. Ask him or her about what the board does, what the role of the trustee is, how he or she came to the position, and what issues are of major concern.
7.   Assume that your school board is opening a new school next year. It is hoped that the school will be a model of school–community collaboration. Prepare a plan for community involvement that would include deciding (1) who constitutes “the community” (parents, students, residents, businesses, and so forth); (2) which areas of school life the community would and would not be involved in; (3) what you mean by “collaboration”; and (4) how you would regulate collaboration.
8.   Examine the history and purposes of residential schools in Canada with the meanings of “education” and the “purposes of schools” discussed earlier in Chapter 1 of this book.
9.   With few exceptions, the student voice is accorded little formal place in Canadian school governance. As yet, students are not generally included in the concept of “the public” to which schools are accountable. Suggest ways in which students could be given a greater part in the administration of their school systems.
10. Canada is one of the few countries in the world without a federal government ministry or department of education. Is this appropriate? Why or why not? What arrangements might be most suitable for the federal role in education?



1.   Schooling is greatly affected by a wide variety of policy decisions, some of which are listed at the beginning of this chapter. Working first individually and then in small groups in your class, define what you mean by the term policy, then brainstorm as many areas of education policy as you can. Indicate whether, to your knowledge, these policy decisions are made by teachers, students, parents, school administrators, or others.
2.   Taking one or more of the policy areas defined in Exercise 1, define how this area is political, using the definition of politics on page 69. How does this issue shape (1) what is taught; (2) to and by whom it is taught; and (3) where, when, and how it is taught?
3.   Again taking one of the policy areas you have defined, find out what the current situation is in your province. What measures or policies, if any, are in place, and how did they come to be there? Is this issue controversial? Why or why not? Good sources of information for this inquiry could be local school administrators, local school trustees, teacher organization officials, or officials of the provincial Department or Ministry of Education.
4.   Select a current educational issue in your province or community (perhaps one that has recently been in the news). Think about how the issue has been defined. Whose definition of the issue appears to be uppermost? What other definitions or views of the issue might exist that are not being expressed? Why aren’t they?
5.   Find a position paper or brief on education that was written in your community. (It need not be recent; archives are good sources for such material, and so are groups such as teachers’ or trustees’ associations, or parent groups of various kinds.) Comment on how the brief uses evidence and argument to advance its point of view. How fair and open-minded do you think the position in the brief is?
6.   Identify a stakeholder group in education. Interview a member of this group to determine the group’s position and its actions on one or two current issues. Look for the inside story, not just platitudes.
7.   Attend a meeting of your local school board. Keep careful notes on what you observe. In what ways does the meeting contribute to or prevent the careful and full debate of important policy issues in education? Was the meeting, in your view, political? Why or why not?
8.   Using one or two of the issues identified in one of the earlier exercises, develop a list of people (individuals or groups) who would be affected by a decision made about that issue. Should all those affected have some role to play in making the decision? Do they? How, if at all, should the decision-making process on this issue be changed in regard to participation?
9.   Suppose you were an elected official facing a difficult political decision, such as whether to sell condoms in high-school washrooms. What strategies might you use to work toward a good decision based on community discussion? What if it were a K–12 school?
10. Interview one or two teachers. Ask them their views on politics in education. How, if at all, are they involved in politics? Do they see their work in the school and classroom as political? Why or why not?



1.   Find a recent piece of legislation in your province that relates to education. This could be an amendment to a schools or education act, or some other legislation that affected schools in a significant way. Think about which groups or interests might have favoured or opposed this legislation. Who gained or lost from its passage? Why? Using Hansard (the record of debates in the legislature), review the debate over this legislation. What arguments were advanced for and against the proposals? Why? Whose interests appear to have prevailed in the debate?
2.   Find a copy of a provincial regulation made under the an education or schools act. What provisions are in the regulation? Why are these provisions not in the legislation itself ? How often has the particular regulation been altered in the last five or ten years?
3.   Find and read a copy of a court decision (any level of court) on a recent case involving education. What arguments did the judges use to support their particular decision? Was their decision consistent with previous decisions on the same sort of case? Why or why not?
4.   Write a brief essay indicating whether or not you think the courts should play a greater role in Canadian schools. Give specific examples to support your point of view.
5.   Choose one of the pairs of rights listed on page 113. Illustrate how this distinction might apply to a specific instance of a legal issue involving schools.
6.   “Schools are not sufficiently respectful of the rights of their students.” Agree or disagree, supporting your answer with specific examples.
7.   Imagine you are a senior civil servant in the Department or Ministry of Education. You have been asked to give the minister advice on legal aspects on home schooling, together with a brief (two-page) justification for the stance you have taken.
8.   Arrange a class discussion of how schools can best deal with issues of violence. What should be the relative balance between educative measures, such as mediation programs, and disciplinary measures, such as zero tolerance or suspension policies?
9.   Most student councils in high schools are primarily concerned with social activities. Should student councils assume a more active role in the governance of the school? Why or why not? If yes, how could such a change be fostered?
10. Assume that you wish to develop a class website. What kinds of privacy legislation and policies would you have to adhere to in your province? What kinds of material would you be or not be allowed to add on to the website, and why? How might you go about obtaining permission to use information that may have to be treated delicately because of privacy issues?


1.   Central to the funding of education are the concepts of public and private goods that result from education. What do these concepts mean? Give examples of public and private goods resulting from education. Which of these do you see as being more important? Why? How might the funding of different levels of education reflect both public and private benefits?
2.   Provinces have been providing an increasingly large share of education funds. Is this appropriate, or should local school boards be responsible for a significant share of revenue? Defend your answer.
3.   Should property taxes be a significant source of revenue for education? Why or why not?
4.   Analyze your province’s current funding system. To what extent does it embody concepts of horizontal or vertical equity? Illustrate with specific examples. (Your class may want to consider inviting someone from the provincial Ministry or Department of Education to respond to these questions.)
5.   Conduct a class poll of spending priorities. Given a number of areas (e.g., health, highways, environment, child welfare, agriculture, economic development, tax incentives for business, and others), where would those in the class rank education? Where would people outside the university rank education? Why?
6.   What outcomes of education might we want to use in attempting to determine the value of education spending as an investment? How might we measure these outcomes?
7.   Interview a school official or school trustee to determine the authority over budgets, both revenue and expenditure, that school districts have in your province.
8.   Attend a school board budget meeting. Report on the ways in which the board made budget decisions. What criteria were used? Which issues seemed to be of greatest importance? Was the process used an effective one?
9.   Obtain the staffing and budget data for a local school. Consider alternative ways in which the same amount of money might be used. What are the reasons for the existing distribution?
10. In groups of about five to ten people, work through the following budget exercise. One person in each group is to act as a neutral observer who does not take part in the discussion but watches how it proceeds. One person is to play the role of superintendent. The others should play the role of school trustees.

School Board Budgeting Exercise
Task: You are to constitute yourselves as an elected school board. Your task as a board is to determine the budget for your district for the coming year and submit it to the provincial government. The problem you face is that your revenues are going to be significantly smaller than your expenses because costs are increasing more quickly than provincial funding.

Background: You are part of an elected school board of nine members, governing a school district that has a mix of suburban and rural schools. Your district has an extensive range of programs, including French immersion, special education, music, vocational programs in your high schools, and alternative multi-graded elementary programs. Your district includes 18 schools, 3 of which, being located in the rural part of the district, have fewer than 100 pupils. These schools have been kept open because of strong pressure from parents in those communities. The schools vary quite a bit on provincial tests, with some schools well above provincial norms and others, including one of the small rural schools, falling below. Due to the province’s support for families to pick their school, some of the district’s schools, especially those with poorer records on provincial tests, have been losing enrollment steadily, while others have been growing and are now quite full.

Collective bargaining in your province is done by each district. Your teachers earn salaries that are a little above the provincial average, and your district is proud of the good working relationships with teachers. Your support staff, on the other hand, earn less than their peers in many other districts and are disgruntled. Your current collective agreements with both teachers and support staff will run out within the coming year. The next school board elections are the year after that.

Your board is elected by ward, and the current board contains strong advocates for a variety of different positions. Some board members are highly concerned about keeping small schools open. Other board members advocate strongly for programs such as music, while two members are primarily concerned with ensuring a balanced budget.
Your superintendent, hired just 18 months ago, has proposed a number of initiatives that will require additional funds in addition to built-in costs for salary and other increases. You will need about 3.5 percent more in your salary budget (about $1.2 million) to cover the cost of the pay increase negotiated two years ago and the cost of increments for staff. Your board will also have to set aside some funds to pay for the estimated cost of the new collective agreements. Your superintendent is suggesting you set aside another 3 percent, of which only half (about $500 000) would be needed in this budget, as the increases will only take effect halfway through the year. In addition, the superintendent has suggested spending an extra $300 000 for more computers and teacher training on computers, and another $500 000 to improve achievement levels in the schools that are having the most difficulty by increasing staffing and strengthening staff development and parent communications. The draft budget also calls for $300 000 more in spending as a response to the increased number of foster children with special needs who are being moved into your district by child-welfare agencies.

Accordingly, the draft budget currently before your board is as follows:
•     Previous base—$42 million
•     Salary increases from previous agreements—$1.2 million
•     Reserve for new collective agreements—$500 000
•     Increases in fuel and other operating costs—5%—$400 000
•     Computers and training—$300 000
•     Low-achievement schools—$300 000
•     Increases for special needs—$300 000
•     Total—$45 million, or 7%

However, the provincial government has increased your funding by only 3 percent, or $1.2 million, so you are short about $1.8 million. Provincial regulations require a balanced budget by your board, but at least two board members have suggested that the district should run a deficit in defiance of the province because of the shortage of funds.

Your board has already asked the superintendent for suggestions of areas where expenditures could be reduced. She has put forward the following options:
•     Close one of the small rural schools. The children could all be bussed to other schools within 20 kilometres. This would save about $200 000, because most of the staff of the small school would be laid off.
•     Attempt to negotiate a new collective agreement with teachers that would have smaller increases in order to bring your district a little closer to the provincial average salary. This would require $500 000 less than your initial budget provides.
•     Reduce staffing in secondary schools by increasing class sizes slightly and eliminating some courses with low enrollments. Savings of 10 staff positions, or about $600 000, are estimated. A larger increase in class sizes would produce a reduction of 15 positions, or about $1 million.
•     Increase the distance from school at which bussing is provided to students. More students would have to walk or be driven by parents. Savings estimated at $150 000.
•     Restrict access to schools of choice; do not allow choice where an extra class or teacher would be required. Savings by keeping students in existing classes instead of having to start new ones—about 8 teaching positions or $500 000.
•     Reduce some optional programs such as extracurricular music and art, and close two of the vocational programs in high schools. The superintendent argues that students wanting vocational programs can take them in community colleges after they graduate. Projected savings of 6 teaching positions and $300 000.
•     As an alternative to the last suggestion, charge fees to students to participate in some options or extracurricular programs. Estimated additional revenue of $300 000 based on a charge of from $50 to $100 per program.

Budget Information—Average School District
current-year data
Total enrollment—6000 students
Pupil–teacher ratio—16.5:1 (staff: 365 professionals)
Expenditure per pupil—$7000 (total budget: $42 million)
Salaries and benefits—80% of budget ($33.6 million)
expenditure by category
Regular instruction—61% (included immersion 8%)
Exceptional (special education)—10%
Support services—7%
Operations and maintenance—11%
Choose nine persons from your class to play the board members, and one to play the superintendent. Use one hour for a board debate leading to a motion and decision on what budget to set for the coming year. You may also want to discuss how you will explain your decisions to your schools, parents, and community.



1.   Obtain an age profile for teachers in your province and, if possible, data on attrition rates from teaching. What estimates might you make of the numbers of teachers who might be leaving teaching in the next five to ten years? What factors might change teachers’ plans to retire or leave teaching?
2.   Discuss ways in which Canada might address the shortage of teachers in some geographical areas and subject specializations.
3.   Are schools overly bureaucratic? Use examples to create a debate that argues for both possible responses.
4.   Interview one or two teachers. Ask them to identify the best and worst aspects of teaching. Ask about differences in the various schools in which they may have taught. What conclusions can you draw from their comments?
5.   Observe the work of the principal in the school in which you are student teaching or observing. How often is the principal in classrooms? What does he or she do while there? What sort of communication does the principal have with teachers? What is the primary content of these communications? As you see it, what is the principal trying to accomplish in the school?
6.   Find out how teachers are hired in a local school district. Are all jobs advertised? How many people are interviewed? Who does the interviewing? Who makes final decisions about hiring? Who else is involved in hiring decisions?
7.   Find out what provisions, if any, are made to induct new teachers into a local school or district.
8.   Do a brief write-up of professional development activities, either in the school as a whole or as practised by one or two teachers. What activities do people participate in? How useful do they seem to be?
9.   Obtain a copy of the teacher-evaluation policy in a local school or district. To what extent does it embody the traditional model described in this chapter? What other features does it have?
10. Try to obtain the written judgment of an arbitration proceeding over teacher dismissal. What arguments and evidence were advanced for and against dismissal? Which arguments appear to have been most successful? What grounds did the arbitrator use in arriving at a decision?
11. Obtain the list of school administrators from a local school district. Compare the numbers of men and women at each level. How have these proportions changed over the last 10 years?
12. Ask the provincial teachers’ association or society whether any school districts in your province have employment equity or affirmative action plans. Obtain a copy of such a plan if you can. What are its central features? What impact do you think such a plan will have? Why?


1.   Working first individually and then in groups, develop a description of the way in which you learn best (e.g., episodically vs. in intensive stretches; one subject at a time vs. several things at once, and so on). Compare your own style with that of others in your class. Are they similar? To what extent did your schooling accommodate these characteristics? To what extent does the university do so? How might institutions do a better job of adapting to individuals’ learning styles?
2.   Conduct an examination of a school as a physical setting. How would you describe it? Is it comfortable? Friendly? Cold? Is the scale appropriate for young people? What kinds of signs, posters, or displays are there? What spaces do students use, and under what conditions? What spaces do teachers use, and under what conditions?
3.   Study the organization of classroom groups in a class in the school where you are observing or student teaching. Do all groups do the same things? What differences can you observe in the kinds of activities given to different groups? What effect might differences in group activity have on students? You may want to ask some students how they understand the grouping process.
4.   Hold a classroom debate on tracking in secondary schools: “Be it resolved that all high-school students should have the same basic program of studies.”
5.   Study the evaluation practices in the school where you are assigned. What evaluative information is communicated to students? To parents? How often? How do teachers arrive at their judgments about students?
6.   Find a current curriculum guide for your province for a subject you are likely to teach. Which topics are given the most attention? Given the least attention? Missing entirely? How do you account for the guide’s balance of topics? What assumptions about the subject, about teaching and learning, or about knowledge are evident? Are there any assumptions with which you disagree? Why?
7.   Write a brief paper on the hidden curriculum as it operates in a particular classroom. What messages other than those in the formal curriculum are being given to students? How?
8.   Interview a teacher about the process of teaching. What is the teacher thinking about while teaching? How aware is the teacher of the decisions he or she is making, and the reasons for them?
9.   Interview a few students in any grade. Ask them what aspects of school they find interesting, and why. Which subjects or activities do they like the least, and why? What implications can you draw from their comments about teaching and learning?
10. What is the policy of the school to which you are assigned on failure or retention in grade? How many students take more than the required number of years to complete their school program?
11. Interview some teachers and students in regard to testing practices in their school and province. What impact do school tests and provincial exams have on the way teachers teach or on the way students approach learning?



1.   Re-read the prologue at the beginning of this chapter. Based on the information provided there and the material in the rest of this chapter, prepare a presentation by Gordon, the principal, on the importance of school–community relations to successful schools. Address it either to either staff, the school board, or the Faculty of Education.
2.   Parents who rarely attend parent–teacher conferences, or who do not interact comfortably with the school, are often referred to as hard-to-reach parents. We do not generally talk of hard-to-reach schools. List some of the ways in which schools might purposefully (or accidentally) discourage parental participation in student learning. How could these barriers be eliminated?
3.   Interview several parents of students in either an elementary or a secondary school. What kind of contact do they have with the school? Who initiates contact? How do they feel about their relationship with the school?
4.   Interview one or more teachers about working with parents. What do the teachers do to involve parents? What are their views about the value or potential of greater parent involvement?
5.   Study a local school to see what policies and practices it has in place with respect to parent and community involvement. How do these practices compare with some of those suggested in this chapter?
6.   Review one reading by a reproduction theorist. Do you find her or his argument about the schools as instruments of the status quo to be compelling? Why or why not?
7.   Outline the pros and cons of developing a “full-service” school and school system as proposed in Saskatchewan’s School PLUS vision. What sorts of services would you link to the school? Which would you not link? Why?
8.   You are part of a small committee of teachers and parents that was established by your school principal to improve home–school collaboration. Currently, there is little interaction in your school between parents and teachers, apart from one parent–teacher conference each year to discuss student progress, a steady flow of memos from the school to parents, and the very occasional parent conference to deal with the problems of individual students, usually related to discipline. Develop a proposal that outlines a rationale for increased collaboration (why you think it is important) and a one-year strategy for initiating a new collaborative relationship. What difficulties might you anticipate from parents or teachers?
9.   In the chapter, it was suggested that effective communication is easiest between people who share similar knowledge, experiences, and expectations of schools. How might class and cultural differences between teachers and families create barriers to effective school–home communication? How might these barriers be overcome?


1.   Consider the four definitions of a profession given in Table 9.1. Which definition do you prefer? Why? How well does teaching fit your chosen definition?
2.   Review the code of ethics for teachers in your province. Do you see any problems or inconsistencies in the code? If so, what are they and how might they be resolved?
3.   Interview one or two teachers about important ethical conflicts they have faced. (You will need to ensure that these discussions occur in a way that protects the confidentiality of all those involved.) How did the teachers resolve the conflicts they faced? Can you think of other ways they might have acted?
4.   A fellow teacher is using teaching practices you consider inappropriate, even unethical. What might you do? Assuming that you refer the matter to your principal, what if he or she refuses to take any action?
5.   School principals and vice principals usually strive to develop strong collegial ties with the teachers on their staff. Yet school boards expect them to represent the board’s management interests within their schools. Given these competing pressures, should principals and vice principals be allowed to be members of provincial teachers’ organizations, or should they have their own autonomous professional organizations?
6.   In the teaching profession, salaries are determined primarily by years of postsecondary education and experience, while layoffs are determined by who has least seniority. How else might these decisions be made? What are the merits or drawbacks of these alternatives?
7.   Discuss the conditions under which it may or may not be appropriate for a teacher to develop a personal friendship with a student. How do these constraints affect the practice of teaching?
8.   Write or telephone your provincial teachers’ association and ask for information on the range of activities and services it sponsors. How many staff are employed by the association? What is its annual budget?
9.   Write a description of the collective-bargaining process in your province. Who is involved? What steps occur? What mechanisms exist to resolve disputes?
10. Obtain a collective agreement for teachers in your province. What are the main provisions in the agreement? Are there any provisions you find surprising?
11. Compare a teachers’ collective agreement with a collective agreement from another workplace (e.g., a factory). In what respects—and why—do the agreements differ?



1.   As a class exercise, brainstorm a list of all the forces outside the schools that are having an impact on what schools do. Organize your list in order of descending importance, and give reasons for your ranking.
2.   Find a recent newspaper article that is critical of schools or proposes changes in schools. What assumptions underlie the article? How well supported are the proposals by evidence or argument? What alternatives might exist for dealing with the same issue?
3.   Review a few issues of a popular journal from the early 1970s (e.g., Educational Leadership or Phi Delta Kappan). What were the key issues at that time? Are they still current? If not, why not?
4.   Interview an experienced teacher about the changes in policy and practice he or she has seen over the years. Which changes have had a lasting impact, and why? Which have disappeared with little trace, and why?
5.   Interview a teacher or principal in a school that has a high proportion of recent immigrants or low-income families. What issues does the school have to consider as a result of these demographic factors? What steps do schools take to try to cope with these problems?
6.   Obtain labour market data for your city or province. What occupations are most common, and how does this compare with Canada as a whole? What are the implications of these data for schools in your area?
7.   Interview one or two teachers about the use of technology in schools. What do they see as the potential of computers and video for education? What do they see as the limitations of these technologies? Do you agree? Why or why not?
8.   Talk with members of a school staff or parents to learn what mechanisms their school uses to raise and debate educational issues in the school and with the community. Is there an active process of studying and learning about emerging issues and problems? Why or why not?
9.    Investigate the role that education research plays in affecting school policy and practice. Should the role of research in education be strengthened? If so, how might this occur?