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The Educational Production of Students at Risk

Abstract: Informed by institutional ethnography, and taking the problematic from disjunctures in teacher/participants’ experience between actual practice and official policy, this study is an intertextual analysis of print/electronic documents pertaining to students ‘at risk.’ It unpacks the Student Success Strategy in Ontario secondary schools as organized around discourses on risk and safety. Discriminatory classing and racializing processes construct students ‘at risk’ in ways that reproduce socio-economic inequities through premature streaming into pathways geared to post-secondary destinations: university, college, apprenticeship and work. This study questions the accounting logic that reduces education to skills training in workplace literacy/numeracy, and contradicts the official ‘success’ story that promotes Ontario as a model of large-scale educational change. The follow-up intertextual analyses reveal ideological circles that promote ‘evidence-based research’ and ‘evidence-informed practice,’ while actually gearing education to improving ‘results’ on large-scale standardized tests and manufacturing consent for government policies. Questions arise about the lack of transparency and selective use of educational research. A web of behind-the-scenes activities are made visible at public policy think-tanks (e.g. Canadian Council on Learning; Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network), and two little-researched bodies in educational governance — the Council of Ministers of Education Canada (CMEC) and OECD. Although invisible to teachers, the infrastructure for the Student Success Strategy is the Ontario School Information System (OnSIS); this web-enabled data-management technology has built-in capacity to profile students ‘at risk’ and to instigate accountability and surveillance over teachers’ work, with implications for re-regulating teaching practice towards test scores and aggregate statistics. With the intention of transforming education towards genuine equity, and linking the re-organization of social relations in large-scale reform locally, nationally and globally, this study contributes to critical scholarship on the effects of reform policies on people’s lives and extends knowledge of how translocal text-mediated ruling relations operate in education.

Author: Lindsay Anne Kerr

Source: University of Toronto - TSpace

Size: 2.13 MB
Last Updated: July 31, 2015