Your guide to recent studies and reports that are of interest to teachers as well as information on recently released books. With the exception of some classroom sets, all books reviewed here are available on loan from the Margaret Wilson Library at the College. Contact Olivia Hamilton at or call 416-961-8800, ext. 679, or toll-free in Ontario 1-888-534-2222, ext. 679.

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OISE Study Urges More Teacher Support
By Lois Browne

OISE/UT’s look into the present state of the public school system in Ontario and recommendations for how to develop the schools we need places a strong emphasis on greater support and collaboration with teachers.

Teaching "just has to be a more attractive profession," says Ken Leithwood, Associate Dean of Research at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto and one of the principal authors of The Schools We Need.

Leithwood with his fellow researchers, Michael Fullan, Dean, and Nancy Watson, Senior Ressearch Associate at OISE, released the results of their study on the effect of prevailing education policies on Ontario’s public education system in February for public dialogue and feedback. The final version, with recommendations for change, was released in April.

Leithwood and his colleagues were concerned about the direction of the school system over the past five or six years and "with funding by the Atkinson Foundation, we had an opportunity to engage a large number of people in thinking about a possible and productive direction for the future."

The study suggests that a range of measures is necessary to improve matters. Recruiting new students to teacher education programs is one. This doesn’t seem to be a problem at the moment. "You can draw that conclusion just by looking at the numbers of people wanting to get into the faculties of education." But, he adds, the researchers have seen other jurisdictions where the kinds of working conditions and morale that teachers in Ontario are now facing have eroded interest. He suggests that teaching has become a much less attractive option and it shows in the quality of the candidates for teacher education.

"I guess our worry starts with what applicants will look like in the long run if we continue as we are at the present time."

The study points out that education reform fails badly when it discounts the vital role of the teacher. Targeting curriculum, assessment and graduation requirements for improvement doesn’t make much difference unless there is attention to the development of teaching capacity.

The study looks at two reforms introduced by the Ontario government which were intended to improve teaching. First, the entry-to-the-profession test was deemed redundant for teachers just coming out of a teacher education program. Research about its value in other jurisdictions suggests it is a waste of time. Second, the study found that, in principle, a program of mandatory professional learning has promise.

The final report recommends, however, that the pronvincial government work with the Collge to ensure the Professional Learning program stimulates professional growth over a teacher’s entire career and to reduce associated bureaucracy.

He believes that the mandatory nature of the PLP is not a problem as long as it is sensible, well-designed and actually adds to teaching capacity. But he says that the current education policy puts a lot of pressure and demands on teachers without the resources they need to fulfill expectations.

"We’ve been influenced a little by recent experience in UK where the policy is one of high pressure and high support and we’ve seen some impressive things happen as a result of that."

He notes that there have been impressive achievements in teaching maths and languages in the UK. Teachers have been under pressure to develop classroom methods that are much tighter, more active and involve more direct intervention with children. But they have also, he says, been given "an enormous amount of support and encouragement. And that costs money."

"There’s a massive amount of literature now on what can be done to improve schools," he says. "And you can pretty much conclude that any method with evidence to show it will make a difference does cost money. The notion that you can get more for less just doesn’t cut it."

The study also points to the lack of consultation by government policy makers with other education stakeholders.

"We express a particular concern in the report about using the evidence of sound research as the basis for education policy. That’s one instance where more consultation with the university would be useful. But teachers’ federations, the universities and administrators associations have been consulted less than they were in the past," he says.

This OISE study was not based on original data. The team drew evidence from available research. They also engaged in a number of projects with teachers that provided an informal source of evidence about the effects of current education policies in the province. Teaching was not the sole focus of the study. Recommendations outline a number of key conditions necessary to the schools that Ontario needs:

  • a vision of a strong public school system with a coherent set ofpolicies that will fulfill the vision
  • policies based on evidence-based research
  • a shift of some discretionary power to districts and schools
  • flexibility in monitoring policy implementation and make changes where necessary and adequate
  • flexible funding.

They were pleased with the feedback they received from teachers, education organizations and the general public. A lot of comment came from people with a direct interest in schools, but the study’s web site also brought in comment from other parts of Canada and from other countries.

"There were literally thousands of copies of the report downloaded and we have a comment section that was used pretty liberally. We have summarized what we learned from this in our final report and refer to some of the feedback throughout our recommendations."

Support for the recommendations was overwhelming. "There were a small number of individuals and groups who said ‘you’re wrong, we think the government’s done a good job of whipping the teaching force back into shape,’ but not very many."

Still, Leithwood is not confident that the current government will incorporate the study’s recommendations into education policy.

"There’ve been signs that there’s more openness to consultation now," he says. "In fact, I think the literacy and numeracy strategies that the government launched in the past year are one of the best things to have come out of the ministry in a while. But still, it’s hard to see real follow through on some of the proposed initiatives that we think are important."

To access a copy of The Schools We Need, visit the study’s web site at


Arts with the brain in mind
By Eric Jensen
Reviewed by Mary Hookey

Arts with the brain in mind is a practical research-based book that explores the value of the arts for enhancing learning. Jensen, a well-known educational consultant and author, organized his research around three questions:

  • How do the arts stack up as a major discipline?
  • What is their effect on the brain, learning and human development?
  • How might schools best implement and assess an arts program?

and concluded that educators should make the arts a core part of the basic curriculum.

Jensen’s perspective on arts education is interesting because he links himself to educators who do not call themselves arts advocates – beginning his book with an explanation of why he was not an arts advocate. He outlines how his exploration has led him to advocate arts in the basic curriculum as a means for improving education.

He now argues that arts experiences are valuable not only as strategies for learning or as subjects in themselves, but also as a basic requirement for developing as human beings.

In his opinion, "arts are not only fundamental to success in our demanding, highly technical, fast-moving world, but they are what makes us most human, most complete as people."

Initially, Jensen was intrigued by arguments of advocates for arts-based education that offered multiple approaches and strategies for learning. arts with the brain in mind is his story of examining the evidence behind those arguments. The book provides us with a rich details about education in and through the arts.

His labelling of the disciplines within the arts include music and visual arts and movement arts. The latter extends well beyond dance to physical activities including games, sports, auto mechanics and martial arts.

The evidence he presents shows that well-taught and consistent arts programs can promote skills and understanding not only in the arts, but also develop other values: integrity, wonder, truth, flexibility, fairness, dignity, contribution, justice, creativity and co-operation.

Jensen provides evidence for effects of the arts in the curriculum on student motivation to learn as well as on their creativity, cultural awareness and ability to co-operate.

The book is filled with practical suggestions for implemention. The 118 pages of text include a 14-page resource list that should be invaluable to any educator interested in the effects and practical aspects of arts education.

Arts with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA, 2001; ISBN 0-87120-514-9; softcover, 139 pages, $22.95 (U.S.); Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Toll-free from U.S. and Canada:

Mary Hookey is a retired associate professor at the faculty of education, NipissingUniversity.

Hana’s Suitcase
By Karen Levine
Reviewed by Brenda Dillon

Hana’s Suitcase is the third title in the Holocaust Remembrance Series for Young Readers, published by Second Story Press. It is the true story of the search for Hana, a child whose suitcase became part of an exhibit at a children’s Holocaust education centre in Tokyo, Japan.

Fumiko Ishioka, the centre’s curator, hoped to teach Japanese children about the Holocaust through a display of artifacts that had belonged to children who died in the Holocaust. One of the items she included was a suitcase, identified as the property of Hana Brady, an orphan, born May 16, 1931. The children who visited the centre wanted to know about Hana, so the curator promised to investigate and, with perseverance, eventually found answers.

Hana had died in Auschwitz in 1944. Her older brother George had survived and was living in Toronto. Hana’s Suitcase tells two stories – the story of Hana’s life and the story of Fumiko Ishioka’s efforts to learn about the owner of the suitcase.

Teachers looking for Holocaust education materials will find Hana’s story, and George’s reaction to Ishioka’s letter, poignant. Teachers and teacher-librarians should, of course, read this book before using it with students and should be prepared to help students deal with their emotional reactions to Hana’s story.

Hana’s Suitcase was a finalist for the 2002 Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s non-fiction, nominated for the 2002 Governor-General’s Award, and chosen as one of the titles for the 2002 Silver Birch Awards and the new Golden Oak Awards for adult literacy learners.

The book is based on an award-winning documentary Karen Levine produced for CBC Radio’s The Sunday Edition, first broadcast in January 2001. This documentary is available online at

The book is available alone or with a CD of this documentary.

Hana’s Suitcase. Toronto: Second Story Press, 2002. ISBN: 1-896764-55-X; softcover, 111 pages, $14.95; phone: 416-537-7850; fax: 416-537-0588; website:; e-mail:

Brenda Dillon is the teacher-librarian at Philip Pocock Catholic Secondary School, Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board.

Taking Running Records
By Mary Shea

Le sondage d’observation en lecture-écriture
By Marie M. Clay

Reviewed by Helen Donohoe

Taking "running records" of student levels of achievement in reading is becoming standard practice in some school boards. Devised by New Zealand educator/researcher Marie Clay, running records can initially take a bit of getting used to, but two recent reference works – one in English and one in French – help clarify the process for the classroom teacher and learning resource teacher.

In the Scholastic Teaching Strategies series, Taking Running Records American author Mary Shea offers her expertise as she explains Clay’s methodology in meticulous detail. Every syllable the student reads is coded and recorded. The reproducible assessment forms and graphic organizers (for example, outlines for narrative readings and rubrics for story retelling) match closely the expectations in the Ontario curriculum.

Le sondage d’observation en lecture-écriture in the Cheneliere/Didactique series is the French version (produced in Nova Scotia) of the body of works of Marie Clay. The comprehensive nature of this text combines Clay’s philosophy with the many varied graphic organizers in French, a valuable res-ource indeed in bothFrench-language and French immersionschools, saving a great deal of translation time for teachers.

Both works are topical: in tandem, (where applicable), they would be an appropriate investment for the professional reference section of the school library.

Taking Running Records; New York, 2000, ISBN 0-439-07752-4; softcover, 128 pages, $14.95 (U.S.); Scholastic Distribution Centre 573-636-5271;

Le sondage d’observation en lecture-écriture; Montréal, 2002; ISBN 2-89461-807-7; softcover, 142 pages; Chenelière-McGraw-Hill; 514-273-1066; fax 514-276-0324.

Helen Donohoe teaches at Sanford Avenue School in Hamilton.

The Life Cycle Series
By Bobby Kalman
Reviewed by Andrea Murik

This informative, non-fiction series would be an excellent addition to any school or classroom library. Each of the 10 current books provides well-researched information and illustrations on a particular mammal, bird, insect or plant. Children will be eager to use these books for projects on animal habitats or ecosystems.

Each book begins with the classification of the featured animal, followed by information about the animal’s life cycle, life span, habitat, food and mating rituals. The author also includes related environmental concerns and tips as well as stories and myths. Some titles include a list of conservation and other web sites.

This is a visually appealing, well-written series with a range of information to engage young researchers.

The Life Cycle Series; St. Catharines, 2002; Included in the series: Bird, Butterfly, Frog, Koala, Lion, Sea Turtle, Spider, Tree, Whale, Wolf. Each book is 32 pages and is available in both soft and hardcover. Softcover is $7.16; hardcover, $19.16. For ISBN information please go to the library pages on the College web site.

Andrea Murik is a special education resource teacher, Angus Morrison E.S.,Simcoe County District School Board.

"All the Stories That We Have": Adolescents Insights About Literacy and Learning in Secondary Schools
By Elizabeth Birr Moje
Reviewed by Brenda Dillon

"All the Stories That We Have": Adolescents’ Insights About Literacy and Learning in Secondary Schools combines the stories of eight students with practical information to provide teachers with a socio-cultural perspective on student learning, including emotional, affective and cognitive development. Moje’s point is that the voices of students must be considered when teachers make instructional decisions.

Moje invites teachers to reflect on their philosophy and practice of teaching with her personal, accessible approach. The book deals with content-area literacy – helping teachers to understand adolescent learners.

"All the Stories That We Have": Adolescents’ Insights About Literacy and Learning in Secondary Schools (Kids InSight Series). International Reading Association, 2000. ISBN: 1-87207-264-9; softcover, 189 pages, $31.90; in Canada, contact the Ontario Library Association Store, phone 416-363-3388, toll free 1-866-873-9867; fax 416-941-9581, toll free 1-800-387-1181; e-mail; web site

Brenda Dillon is the teacher-librarian at Philip Pocock Catholic Secondary School, Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board.

Science Comes to Life
Previewed by Kerry Walford

Discover the amazing world of art and play at the Waterloo Regional Children’s Museum in Kitchener. The museum opens September 27 and will be a year-round attraction.

Tinker with the Mechanical City. Learn about the region’s water system and fluid hydraulics at the Grand River Play Area (but watch out for the black clouds – rain actually pours down when the hygrometer reaches 100). Watch the Pneumatic Waterfall shoot balls four stories high. Control the movements of the Metamorph satellite as it swoops around the four-storey atrium. These are just some of the many attractions.

For more information on this educational and cultural facility, visit their web site at or contact Michele Baumgarten by telephone 519-749-9387 or e-mail

Sing Out Fire Safety
Reviewed by Rosemary Kennedy

Using music and an amusing and entertaining routine, Mary Lambert captures her audience’s attention to teach vital lessons. Sing Out Fire Safety was developed in co-operation with Lanark County fire departments by Kingston-based children’s entertainer and mother of four Mary Lambert. The childhood-injury-prevention program deals with eight different topics and is designed for children from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8.

Lambert takes students through many aspects of fire prevention and fire safety during her 60-minute educational performance. Children learn what firefighters do and are given many important fire safety tips, including the importance of smoke detectors and what to do if they go off. The performance includes lots of interaction with the students and encourages them to share what they’ve learned with their parents and families.

You can arrange to have Sing Out Fire Safety performed in your school (tailored to suit your needs and budget) or you can use the CDs (available in English and French) or video. Contact Mary Lambert,
1-613-549-8049 or fax 1-613-549-8743, e-mail

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