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Archive for the tag “BC education”

B.C.’s new education curriculum sounds great, but is it really possible?

kids onlineI think that the media likes to stir shit when it comes to BC Education…they know it’s a very, very touchy subject. Yesterday’s article in the Vancouver Sun addressed “major changes” coming to British Columbia’s education curriculum. Changes that would be “optional” for K-9 this year, but mandatory next year.

Education Minister Mike Bernier said the transition is happening because parents want their kids to succeed as technology and innovation reshape society.

“Parents expect their kids to learn the basics — reading, writing and arithmetic. They also want them to learn the collaboration, critical thinking and communications skills they’ll need to succeed in college, university and the workforce,” says Bernier.

“Personalized learning is at the heart of the changes — and teachers will have the time and ability to help kids dig into what interests them. We all know how passionate kids can be when they get into something like music, soccer, or dinosaurs. The new curriculum will give teachers the ability to tap into these passions.”

From The Vancouver Sun (read the full story here).

Read more…

Hallelujah! BC Teachers Strike comes to an end, but what can parents expect?

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All going well, BC’s teachers will be off picket lines and back in classrooms starting Monday.

I woke up this morning and did what I’ve been doing almost every morning for the last 3 months.  I rolled over and checked my twitter news feed for any updates on the seemingly never ending BC Teachers strike.  However, this morning was different.  Instead of learning of no further updates or reading about ridiculous PR stunts by either side, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that an agreement between the notoriously opposed sides had been reached.

Hallelujah!

It would seem that veteran mediator, Vince Ready, worked his magic and (miracle upon miracles) was able to get the two sides to hammer out a tentative agreement.  When I told my kids the news they were overjoyed.  I never thought I would see so much excitement about going back to school.  If I’m being honest, though, I think I was the happiest person in my home.  Although we haven’t been hugely inconvenienced by the strike (I work part time and my husband is self-employed so we’re flexible), not being able to get back into a regular routine compounded with the fact that we had no real sense of when this was going to end, made for a VERY perturbed mama.

Now we can at least take solace in the fact that schools should be back open by Monday at the latest…save for some districts (i.e. Surrey) who are supposed to have a Pro-D day (WTF?).

So..there’s a deal.  But, what does it mean?

Rumor has it that this will be a six year deal, retroactive to last year.  This means it’s set to expire in 2017.  I would take this to mean that we should have some smoothe sailing in our public school system for at least the next five years.  That’s good news, so long as the two sides take this next three years to actually make improvements and address the issues like class size and composition.  What makes me nervous, as a parent, is if they don’t.  If no effort is made to improve classroom conditions, I fear we may end up back in the same situation in 2019.

The contentious E80 clause has, reportedly, been dropped.  However, if the government wins it’s appeal to the Griffin ruling in October, what will this mean?

Finally, how is this school year going to look with three weeks of instruction missed due to the BC Teachers strike?  Will that time be made up?

All in all, I am relieved and happy to learn that my kids will be starting school next week and we can move on from this.

How are you feeling?

Why I felt ashamed at my son’s kindergarten orientation

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My son is starting Kindergarten in September.  Earlier this month we attended a “Welcome to Kindergarten” event at our local school.  All the children who will potentially be in class with my little boy were in attendance (there will be two kindergarten classes).  As all the children excitedly took their places, the parents looked on from the back of the room.  This wasn’t my first time doing this, as my daughter will be in grade three next year.  However, there was something different for me this time around.  I noticed that, in my mind, I was trying to assess the size and composition of the incoming kindergarten class…and I felt ashamed of myself for doing it.

After all we hear about the state of public education in B.C., there is one thing that I think is not being addressed: how impressions around class size and, in particular, composition affects how parents and children feel about their school and classmates.  As I observed the orientation, I could find myself trying to count how many children might possibly be ESL or developmentally challenged.  What could the composition of my child’s class potentially look like?

What an awful way to look around a room of excited, innocent children.  Our struggling public education system has done this to us.  Just as lack of funding and support is not fair to the children who need extra/added assistance in the classroom, it is also unfair to “typical” learners who are not getting the one-on-one attention that every child needs, craves, and thrives with.  I am ashamed to admit that I was essentially “profiling” a group of five and six year olds.  After everything I have heard in the media, from teachers and from other parents, I have become so frustrated and even paranoid about how much my children’s educational experience will be affected by the lack of adequate funding for our system.

I wish it wasn’t like this.  I wish I could attend my son’s kindergarten orientation and see a wonderfully diverse group of students and know that each of them would be given the very best start possible.  I wish each child who speaks English as a second language would have resources available to help them learn the primary language spoken in their country.  I wish every developmentally challenged child who has the capacity to learn within an integrated system had the proper supports to allow them to do this.  I wish gifted children were able to be challenged in the classroom by their teachers…not once in a while…but every, single day.  Finally, I wish “typical” learners could have the attention they, too, need and deserve.

What is in place right now is simply not enough…and it makes it difficult for me to even get excited about my kid starting school.  That, in itself, is a real shame.

Have you, too become more acutely aware of your child’s class size and composition in light of the recent events in BC Education?  What are your impressions?

Private schools rule: Fraser Institute Report 2014

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They’re heeeeeere.

The controversial Fraser Institute rankings of B.C.’s top elementary and high schools has been released.  Their website tells visitors that they can find a “good” school by checking out the top performers in their report.

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What defines a good school, you ask?  A quick glance at the report would indicate that it must be a private school for starters.

According to their website:

Fraser Institute’s ratings and rankings of British Columbia schools help parents see how the schools in their city or town are doing academically.

I do question whether these reports actually determine if a school is providing a good education or not.  First of all…for each of the top 10 elementary and high schools only one (St. Francis Xavier) has any ESL students.  Not a single one of the top ranked schools have any special needs students.  The bottom 10 elementary and high schools have high ESL and special needs students. Does this affect their score?  Of course, it does.  If a school does not accept ESL or special needs students, it would stand to reason that the overall academic performance of the students is going to be higher.

A second point to consider is how many children in the school actually participate in Foundation Skills Assessment testing.  For the top 10 elementary and high schools their is almost 100% compliance with the testing.  In the bottom 10 schools the participation in the foundation skills assessment testing is fantastically lower.  According to the Fraser Institute, a low percentage of tests not written indicates “…that the school community understands the benefits of full participation in the Foundation Skills Assessment.”  Guess that means that the schools who don’t participate don’t see any benefit…

Hmmm…so why would a school choose not to participate in the testing?  And why is it that all the schools that seem to comply with the testing are private or parochial schools?

Although the BC Liberal Government claims they do not support the use of FSA results to rank schools, many critics disagree and see the testing as a slippery slope towards the complete privatization of education.  According to Politics Respun:

The Ministry of Education knows full well what the Fraser Institute does with the information every year, and its misuse misleads the public into believing that our public education system is sub-standard. Along with the classic neo-liberal tactic of underfunding a service until it is bled dry, the government is also taking advantage of the Fraser Institute’s school “report cards” in order to create the illusion that the best option is private.

Once education is taken out of public hands and placed in the hands of corporations, financial gain will be the main function of schools. Not to mention the fact that privatization would exacerbate the socioeconomic inequality we are already seeing, further marginalizing the disadvantaged by barring their access to education as well as eradicating teachers unions that protect worker’s rights.

I found it interesting to read one private school alum’s comment on her experience at Vancouver’s top ranked high school, Crofton House.

As a Crofton House alumni I do not believe that Crofton House deserves the #1 spot. I was very unhappy there. Those who ran the school cared too much about maintaining a good reputation, getting more money, and upholding traditional bureaucracy. They try to show they are somehow a “progressive” school, but there is just too much politics involved. I witnessed girls facing hard times just because they did not fit the school’s “cookie cutter” model….most importantly, the school sees itself as a BUSINESS first. I remember how shocked I was when the headmistress announced in assembly that “Crofton House is primarily a business”, when the priority should be about “education for our children”.

What are your thoughts?  Has your child participated in the Foundational Skills Assessment tests?  I’ve not had this come up yet as our eldest is only in grade two.  If you did not participate, what was your reasoning?  Finally, do you think these rankings are truly indicative of how good a school really is?  Our school is ranked at a 4.5 out of 10…yet I believe it is a fantastic school, where my child is thriving.

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