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Global report card comes in darkness

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So, will the world end for Manitoba public education at 11 a.m. Paris time on Tuesday?

That’s when the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development releases a 564-page report that only a statistician could love, on the unbelievably extensive and exhaustive analysis of tests in math, reading and science written last year by 510,000 randomly-chosen students aged 15 in 65 countries and economies (Hong Kong, Macau and Shanghai are in there as individual participants).

Has it really been three years since the last PISA report? Since all that wailing and gnashing of teeth?

Canada by and large does well, while Manitoba not so much. Canadian kids have been ranking in or near the top 10 in previous tests, though right-wing ideologues don’t accept being better than 90 per cent of the world on a regular basis is a good sign; Manitoba kids have regularly scored better than countries such as the U.S., Russia and Great Britain, but, and this is a huge but, that has everyone on edge heading into Tuesday morning. In 2009, Manitoba kids fell from the middle of the pack to almost the bottom among Canadian provinces.

Depending often on the ideology of the person doing the analyzing, our performances have been evidence that we have a good education system or we’re failing to provide our children a quality education.

Given the bizarre embargo on the official release that prevents most eastern and central time zone newspapers from publishing until Wednesday — 4 a.m. Tuesday our time — you’ll have to go to our website at that appalling hour to read what’s in the report. Be warned, our approach will be parochial — you’ll have to go to the report to find details about Estonia or Uruguay or Qatar, or about performances by regional jurisdictions within Italy, Brazil or Australia.

The link will be in the web story.

Meanwhile, I’ve already asked the major players — I hate the word stakeholder — in Manitoba to be ready to analyze and comment for Wednesday’s newspaper edition.

As a shortcut, here’s a list of answers from previous PISA test stories; I'm paraphrasing, don't have time to get the exact wording from 2003 and 2006 and 2009 tests. See if you can match the comment with the NDP, opposition Tories, teachers’ union or trustees association:

A. We did kind of sort of OK, if you throw out a bunch of the insignificant statistical differences in the scores that are maybe clustered together a bit, and allow that fudging the numbers that way could have made us higher rather than lower

B. Evil NDP is making our kids stupid

C. We could do far better if we had more money and more teachers and more shiny new technology, and no one whining about taxes

D. Imagine how much worse we would have scored in the 1990s under Gary Filmon.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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