How can our education system support the unique needs of students?

Summary to date:
Here’s a summary of what you’ve said so far. Click on the links beside each theme to read supporting examples.

  1. Fewer curriculum outcomes (1, 2, 3)
  2. Class composition (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  3. Class size (1, 2, 3)
  4. Professional development (1, 2, 3)
  5. Funding (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
  6. Independent schools (1, 2)
  7. More support for boys who are falling behind (1, 2, 3, 4)
  8. Addressing the digital divide (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  9. Support for students with learning disabilities (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
  10. Pac funding (1, 2, 3)
  11. Eliminate/reduce homework (1, 2)

Please leave a comment below if you’d like to contribute to this topic.

232 Responses to “ Question 4: Meeting the unique needs of students ”

  1. A Fellow Contributor says:

    I’m a grade 5/6 teacher. Our school doesn’t have a strict policy about “no electronics.” I’ve encouraged students to leave their electronics at home as some of the class “have” and some “have not.” Despite careful locking of the room, careful supervision, and reminders to keep cell phones and electronics put away, since September I’ve had 2 thefts in my room, and one ipod stolen, broken, and then left lying around. I’ve spent over 3-4 hours of my time educating parents and students, questioning suspects, and to no avail. Technology from home presents its own challenges. Students that are 9-11 years old are too young to be responsibly in charge of expensive electronics. This is a demoralizing and disappointing position to be in. Access to technology needs to be equitable in order for it to work. It’s like saying to children: only so and so can have a pencil because they can afford it.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Assuming we can get to a point of equitable access and can educate people to use our digital tools responsibly, do you have any suggestions for how these tools might be used to help students learn in more personalized ways?

      Sorry to hear about your bad experiences. Having recently had an expensive laptop of my own stolen, I know how it feels – it stinks!

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      • Anne says:

        Maybe if we can reduce the waste in the school system including the money spent on books that can be replaced with electronics media – maybe then we could fund an Ipad for all students. This might seem like a bizarre question: why do teachers repeat their work every year? Why not record the teachers who are the best at delivering subject matters and students can watch them and re-watch, as necessary and save teacher time for one-on-one help (i.e. Khan Academy). Many teachers are not that great in front of the board. It reminds me a bit of church – a church leader delivers a mind-numbingly boring sermon when we could listen and watch an excellent presenter on a video who could really motivate us. No insult intended to teachers but some teachers are just excellent at capturing their audience and many are better at other things. That could save significant money. I think part of the current education system is just focused on saving teacher jobs not how to best teach.

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  2. Louise says:

    1. Actual class size limits. When it comes to education, size does matter.
    2. Early and intense interventions for children who are not fully meeting expectations in the early years of education.
    3. Bring back important aspects of education of the whole child. Including sports, arts, culture and trades in school brings a more real and complete experience to education.

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  3. Anne says:

    The Globe and Mail November 29, 2011 front page:
    “New tests show girls are outperforming boys”

    “boys who have lagged behind their female classmates on literacy tests for decades, are now also behind in reading and, FOR THE FIRST TIME, SCIENCE. Math scores between the sexes were tied.”

    It is shocking that the feminization of our schools and our teaching continues to discriminate against boys. We have known this for 3 decades and it is only getting worse. Who is looking after our boys? Not our current school system.

    According to the above quoted article, Toronto and Edmonton are looking to deal with the situation with things like “single-sex education… aiming to tailor the classroom to boys, by making it more active, choosing reading material that aligns with boys interests, and including more male role models in the curriculum”.

    Is this not basic teaching? Why is it a pilot project in two school districts? It is not rocket science. Who is being held accountable?

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      If you’re interested in reading the Globe and Mail article, you can find it here.

      Any suggestions for how we can right this ship?

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      • Anne says:

        We need a long-term and short-term approach to right the ship:

        Short-term:
        1. We need to hire more men at the teacher and principal levels. Note that in most elementary schools there are no male teachers or principals. This is needed because; at an early age boys decide that education is not for them because there is no male presence; also, many female teachers do not understand/relate to boys, they do not understand how they learn (i.e., high Ritalin recommendations by teachers).
        2. High school and elementary school awards should be balanced between genders, i.e., male and female for each award. Marking is biased so this helps to level the playing field.
        3. Some type of incentive based pay so that the best teachers are hired and retained.
        4. Change the way marks are assigned, i.e., marks should not be based on just neat work but on creativity, energy, curiosity. 9 A study by Trent University concluded that boys were graded lower for work considered equal to girls. )
        5. Gender based classrooms
        6. Hire someone like Barry MacDonald (Author of Boys Smarts) to provide invaluable advice.

        Long Term:

        1. Gender based schools as boys are less focused on process and more focused on “doing”, curiosity, activity and competition. These traits drive boys learning.
        2. Have a gender balance through-out the whole education structure starting at the Ministry of Education.
        3. Set targets with accountabilities and timelines for boys learning and their progress ( as one done for girls).
        4. Beware of special-interest lobby groups in education. Unfortunately, many of these lobby groups are only watching out for girls.

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  4. Lucy says:

    Talking about personalized learning, I wish to first see the improvement of the education for boys. I mean more recognization from teachers on differences between girls and boys in learning models. As the mother of a grade-two boy, I noticed that boys’ nature and their ways to communicate seem make them in a “not so equal position” as girls in school in gaining encouragement and confidence.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Anne has some of the same concerns as you, Lucy. See the comment thread above.

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  5. Jennifer Muskee says:

    My younger children are currenlty attending a private school that goes to grade 9, my older children are a the local public high school and last year my duaghter did on-line school from home. This demonstrates some of the flexibilty that is already happening.
    I am wondering if the province will look at allotting a dollar sum per student. The private school my children attend receives one half of the government grant per student, this makes parents have to make up the rest through tuition costs and in some cases reduced resources. When I think of increased flexiblity I hope that the province considers fully funding all students as parents and students carefully choose the school that will best meet their needs.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Hi Jennifer. Limited funding allows these schools to maintain more autonomy and to make certain key decisions that they could perhaps not make if they received funding equivalent to the public school system. In fact, many independent schools have specifically asked that the funding formula not change so they can operate with a higher degree of freedom.

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      • Anne says:

        Why don’t we look at the Alberta charter public schools? This has given parents choice yet the school is still fully funded. Parents are more involved in charter public schools compared to other public schools. Apparently the bar has been raised on all schools due to this increased competition.

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        • Moderator Melanie says:

          Hi Anne – Thanks for sharing your ideas. For those who are interested, charter schools are autonomous public schools organized to provide expanded choices for students.

          In Alberta, there are currently 13 charter schools. Charter schools must provide the basic, provincially-mandated curriculum, and students are required to write all Provincial Achievement and Diploma Examinations.

          Currently, BC’s education system provides several opportunities for school choice. In the public school system, many districts offer programs of choice such as traditional school programs or sports academies. Also, independent schools have significant flexibility to offer programs from a unique pedagogical, philosophical or educational perspective.

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  6. Jenny Arntzen says:

    I am currently writing my doctorate in technology studies education at UBC. I was interested to see the new plan, but I have a question about the provision of digital technologies in the schools. Is it still up to PACs to fundraise and purchase equipment? This leads to a ‘digital divide’ amongst schools: those schools in affluent neighbourhoods with stable home ownership are capable of raising funds in high contrast to inner-city or rural schools. This concentrates technological resources in schools whose populations already have the greatest advantages for learning with, and about, digital technologies.

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    • Moderator Chrysstena says:

      Hi Jenny – The answer to your question will come out of a combination of the input we receive on this forum, along with the work of the experts in the field, educators and ministry personnel, in establishing the kinds of things that will help to ease the digital divide. For instance, if students were allowed to bring their own devices, that would assist in ensuring that technology funds may be able to be directed to those that are less fortunate. If you have suggestions on how we can remove the digital divide, or ideas that might help us, we would definitely like to hear them. This is a plan in progress and we will rely on the people of the Province to share their ideas with us to assist us in the decision making process when the time is right.

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      • Lee says:

        I believe there should be access to technology for all students and that there should be some way to subsidize access for those with less means.

        Technology has become our library and the need for libraries to evolve and continue to maintain public access is important for the health of our society as a whole.

        Whether this subsidy is done based on parent income or based on demographics of the school at large, whether it is done through sponsorship or parent fundraising, all of these are policy questions beyond my experience, however, the need for access to technology remains paramount.

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      • Christian says:

        Introducing “a plan”, one would think, would entail a certain amount of research and foresight before launching the plan. Admitting to having not considered the digital divide before promoting the great changes that increased technology will bring to public education in this province is laughable. It makes me think that the proponents of technology are blinded by their own experience in the wealthier districts in this province.

        I’m sorry, but if I were to introduce a “plan” in the private sector (in a business context, for example) and not be able to explain some of the fundamental implementation practices, I would be laughed out of the boardroom. Asking the public to fill in the gap, while admirable, is not the answer to fundamental questions already being asked.

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        • Moderator Catherine says:

          Hi Christian – BC’s Education Plan is intended to act as a blueprint. This blog is designed to gather ideas and opinions from all interested parties to help us make the education system even better.

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          • Christian says:

            A workable blue print is one thing, but throwing around ideas that sound positive on the surface without any due care with regard to practical implementation is purely irresponsible. The Ministry of Education (and Minister) should have enough expertise to have considered these types of questions before launching their blueprint. Asking the public how we can overcome the “digital divide” is a fundamental question that should have been carefully considered. It really makes me question the credibiltiy of the “experts” in Victoria.

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            • Moderator Melanie says:

              Hi Christian, This forum is a place to share your thoughts and ideas with us on the direction you would like to see education go in the future. Government doesn’t have all the answers – which is why we are asking citizens to provide thoughtful feedback and share wisdom and insights to better inform us as we move forward with education transformation.

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        • Moderator Angie says:

          The Ministry of Education and School Districts around the province are examining various ways to ensure all students have access to the necessary digital tools and resources to enhance their learning. Some jurisdictions are encouraging students to bring their own digital devices to class while other schools are providing students with laptops, netbooks or tablet computers. Organizations such as Computers for Schools provide refurbished computers to schools at drastically costs and other corporate sponsors, such as Apple Canada and IBM are working with districts around the province.
          Yes, there is still a digital divide, and yes, school districts recognize all students do not necessarily have access to digital devices. Your observations are accurate Christian and we will make sure your concerns are heard.

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    • Mark says:

      In my district it is NOT left to the PAC to provide technology. The district has sufficient funds to provide modern computers in computer labs and 1-3 per classroom (depending on need). This level of technology is maintained by the district and replaced as needed. The district also supplies a number of laptops to each school and special education funding provides more. One of our elementary schools has used PAC funds to provide an extra 30 laptops, but that is unusual.

      The district also pays most of the cost for installation of Smartboards, with about 1/3 coming from school funds or PACs.

      The district does not have funds to provide one-to-one laptops for all students. At this point it wouldn’t be sustainable and it is not clear they would be well used.

      As curriculum structure and teaching methods change we may need more technology, but hopefully it will become more affordable at the same time. School districts need to provide the needed technology – leaving it up to PACs or even individual schools is a recipe for inequity.

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      • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

        Mark, can you share with us how it is your district is managing to find the funds? Are you finding cost savings elsewhere that are allowing you to purchase the computers you’ve mentioned? Is it a case of spending less on other things that perhaps are no longer as vital so that money is freed up for technology?

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  7. I Van says:

    Teachers can meet the unique needs by offering a variety of activity types and assignments. This way all students needs can be met. This is more difficult when the ministry of education revamps programs and takes out variety in levels. For example, in the math program in grade 10 and 11 the applications of math and the essentials of math has been replaced with one course. This in effect puts the responsibility on the teacher to meet the needs of all levels in one class which is almost an impossibility. Many parts of the Workplace Math is much too difficult for the very weak student.

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  8. Jason says:

    First of all, I think it’s critically important that we define what exactly ARE the needs of our students. Perhaps that goes without saying, but if we spend a lot of time, energy and money seeking to address needs that don’t exist or are of lesser importance, then we are doing our students a disservice. Realistically, it is impossible to meet every need of everyone, so then it becomes essential that we identify which needs are to be of top priority for our students as a whole.

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  9. Shaun says:

    I think almost everyone understands the need for education to be reformed. This model is based from times gone by. I am concerned however, that our current government is looking to the United States as a model. I think we need to look to Finland, Sweden, New Zealand, and Australia to see what they are doing. I also think the Ministry of Education should become familiar with Sir Ken Robinson and his work regarding educational revolution.

    Many aspects of the “new” Education Plan have been in my children’s schools for decades. I agree with many items in the video, realize that not much is new, and feel that personalizing education is wise: yet, needs to be approached with care. Asking teachers to modify their hours (daily) for different students alarms me. What about the teacher’s families? I do agree however, with year round schooling.

    Like everything it seems, in our society these days, it is one extreme or the other. Your plan for education has merit but, at the same time it seems extreme.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Hi Shaun – have you visited our It’s Already Happening page, the global section in particular? Here you’ll find links to some of the international jurisdictions and thinkers (like Sir Ken Robinson) whose ideas helped inform the BC Education Plan. Have a look if you’re interested.

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  10. R J says:

    I sincerely hope that the Ministry of Education was listening to Mary McNeil, Minister of Children and Families today, and consider one plight of the education system in a similar light.

    While I recognize the great things within our education system, it seemed to me that many of the actions suggested by Mary McNeil could be applied to the education system, and could have great affect. It also seemed to me, that this forum is trending in a direction of great concern regarding the funding levels of the Education System. Do we have schools that could be considered “in poverty”? I’ve heard teachers suggest as much, and there is great concern from teachers regarding the equality of funding, be it funds raised by communities, or appropriateness of funding that reflects the challenges of the communities.

    • Targeted support
    • Recognition that a “one size fits all plan” is not necessarily the best plan
    • Working with “regions” to find out what they need
    • Recognizing the “differences”
    • Understanding the “challenges” of the communities
    • Finding out what “ARE” the real situations

    So it begs me to say. The education system should work closely with the Ministry of Children and Families to understand and support the unique needs of some students. And as well, to understand the challenges of some Regions, Districts, and Schools. Currently BC is #1 in the country for Child Poverty. It ripples through our education system, and causes inequalities in schools.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Thanks for sharing your concerns with us, RJ — the implications of poverty on a child’s success in school are not lost on us either. We’re working hard in a tough economic climate to try to improve the situation. No one wants inequity and no one wants children not reaching their full potential because of adverse economic circumstances.

      We also recognize that one way to break the cycle of poverty in the long term is through better education. The more we can do to improve our children’s educational experiences now, the better off they and their children will be in the future.

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    • Gayle Hernandez says:

      RJ,

      Thank you so much for your commitment and thoughtful/critical responses to this important cause which to me equates to the future for all of us – most importantly the children in our care.

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      • R J says:

        Thanks Gayle,
        I feel that we are fortunate to have this forum to express and debate our opinions in providing for the education of the children.

        Reece.

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        • Moderator Chrysstena says:

          Thank you, RJ. Please share this forum with others and encourage them to come and weigh in with their thoughts and opinions. We really want to hear the voices of the people of British Columbia!

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    • Al Post says:

      RJ,

      You bring up an excellent point, one that will certainly be a challenge for us all. “Equity” has always been a challenge for society, but that doesn’t mean we can’t continuously improve.
      Some districts are coming up with “hub” style delivery models where there’s much greater integration between various Ministry services (i.e. MCFD, RCMP, Fraser Health, etc.)
      As someone who has worked in an inner-city community, it makes a lot of sense to me to have a higher degree of integration all in the same building. If we can address social/emotional issues earlier, the hope is that those issues will be diminished later in life and cost society less money in the long term.

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  11. Sherry says:

    I encourage the government to look to Scandinavia and Alberta to see alternative ways of organizing school systems to meet the unique needs of students. A viable alternative in BC would be to legislate Charter Schools. Fund alternative schools led by educators passionate about their approach/curriculum and allow parents and students to choose where they want to attend. Along with Charter Schools, consider at least three alternatives for secondary schooling with different learning outcomes (i.e. not the same as the required courses for Dogwood Certificate but as important). For example (but not limited to)possibilities could include: Business, Vocational Training/Trades, University stream. Allow students to “CHOOSE” (not by a test only) which stream. If there were Charter Schools for students with the most unique needs and interests and public secondary school had real options which would be motivating to the range of learners who enroll, more success would be possible.

    Admit that a classroom in the public school system cannot be all things to all students and organize for success instead. There have been many posts from teachers saying the kids enrolled in their classes present with 5 grade levels (or more) of skill. The curriculum is intended for the grade level and is premised on prerequisite skills being mastered. While making literacy the number one priority for all students, ensure they receive instruction to achieve that literacy for as many years as needed. Then,look at all the other suggestions to see all the options that could be included in a reorganized system.

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    • Gordon says:

      There is much in Sherry’s comments that might bring about meaningful change in B.C. Education. Keep in mind however that the most persuasive and effective factors in assisting the learners are the expectations and skills of the teachers. Teachers, such as Jaime Escalante, featured in the movie ‘Stand and Deliver, which he even said was 90% true, do occasionally make a great difference for disadvantaged students against great systemic odds. I know such teachers in B.C. Unfortunately, the system plays a large role in shaping the work of teachers. Having schools based upon particular methodologies of teaching and learning and staffed by teachers who passionately believe in working in such ways may enhance the education of students and provide more professional satisfaction. One size does not fit all…some schools may need smaller class sizes or no classrooms for that matter…in working with students of specific needs. A school that emphasizes the study of business as the theme within the curriculum, for example, could do many innovative things to encourage creativity and excitement about the world of business…emphasizing economics, entrepreneurship, accounting practices and so on. At a certain age students are ready to pursue such passions and interests and make choices about that. We just need to provide them with the opportunities and support to do this. I think students would be better engaged in such schools if personal fulfillment is a goal of education.

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  12. Jacqueline L says:

    My son is in Grade 2 and has been “diagnosed” with ADHD. He is a happy, intelligent, outgoing boy and does not have any issues with agression or anything negative that would make him a risk to other students. He just has trouble staying focused at times and often needs assistance in class to get his work done. He is a sensitive kid and has a great deal of trouble focusing when there is noise/chaos and often needs a quiet space to complete his work. Once he gets started, he does great work and has proven that, academically, he is right on track. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard from teachers: “If he had been diagnosed with Autism, we would be able to bring in extra help, but because it’s only ADHD, there is no funding” and “Maybe you should consider medicating him”. The staff at his school have been amazing and have been able to be creative with the little funding they receive for kids with learning differences, etc, but I can see that it puts a great deal of stress on the teachers as well as the students. This, in my opinion, is unnecessary stress and because the teachers are stressed, the pressure is put back on the parents to medicate their kids or spend tens of thousands of dollars a year for a private school, which is outrageous to me. The rate at which people are shoving pills down thier children’s throats, is absolutely shocking to me and I refuse to poison my son and put his health at risk in order to sedate him for the sake of his teacher. More funding is needed to have more staff on hand to help these kids and it can only benefit ALL of the children to have more than one staff member in the classroom, regardless. No one should have to be bullied and guilted into medicating thier child, unnecessarily. Quality education is not just about the curriculum and the delivery itself, it’s about making sure the student feels supported and that they are not getting lost in the shuffle.

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    • Joan says:

      Ritalin has been associated with drug addiction and suicide. It is sad and actually criminal that teachers are recommending this. Why don’t teachers work the curriculum and format around the student needs instead of the students being expected to work around the teachers needs?

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    • Charlene says:

      The teachers and the school system DO NOT understand what ADHD is. It is a brain based difference. These kids NEED a distraction free environment. (Which is almost impossible to provide in a 25 to 20 kid classroom anywhere, regardless of the classroom or the teacher in it.) However, most of the normal kids can block out distractions, and while kids mildly affected with ADHD can seem almost normal with meds, this “its only ADHD” does not acknowledge the truth. Meds are only one of many strategies to address the condition. These meds are very strong, come with big side effects, and the benefits need to outweigh the risks.

      They have difficulties with handwriting and math, which come with ADHD. I looked at the existing math curriculum in high school and thought it was a twisted joke. It will not help my son get what he needs for a trade in a timely manner. It seems that the system has been teaching him the same skills for the last five years, repeatedly. Sure, in his skills 9 class, he is getting an A in math…cause he has done this stuff for the last five years. (I have a permanent teaching certificate from Ontario, as a highschool teacher, so I am knowledgeable about this stuff. Not that as a parent, I get respected for my opinion on it.)

      Right now, I see a system more interested in writing a IEP plan to learn, individualizing things like crazy, but not one that is interested in getting my kids to be employable. (In other words, what do employers need? How will an employer know that this dogwood diploma is like that one? Will there be a credential that is achievable, but also reliable as a standard? I get really scared when teachers and the system gets excited about student based learning…this seems like more child centred service politics that really means that as long as the children are learning that is ok. Sorry, but education needs to be going somewhere, and there needs to be benchmarks and standards in there too.)
      I really do not like how the system writes an IEP for your kids, but as parents, we have to accept it. ( I have seen poorly written ones I refused to sign off, because I had no input into the plan.) Sorry, but I have tolerated poorly written IEPs that seem to be heading my kids for a provincial disability cheque. If a fixed income is the future, that is not very good. (It also seems to be a waste of talent and potential, both that this province is not interested in really addressing. I hear more complaints about how many IEPs are in a classroom that need to be “accomodated”. Frankly, the accomodations would help the entire class out, but that would mean an attitude adjustment for the teacher.)

      My kids are not that disabled, but the so called help for kids is so defined that even with documentation, the system does not understand it, relying on special ed teachers or school based psychologists, do to something, not sure what exactly, cause by the time they intervene, it is half way through the school year. All teachers need to be trained in the basics of methods for all learning needs they will encounter in the classroom, and not just go on their ignorant stuff. (In fact, they also need a course in dealing with aboriginal learning needs, like I did twenty years ago in Ontario, and is not in the curriculum for teachers here. Shameful.)

      I have had teachers complain about my kids behaviour, only to have to repeatedly tell them that that behaviour is what ADHD is. This is nonsense. If this is supposed to be professional, then why do they not understand the designations in the first place? Again, teacher education needs to have this in the curriculum, because expecting it to come from learning on the job is not enough, and expecting “the special ed teacher” to do something is not enough. If a teacher cannot read and understand a psychoeducation assessment report, there is no point in asking them to write IEPs. You would be better off asking the parents to write them.

      I also see a heavy present bias in the existing BC system on academics to the exclusion of other learning needs. Trades will be the future of non university bound students, but I see little encouraging learning challenged students to go for hands on learning, to pursue trade based professions (hairdressing, cooking, carpentry, construction…all of these could be started in high school at an entry level. Instead, we rely on colleges to do this, and their insistence in academic criteria makes entry level training now beyond reach.) And, your hands on learner may not be able to learn from texts, so may always need mentorship, direct teaching, demonstration and hands on practices. It seems that we are not acknowledging the poverty that comes with not having a dogwood diploma, and the system does so little to help those poverty striken or weak students with learning disabilities get that credential.

      And, while acknowledging that learning outside of school happens in dance, community programs and the like, it also advantages the richer family students, and those kids that are special needs may find those opportunities also limited. We need to find ways to equalize and provide opportunities for skill development.

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    • Natasha says:

      I have had a similar experience. I am parent of a distracted child, who has been tested for ADD, but has not met the criteria for it. Her current teacher has been pressuring me to get her medicated. I have refused to turn my child into a robot to make the teacher’s life easier.
      Smaller class sizes, larger desks (she works on a desk that is 2′x 2′), more phsycial activity and a quiet work space (that isn’t in the hallway beside the timeout spot) would greatly assist these kids that have issues with attention span.

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  13. Matt Austin says:

    The following is my input to an online discussion on this topic (it was originally woven into a discussion with others but I have extracted just my own contribution to comply with the terms of use):

    I am interested in the rationale behind full inclusion of children with intellectual disabilities in classrooms. My son is in Grade 2 and in all three years of public school so far he has had at least one classmate (this year two) who need a support worker in the classroom focused just on them. It is clear from a conversation with his teacher that she feels the inclusion pendulum has swung too far but no one wants to take this on.

    What puzzles me is that I see a benefit for my son in that he gets exposed to children his age with disabilities (I also see an impact from the distractions) but I gather the main push for this policy is from the parents of children with these disabilities and I can’t really see how this arrangement benefits their kids (compared to separate classrooms)? Clearly I’m missing something but I couldn’t find anything directly on this point on the Ministry of Education website.

    *********************

    What I’ve seen is inclusion of kids that to be honest seem pretty profoundly disabled and I’m skeptical that they are getting all of the social benefits that are hoped for. I fear that their whole day consists of having a minder trying to keep them from causing too much of a distraction instead of being more free to do things and be taught at an appropriate level and in a way/environment that works for them.

    ****************************

    One thing that time has taught me is that black and white solutions to complex issues are almost by definition suboptimal. To take kids along such a wide spectrum of abilities/challenges and push them all into full inclusion seems like going too far to me.

    I think it would make more sense to at least have a second option of a separate classroom with some shared activities. What I’m curious about is why that has been done away with. Was this seen as stigmatizing or warehousing these kids? If so I’d like to get a sense of how legitimate that concern is.

    *********************

    I worry that the parents of kids with special needs just want their kids to fit in so badly that they’re pushing this model past the point of any benefit to the kids involved (disabled and non-disabled). My kid’s teacher, while obviously not impressed with the status quo of full inclusion, said she had the situation under control this year with aides and no “screamers”. That implied to me that next year is a roll of the dice with retirement being her out if she gets a result she can’t stomach. As far as I can tell this is a good teacher…

    *************************

    I’ve had experience living with a child that had serious behavioural issues and he ended up being put in a special class in middle school because of how extreme the disruption was or would have been. The teacher that taught that class was a miracle worker. My aunt was a special ed teacher for her entire career, it seems to me that some of her students needed help learning basic life skills and they were better off doing that than being “managed” in a classroom with kids learning long division.

    The social side of school is not unimportant but it should come second to teaching kids things – ideally each according to his/her ability and need.

    *************************

    I guess I’m just not seeing how separate classrooms for the parts of the day that make the most sense where kids with challenges work with teachers that specialize on what they need is a disservice to them. I could ask how much of the academic potential of those kids is being lost by the social engineering of putting them in a one-size-fits-all classroom? Granted they have an assistant but if the assistant is teaching them something completely different what is the point of them having to do it in hushed tones over in the corner?

    *************************

    I have been thinking seriously about late French immersion as well for the same reasons. Hopefully my son will get the same balance it sounds like yours has in terms of the compassion/empathy from sharing a classroom with kids with disabilities when he was young and the chance to be in a more focused and academically challenging environment when he’s a little older.

    ****************************

    I think the distinction between inclusion and integration is an important aspect of the policy. The policy statement on inclusion is worth reading:
    “British Columbia promotes an inclusive education system in which students with special needs are fully participating members of a community of learners. Inclusion describes the principle that all students are entitled to equitable access to learning, achievement and the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of their educational programs. The practice of inclusion is not necessarily synonymous with full integration in regular classrooms, and goes beyond placement to include meaningful participation and the promotion of interaction with others.”

    Notwithstanding that, under “Placement” it says:
    “A school board must provide a student who has special needs with an educational program in a classroom where the student is integrated with other students who do not have special needs, unless the educational needs of the student with special needs or other students indicate that the educational program for the student with special needs should be provided otherwise.

    The emphasis on educating students with special needs in neighbourhood school classrooms with their age and grade peers, however, does not preclude the appropriate use of resource rooms, self-contained classes, community-based programs, or specialized settings. Students with special needs may be placed in settings other than a neighbourhood school classroom with age and grade peers. This should only be done when the school board has made all reasonable efforts to integrate the student, and it is clear that a combination of education in such classes and supplementary support cannot meet their educational or social needs, or when there is clear evidence that partial or full placement in another setting is the only option after considering their educational needs or the educational needs of others.”

    I came across this review of inclusion done for the Richmond School District and this from one of the last paragraphs in the Executive Summary:
    “The response trends indicate a desire for a broadening of how inclusionary practices are defined and implemented, with the possibility of creating alternate settings for some students with special needs, at least for part of the time, rather than emphasizing full-time inclusion in classroom settings. This could lead to creative alternatives that benefit everyone, or it could result in an unacceptable return to exclusion of some groups from the mainstream of society.”

    *******************

    I think the education system needs to recognize that people are voting with their feet in response to the application of the integration policy and putting their kids in French immersion at very inflated levels. The cold hard fact of it is that the motivation in many if not most cases is getting their kids into classrooms without children with special needs and/or ESL challenges and with other children whose parents are engaged in their educations. The French part is either a minor issue or even a disincentive that they feel is worth the net benefit.

    This trend is resulting in the normal classrooms becoming more and more concentrated with children with challenges and that just feeds this phenomenon further. I find it hard to believe we are getting the best teachers possible in this scenario as well with what must be a high demand and low supply for teachers that speak French. I suggest that you consider looking at the number of parents that are putting their kids in French immersion as a safe haven from the integration policy as an indicator of how well it is actually working.

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    • Moderator Angie says:

      Special needs issues are very important to us, so we appreciate your comments, Matt. If you are interested, the ministry’s current policies, called “Special Education Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines”, can be found here: http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/specialed/special_ed_policy_manual.pdf We’re open to discussion on this with you and anyone else who may have some thoughts on what, if any, changes you’d like to see as we move forward.

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      • I think says:

        I would like to see teachers and school staff show more compassion to people with special needs and without and being nice to them and not bullying by body checking ect. like what happened to me in school.

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  14. Sam says:

    Hello my name is Samantha I’m in gr.9 and I go to an alternative school. I would like to talk about some changes that I think would be good and I hope everyone that reply’s is respectful to mine and other peoples input.
    1) When I went to a public school the teachers weren’t always happy to be there, My math teacher in gr.8 was not the best. He would let us leave when we wanted to and did not teach us much, My PE teacher was very rude to me and a few other girls in the class. She would swear at us if we were late or didn’t have PE cloths, she even kicked me when I was tying my shoes. I could not do the runs the full 6 laps around the school she would yell at me and make me do it I had doctor notes and ever thing !
    I broke my knee in 3 spots and it never healed right. It hurts when I run so I would so I would walk it and she would get mad at me for it. So it would be nice if they listen and weren’t so rude.

    2) Smaller class sizes because as I said before I go to an alternative school and there are 14 kids in my Class. Last year there I had 33 kids in my class, how is the teacher supposed to know us and how do you think they feel? They have to different class’s a day so thats about 66 kids a day !. The teachers whine about how bad the kids are but we all have different was of learning and if there’s 33 kids in a class of course the teacher going to get mad at us there just to Meany kids for one person!

    3) Bus’s for my school is a problem. We don’t have a school bus, We take a publice bus and its a lot of money or sometime the bus’s don’t go to where you live like to [names of communities removed] so it’s hard to get home for some of us. I think we should get a school bus for the alternative schools.

    Well , that conduces my paragraph on some changes that I think would make the schools better! Thanks you for your time.

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    • Moderator Virginia says:

      Hi Sam. We agree that we want people to be respectful, especially when others are sharing personal experiences. It takes courage to share in a public forum, so thank you for contributing.

      You raise some interesting issues. I’m sorry that some of your educational experiences have been not great but hopefully you have had lots of good experiences too. You suggest that smaller class sizes might make a difference. What else is important to you at school? Or for your education? Please share your ideas — we’re listening!

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      • I think says:

        I am sorry your experiences have not been great at school neither has mine. and we need to protect students at school and not abuse them and we need great teachers and admin staff, install video cameras in classrooms just like parents do for babysitters. and that will make great teachers and school staff. you also raise interesting issuess. and students have rights at school to be safe that includes teachers and other school staff.

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  15. Spencer says:

    Hi, my name is Spencer and I go to an alternative school in the West Shore community, and here are a few things I’d change about the BC Education system.

    Schools need to find more ways to teach students because some kids learn differently. For example, some kids learn fine just getting a lesson taught to them on the board. Others learn better from videos, and some learn better when they’re taught hands on doing it with the teacher. What I’ve found is most teachers will just use one or two of these methods, then half the class can’t learn it because they learn differently. Now I know what you’re going to think: You can’t teach 30+ kids 3 different ways of learning in one class. But this is where my second point comes in: smaller and more classes, more teachers. I had gone to a regular middle school from Grade 7-9, then a high school for half the year of grade 9. Now that I’m at an alternative school with a class that has about 14 kids it’s so much easier to learn. We also have an education assistant which also helps with the one on one when we need it. It’s much more hands on and they go through all the ways you can learn (most of the time), and it’s easier to get help from a teacher, and you get a better connection with the teacher. Also, it’s much less intimidating to ask for help. It might sound weird, but when you’re a kid in high school in a class full of 40 kids, and most of the other kids understand something, you feel stupid putting your hand up and asking for help. Or at least I did. And when you finally get the teacher to come over and help you, they only have time to give you the fastest and easiest response possible, because they need to do other things as well.

    Another thing I would change about the BC education is that employers need to pay attention to the teachers’ attitudes with students. I have had bad luck with teachers the past 3 years, and it’s not fun. I have had an experience when a teacher thought it would be a good idea to start yelling at me in class, and tell me I’m not going to get anywhere in life, no house, job, etc. And that I won’t get past working someplace in McDonalds. Keep in mind when you’re a teenager and you’re in the middle of class, and this is happening in front of all your peers, it can get stressful. Some of my friends, and me, have had multiple experiences like this, and the teachers get away with this. It can emotionally damage kids, and make them not want to go to school, and just have a bad impression of school and teachers in general. I realize if a kid hasn’t showed up for class for awhile, or hasn’t done work, a teacher gets frustrated because then they have to baby the teenager. But at the same time, you can have some decency to pull them out of class, and go somewhere private. Even talk to the councillor about it if you’re getting worried. Principles or someone in charge need to pay attention to this. If this happens, (and yes, it happens more than you may think), it will make a kid stress out, miss more school, etc.

    These were my top 2 reasons on what to change in the BC education system. I had more reasons, of course, but I found these were the most important (in my opinion), and what needs to change the most in order to get kids learning what they need to learn, and wanting to be at school, which if you think about it is the key.

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    • Moderator Angie says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Spencer. The BC Education Plan highlights the importance of more flexibility around how students are supported in their learning. Just like you, we think this is an important aspect to consider as we move forward.

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    • JL says:

      Spencer,

      You bring up some very good thoughts. I wanted to ask you if you think that it is a good idea to have all the kids try all the different learning methods, or is it better to choose the methods that seem to be working better for you.

      I also wanted to know if you thought it was a choice that you should make yourself or one that parents and teachers should control.

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      • Spencer says:

        I think we should all have a chance to try all of the different learning methods, to make sure we make the correct choice for ourselves, and to make sure we really learn the subject being taught to us. But as I said in my post, if there were smaller classes, and more teachers, the teachers would have time to go over all the different types of learning in that lesson. This would waste less time trying to figure out what learning method works best for the child, and what doesn’t work them.

        As for your second question, if the BC Education system went in the “choosing your own method” path, it should definitely be the child’s choice for the simple fact that they know exactly what works for them, and what doesn’t.

        Thanks for your questions!

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  16. Tammy Kaler says:

    I strongly agree with Dianne Rouck [see below].

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  17. Dianne Rouck says:

    I feel we need to teach students more about financing.
    This would include instruction on how to balance a bank book, how to write a cheque and the cost of using credit cards versus paying cash and the pitfalls of having too much debt.

    We also need to prepare students about purchasing a home, a vehicle and the cost of financing purchases.

    It would also be helpful for them to know how important it is to have a will as many people do not have one.

    In short…we need to teach more about “life skills” in order to better prepare students for life after school.

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  18. Siobhan says:

    Ensure kids whose parents aren’t engaged don’t fall through the cracks. It seems too easy for them to fall by the way side without the extra parental advocacy.

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  19. Simon Truelove says:

    The question suggests that a change in ‘the system’ is the best way to meet the variety of needs students have. No student really needs a system change as much as they need an actual caring human to offer help and guidance. Mostly, the system gets in the way of that relationship by imposing restrictive conditions. A good example of this is the amount of time some teachers have to spend doing testing and paperwork to justify the extra help needed by some students. This could easily be rectified by capping the funds available for special needs, targeting them towards particular areas, or populations and letting the school allocate within its walls as needed. Most families would be content to extend that much trust towards their local schools. The resources would be used far more effectively.

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  20. MizDub says:

    As a high school arts teacher, most of my classes are comprised of students in 4 grade levels, with a vast range of experience and talent, bonded together through the shared enjoyment of the learning content. The proposed individualized learning program is common within the “electives” courses. Teachers design assessment for the student, based upon their progress through the curriculum. We can be flexible with deadlines for learning demonstrations because we have the opportunity to personally connect with our students over 4-5 school years and there is no deadline for learning such as a provincial exam.

    Fewer, higher level learning outcomes make sense in programs structured this way. I wonder, however, what “rigorous province-wide assessment” measurement tools will be developed to properly assess the “key competencies like self-reliance, critical thinking, inquiry, creativity, problem solving, innovation, teamwork and collaboration, cross-cultural understanding, and technological literacy”? If there will be wide-scale province-wide testing at specific time points, isn’t that counter to individualized programs?

    I welcome the inclusion of technology into our classrooms: naturally, as in our homes and community. Access to functional equipment will be essential. I worry which areas of the budget will be shaved to pay for this significant investment? Will those areas fit the philosophy embedded within the key competencies?

    If I had constant access to a smartboard and installed projector, and a few tablets/laptops, they would be in constant use. Isolated computers in classrooms or labs in schools do not allow for natural use — a quick internet search; spell-check; agenda; etc. We need to encourage curiosity but we also need to be realistic about the potential for distraction. Equipment needs to be supported with software, maintenance, peripherals, and budget to buy resources suited for the technology.(on a practical note, more power outlets/charging stations will be needed… hard-wired.)

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    • Bev says:

      As a parent I too wonder about the practical issues that will arise. You made a comment about which areas of the budget will be cut in order to pay for new equipment. I was at a PAC meeting this week at my daughter’s elementary school. The PAC had raised a bit of money and had asked the teachers for a “wish list” of what they would like to see purchased for technology. They came back with a 3 year plan that totalled about $100,000.00. As a PAC we had around $20,000.00 to give them at that point and we had quite a discussion about exactly what should be purchased.

      The principal also indicated that they were most likely going to be going to a B.Y.O.D. (bring your own device) program and that whichever technology device that was planned for was going to be added to the school supply list. As a single parent I know for myself that I cannot afford to buy some sort of netbook, I Pad, or laptop computer for my daughter to bring to school, so I certainly hope that this is not going to be the new standard.

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      • R J says:

        Hi Bev

        In my opinion, PAC funds should be reserved for social and cultural opportunities not provided for within the education system. Teachers have withdrawn their voluntary support of PAC’s in fundraising, inclusive with their Job Action. It is my understanding that teachers feel community fundraising creates inequalities within the education system.

        I find it hard to believe that any teachers would be inviting PAC’s to purchase resources for schools.

        Perhaps, to support the needs of some students, the ministry might look at how fundraising is affecting the education system, and some students.

        One recommendation that I would make would be to disallow school resource to be purchased with funds raised by the community. Simply put, school resource is the responsibility of the Ministry to provide with Tax dollars.

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        • Corey V says:

          Great comment. As a teacher, I see the results of underfunding everyday. If any improvement is too happen, it cannot happen without proper funding. In fact, when I have asked about PAC funding for technology, I have been told that PAC funding is supposed to be be for extracurricular curricular activities and not teaching/learning resources.

          I strongly feel that public education must be funded.

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  21. W. Murphy says:

    The unique needs of the students are first identified by the administration, teachers and counsellors. In some cases outside counsellors are part of this stage. A dialogue with the parents and the students to implement the identified unique needs is then begun. Students must buy into the program if it is to be successful, especially if they are identified as “gifted.” Flexibility and ongoing adaptation are part of any program for unique students. Monitoring student progress is necessary to see if their needs are being met and they are indeed meeting identified learning goals. Adequate trained non-enrolling support staff is necessary for Learning Support students and other Special Needs students. Consulation with other teachers in the school, including non-enrolling teachers, for example, teacher-librarians, and the School District Consultants is important to develop programs that meet specific needs. Provincial Support Staff could also help in developing programs. Professional days could be used to meet these goals when Provincial Support Staff and the District Consultants meet with school/District teachers.

    The education of the teachers is important. The Ministry works with Departments of Education in the Universities of the Province to develop classes for teachers interested in teaching gifted, developmentally challenged, etc. Teachers are then hired on the basis of a match between their education and the needs of the unique students in the school. Ongoing education of teachers through Summer School and sabbaticals should be encouraged.

    Increased funding is necessary as are adequate facilities to serve the identified needs of the students. Every effort should be make to eliminate fiscal waste in School Districts. Spending in the Districts should be better monitored and the previous system of checks and balances should be reinstated, i.e., Districts get approval from the Ministry for projects over a certain amount.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. As you’ve described, developing programs to suit the unique needs of students takes planning and a coordinated effort, sometimes involving many people and agencies. We recognize this, and as we move forward with a personalized learning approach, we’re looking to everyone who is involved in these situations to offer constructive suggestions for how we can make it work successfully. We will also be working with the universities and teacher preparation programs to ensure that our new teachers are well versed in the ideas behind personalized learning and have the skills to enable and manage this sort of approach in their classrooms. Practicing teachers will have similar support.

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      • JL says:

        I agree. In order to determine if this new plan is successful we need to also determine ‘what success looks like’.

        Delivering teaching objective is not the same as educating.

        I am not sure what a good measure of a students education is. I hesitate to suggest exit exams as so many have disliked those in the past.

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  22. Milica Dedovic says:

    By not lying to people that they will receive money $ when they do the psycho-educational testing.

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  23. Jennifer Wolney says:

    Our Education system can support the unique needs of students – actual human beings interacting with each other in the same physical setting in a face-to-face manner – but the system needs help. To facilitate this help we need local bargaining (unique students = unique school districts) and adequate funding to school boards . Unique needs of students will not be met by having them involved with an electronic device such as a computer or a Blackberry and then, as indicated by the BC Education Plan, have teachers be, “guide, mentor, coach, context expert”. Where is the Teacher in that phrase ? In Matt Ross’s comments to the right, he recognizes the need for both ” mentors and teachers “. With the above mentioned improvements, Teachers are better supported to do what they do best – teach.

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    • Moderator Chrysstena says:

      We recognize the importance of teachers in the systems and we are going to be looking at ways to enhance the teaching experience for the teachers, as well as provide the learners with 21st Century Learning skills. Teachers are also guides, mentors, coaches and context experts and we want to be able to support them as much as we support the learners through the BC Education Plan. We do not have all of the answers and it is why we have created this forum for people to share. Please continue sharing your ideas. Have you thought about sharing this forum with your students or their parents? And providing them the opportunity to bring forward their ideas? We have teachers, schools and districts promoting this and we are getting great information from these class-led projects. Perhaps it is something you would consider doing?

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      • I think says:

        teachers need to be better trained and better at teaching and better to students, and not be mean. and we need to support teachers and other school staff I agree.

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  24. JL says:

    This sort of planning is wonderful but I can’t help feeling that it avoids asking the most important question(s).
    – What is wrong with the current system? –
    The most obvious answer that I can see is: Underfunding and lack of accountability.

    Why not look at results (you know: education levels of the students) rather than worrying whether they will learn better on a pillow or sitting at a computer screen. Those things are obvious and, in my mind, easy to achieve once the teacher is allowed to teach and measured by their teaching performance.

    If we aren’t willing to spend on education and we aren’t willing to measure the results this is just noise. And expensive noise at that.

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    • Moderator Chrysstena says:

      We are looking at ways of making a good system better. And we recognize that changes will need to be made within the funding model. It will be part of the process and the Ministry will take all comments into consideration, as we develop the BC Education Plan and move forward.

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      • Gayle Hernandez says:

        I’m concerned about your statement above that reads: “And we recognize that changes will need to be made within the funding model.”. Education needs funding re-instituted to previous levels. This is why teachers are in job action, for good reason. We used to have funding that allowed us adequate EA support, enough resource teachers to provide one-on-one support to struggling learners, and so much more. What we used to have has been stripped away.

        Without further funding we are, as a system, a sunk ship. RE-FUND!!! Put money behind your words. This is CRITICAL!

        I’m so tired of the political rigamarole that misrepresents what is actually being provided for our learners. What is being provided is *not* adequate and our government needs to stop pretending that the funding being presented *is* adequate. Stop trying to make it sound like due to teachers our children are not successful. Teachers cannot give their students what they need under current funding.

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  25. TC says:

    So far the plan questions seem to be focused on just the academics of schools. There is so much more to help a student to survive and excel in our society.

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    • Moderator Rebekah says:

      You have a valid point, TC. Through the creation of this blog, we are hoping to spark dialogue between all people interested making our education system become even better! By having several questions available each week, we are hoping to progress through a variety of topics. If you have suggestions for upcoming themes, topics or questions, I would encourage you to share them =)

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      • I think says:

        Rebekah have a upcoming theme about how should we protect students from teachers and other school staff who likes to bully, and how should we make schools more safe and less hostil for all students and even special needs students?

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Hi TC. One of the things we’ve emphasized in the BC Education Plan is the importance of teaching our students important competencies like environmental stewardship, local and global responsibility, critical thinking, and problem solving. These skills are interdisciplinary in nature and are important for our learners to have in order to succeed in the 21st century.

      The vision moving forward is to supplement the core academic requirements with these and other important competencies. Are there other things you think need to be emphasized?

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  26. TC says:

    Partner with the YM/YWCA to have more schools available from 6pm-11pm, weekends and summers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBS4-zjifA8 This video is exciting.

    Our schools have budget problems, our community needs more programs for kids after school and at night, weekends and summer. We pay for our schools with taxes. Schools should be community centres. Lets make our schools part of our community. Let’s keep our kids off the street corners with sports, recreation, arts, industrial arts programs. Let involve our parents and seniors as outlined in this video.

    If we want balance our community and school budgets, then lets innovate. What our students and our community need is more education including learning how to be good citizens.

    Ask the school leadership students if they are interested. I did and they are. A high priority was safe schools and communities and a high priority was more activities. We have $Billions invested in ours schools. Let’s use them more than 9 hours a day!

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    • Moderator Rebekah says:

      Hi TC,

      Some of what you are talking about is already happening in parts of the province. Some schools are becoming what we call Neighbourhood Learning Centres (NLCs), i.e., places where everyone can access multiple services in one location seven days a week, twelve months a year. You can read more about it on our Neighbourhood Learning Centres website. Moving forwards, creativity and innovation will help us get to where we want to go!

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  27. TC says:

    Ensure that children that are being bullied have a way to get help. Ensure that they are acknowledged as special needs children until the situation is dealt with and they are back into the system. The same goes for the bully, and the bully’s parent/guardian who also need to be considered as requiring special needs assistance so that they will not continue hurting others.

    Most people do not consider a bullied child a special needs child. This is wrong. in the BC government, a person that is harassed or bullied is provided counselling. The person who is bullied is given counselling and training. If it is a major offence, the whole office, building or ministry is given training and in some cases offered counselling.

    WHY do we have to wait until kids grow up and go to work before we help them properly. If bullying is stopped in K-12, then it should be much less likely to happen in government/business.

    Checkout my note about the New Brunswick Ministry of Education program to use special version of crimestoppers for schools. Kids need help, in many cases, initially anonymously, or they will not ask. I didn’t in grade 2 and I wish that I did.

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  28. TC says:

    When a child is bullied on a regular basis and it is allowed to continue by the school, the bully’s parents/guardian and the school board, the child becomes a special needs child very quickly.

    These children require counselling and other forms of assistance that in most cases they do not get and this results in more severe action.

    Children in school need a simple way to get help that will ensure that some form of action is taken to help the child being bullied as well as the bully and their parents or guardian. Without help, bullying escalates in various forms year after year with a combination of mental and physical abuse. This abuse can result in a child losing the desire to learn and to become a problem themselves.

    The Ministry of Education in New Brunswick has partnered with schools, parents, and students on incorporating a Special Version of Crimestoppers focused on Helping Children Requiring Help. Initial contact can be anonymous so that the child can have a two-way conversation over web and social media tools and then hopefully come forward and get my formal assistance. Without this form of help, bullying can silently change wonderful children into victims who may themselves in some cases lash back.

    Both the person being bullied and the bully need help. Having been bullied myself in grade 2 by a grade 3 over 50 years ago, I know from personal experience that our school children need help. I was hoping by now this problem would not be as bad, but it actually appears to be getting worse.

    The web and social media CrimeStoppers for Schools can help reduce bullying, drugs, vandalism and more, Checkout the New Brunswick program at http://www.crimenb.ca/en/scholastic-program http://www.crimenb.ca/en/tips http://www.crimenb.ca/apps

    We need to help students, teachers and parents to do the right thing. Who is willing to help? Will the PACs help? Will the Ministry and School Boards help?

    There are many ways to help stop bullying. Education, monitoring, good citizenship awards, mentor programs. CrimeStoppers for Schools is only one additional tool in a toolkit to help those that are too afraid to come forward. Kids in trouble need our help. Lets make our schools and community the safe place that it should be.

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    • Moderator Chrysstena says:

      These are really great links and your points are very clear. The Ministry of Education does take bullying very seriously and we are reviewing the current systems that are in place throughout the Province. Changes will be made to address the issues that you speak to and having people share comments and suggestions about this important subject will help us determine the best ways to help those learners in the system who are affected by bullying.

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  29. Tammy Kaler says:

    I think that alot more focus needs to be directed towards the special needs students in our province so that their chances of success in education are met,too! They probably have the most unique needs.

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    • Gayle Hernandez says:

      Tammy, thank you for your post!

      I *soooo* agree! I am a strong advocate of integration and fully/carefully meeting the needs of our children with ‘extra’ (aka ‘special’) needs.

      Unfortunately our Government is not currently funding support for these children adequately and this is a big part of the reason teachers are in job action at the moment.

      As a parent your voice counts a great deal. Please continue to speak and do so loudly.

      Thank you once again!

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  30. Marnie B. says:

    How can teachers and the education system as a whole support the unique needs of students if they don’t have time to get to know their students?

    Smaller class sizes and increased prep time would give teachers the time & energy to focus more on each student’s unique needs.

    I do like the government’s ideas about reducing the number of learning outcomes so that topics can instead be explored more deeply & diversely.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have faith that the government is willing to provide the increased funding necessary to improve our system. Whether it’s my ideas about traditional improvements like small classes and more prep time for teachers, or the Ministry’s ideas about increasing online learning & use of technology, both are going to cost more money. Either type of change will fail without adequate financial support.

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    • Moderator Rebekah says:

      Every journey begins with but a single step. By your participation in this forum, it makes me believe that you are open to at least walking this path a bit longer with us. Have a little faith and keep the dialogue coming. This is after all, all about the kids!

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    • Gayle Hernandez says:

      Thank you Marnie!

      Well said!

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  31. Julie Faye Parker says:

    We need to have classrrooms supported. If the Ministry folk could survey needs of teachers in the front line they would get a good picture. How hard is that to do? We are all on BCESIS so I don’t imagine this could be too difficult. We also all have our own email addresses. It is just that I don’t know where current data that is shaping this plan is coming from — and I personally have never seen a minister rep in my (big) school these last 6 years other than to meet with a principal. Come out to classes! Talk to kids! Get some Masters or Doctoral students involved in districts with cohort research on what kind of tech, for example, we are ALREADY trying to use.
    I think the spirit of using technology is totally timely. Many of us have been trying to make this happen already for years. I welcome and use the internet with students and do some interesting interactive, out of class learning — good for the kids who have access to technology at home. For example, for project work, two of my students (the only ones who had them) did a PREZI presentation for their synthesis project– on their laptops — demonstrated to class in a “gallery walk”. One of these students is learning disabled and she loved the empowerment! In the classroom, we don’t have enough of this to go around. For example, projectors. And I cannot even get supplies to use my old overhead anymore because it is “dead tech”. I use plenty of grouping, active learning, and interactive creative, critical thinking processes ; access to technology would expand things wonderfully. But not at the cost of individual student needs. We cannot siphon off anymore funding from schools. How will we pay for tech, for the upgrades required, and who can do the training involved in order to help everyone become comfortable? So my answer to this question, is do the research right and involve the classroom teachers in the needs and assessment discussion. Do a needs assessment, in other words. That’s how you find out “unique needs”. Province-wide.

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  32. R J says:

    I’ll sit on the other side of the fence, and propose a thought. Maybe some children like to be grouped with others of similar age? Did you ask them all?

    Some Questions
    Would you have different classes in Elementary (like Secondary) to group by ability of subject? Is this even appropriate? Stability has its role.

    Would this have an effect on the social and emotional portions of their education? It’s not all ABC’s and there may be more to consider than “academic prowess”, or lack thereof, in grouping as you discuss.

    I believe that “The Plan” could allow for academic pursuits based on prowess of individual students while maintaining an age based integration of core skills. Reduced curricula could allow time for a higher level of achievement in core skills, and/or time for guided pursuits of interests, and/or additional time to understand core skills, and/or time to be grouped with others of like ability. It seems to me it is about creating time to address the needs of the student outside the curriculum and to provide the resource to maximize the use of that time.

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    • Moderator Virginia says:

      Thanks, RJ, for your comments. I think we can all look back and remember when we were in school and in a classroom that suited our personality or needs, or when we were in a classroom situation that didn’t seem to be working out so well. Anyone who has or had children in school knows that kids care about which class or grouping they are with. Sometimes it’s okay to be a bit out of one’s comfort zone but other times it can negatively impact learning. It is indeed important to consider the social and emotional aspects as well as the academic realm.

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  33. LearnerLeader says:

    I truly believe that all adults involved in education need to be involved in learning themselves. Teachers need time, set aside as part of each day, to engage in a peer group of learners. These should not be random groups, and in fact with technology abilities could be cross-provincial, but we, as educators need to be actively involved with learning. It is difficult to understand the processes of learning unless we are engaged in learning ourselves. We need to take the pressure off of teachers to continuously be teaching, but instead of leading the learning for ourselves and others. We should emphasize mastery of skills and strategies instead of mastery of knowledge. We need to give our learners time to actually learn.

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  34. Special Ed says:

    Much smaller class sizes are needed in order allow teachers to give more individual attention to each student. Recognizing learning differences and developing individualized learning plans takes a tremendous amount of time and resources. Increased prep time for teachers will be needed. Purchase and upkeep of learning technology is expensive. More money will be needed to support this new system. While the 21st century learning plan sounds interesting, without the proper tools to implement this very worthwhile plan it will not be successful.

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  35. Tiffany Poirier says:

    Ask yourself, WHO deserves the best that an education system can offer? WHO are we personalizing for? WHO is included in this group and HOW are people included?

    I am always very inspired when I hear of teachers, students and parents discussing new ideas to improve “ACCESSIBILITY”–not as a box to be checked off, not as a political move, not as obligation, not as charity, and not only as an issue of justice and human rights…but also as a matter of INSPIRATION and BETTERMENT OF THE WORLD!

    We need to create an education system for students that is “without limits” so that their lives may also be “without limits”. Please, I urge you to consider what the inspiring story of Nick Vujicic can tell us. I was so moved by his words, his life path, and his message. I promise, how you feel and think about education WILL shift when you hear him speak:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hg7qyecUARE&feature=player_embedded

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQ0UFbU2tFU

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrV_ZvwZRvw&feature=related

    If we are inspired and have the will, creativity, vision and commitment, we can transform the education system both structurally and in the way we perceive it…and we must always be paying attention to our assumptions about whom education is for.

    What can we do to support, foster, and celebrate the dreams and goals of EVERY child in this province? Let’s continue looking to highlight the voices of students who may be marginalized in the current system and ensure that the future brings “personalizing learning” for all. In this province right now, we have thousands of amazing teachers doing a wonderful job supporting students with different needs and doing so in a personalized way. What advice could they share? I’m excited for these voices to take centre stage.

    Thank you for sharing…I have posted some other related links on my blog about Personalized Learning at http://www.personalizinglearning.com
    -Tiffany Poirier

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    • Moderator Virginia says:

      Thank you Tiffany for encouraging these discussions and for helping to bring all voices forward!

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  36. Bev says:

    I’m not in the education field, but it would seem to me that in order to support the unique needs of each student, that we may need to move away from simply grouping the children into classrooms simply based solely upon their age.

    I graduated high school in 1980, a year ahead of schedule, because I was able to skip grade 6. Ever since I had been in grade 1, teachers had spoken about “bumping me up” but no one did it. I was placed in “open area classrooms” where there were 3 different grade levels in the hopes that if I finished my grade 2 work early that I could then “listen in” on the grade 3 and 4 subjects. I was still bored with school. Finally my grade 6 teacher took my situation seriously and made the appropriate changes.

    It is my understanding that in today’s education system, this would not happen. A student who learns readily would not be bumped up and a student who has trouble learning would not be kept back. I can understand the rationale behind this policy, but I feel we need to find a different way to group the children whether that would be by abilities or learning style or some other format.

    If children were to be taught using a grouping system other than age, there would have to be a great deal of communication with parents so that the parents would feel comfortable with the new system. The majority of us have been brought up in the system where you started school at age 5 in kindergarten and went to grade 12 and were taught certain subjects, did tests, and received grades based on what you could remember. It is a system that we understand. Any changes to that formula makes people uneasy so no matter what changes are made, parents should be informed early on.

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    • Dr. Patricia Porter says:

      When I first taught in Vancouver I had a class made up of students from grades 5,6 and 7. I didn’t realize this was not the from in BC – I had recently emigrated from the UK.

      I loved it – and so did the students. Groupings were around ability rather than age and there was no stigma to a grade 7 child learning with a grade 5 child. Every child benefited from the experience of the others.

      I taught by grouping children and rotating the work they had to do. If one group needed a lot of input one day that is the group I worked with while other groups got on with project work or other things they had to do.
      Every child had to complete a certain number of tasks by day’s end and we always had a whole class session at the end of the day to check on this and handle complaints/excuses.

      I was lucky. I was trained in the UK in the 60′s and this type of group work came naturally to me – I was shocked when I first saw desks in rows and set timetables when I started teaching in Vancouver.

      Unfortunately, the UK system has changed and become much more prescriptive and less flexible. Children and teachers are suffering as a result.

      Small group teaching is not only easy to arrange- once you know how- it is fun for the whole class.

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  37. Sylvia says:

    I agree with Bruce Bearisto that “There are lots of proven practices within the educational community that can provide a palette of strategies but there is no one way to go at this so it will always come down to the professional expertise and ingenuity of teachers” especially when teachers are given time to work together. The one year that I was involved in an inquiry project with 2 other teachers at my school, and we were given coverage to meet several times within the school year and some of those times with one of our curriculum coordinators resulted in the most amazing ideas for how to deal with the diversity of student learning needs within a math unit. We can’t wait until we can again be given such time to “put our heads together” to come up with concrete ideas that will work for dealing with the divesity of student learning needs in another one of our units of study.

    I think we have to be careful letting students choose what they want to learn – as they may be closing doors or missing out on learning some valuable skill or content that they didn’t even know about.

    P.S. where are questions 1 to 3?

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    • Moderator Melanie says:

      Hi Sylvia – Questions 1 to 3 are located below Questions 4 to 6 on our “Engage” webpage. We received over 500 comments on the first set of questions and they are now closed to new comments. We posted new questions last week to keep the dialogue going. Thanks for your feedback!

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      • Dr. Patricia Porter says:

        Ooops!

        I keep telling parents to respond to question #3

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      • Leanne Brown says:

        It is interesting that you removed the questions after 500 posts. As you can see, it takes time to adequately assess and comment on so many responses. Please note how difficult it is to meaningfully read each individual’s unique ideas when you have so many students, er, respondents. I am a Science teacher and have 210 students. I routinely mark 210 lab assignments & tests that have many paragraph and essay questions. This far outstrips the 500 responses to your 3 questions so far. I am just curious, how many people do you have compiling the results of this survey? What kind of ratio does this represent? As this example illustrates, we can only work within our limited time and energy resources. Give teachers fewer students and they will have more time for each of them. That’s personalized learning.

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        • Moderator Chrysstena says:

          Hi Leanne – Questions 1-3 are still posted on the blog and although you can’t directly respond to them you can read the conversations that took place. You can comment, though, on the Questions 1-3 wrap-up, which is a compilation of the results of the first three questions. Please feel free to leave any comments referencing Questions 1, 2 and 3, here. And to answer your question, we have several staff members working on this blog and analyzing its results every day. We agree that it is going to take time to reach people and get more answers to these questions, but we also felt the importance of asking a different set of questions at frequent intervals to enhance this dialogue.

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  38. Cathy says:

    I think as much money as possible should be directed at the teachers and the resources for the elementary level children. Identification of learning styles and traits of struggling learners are best dealt with at the youngest age possible, before there is time for self esteem issues (or even behavioral issues) to develop. If there is diverse learning methods within a classroom right from the very beginning it will become the norm and children will become more understanding sooner.

    Multiple teachers should be in all elementary classrooms and jobshares should not be allowed unless one teacher is consistently in the classroom. Struggling learners and early learners need to have consistency.

    Adaptations across the curriculum should be made for children that are struggling. Specifically LD children should not be just receiving support with reading and writing, as reading and writing is in every subject…..even music. All teachers should be equipped to deal with having an LD child in their class, otherwise the LD child struggles almost everyday with something. Even if it is as simple as turning to the right sheet of music….when you can’t read the titles of the songs this can be overwhelming.

    LD children are usually gifted in an area such as math or music or things that include spatial analysis. Because our old system is so literally based (including the “math makes sense”) and rote learners are continually rewarded it can be intimidating for the LD children.

    Learning diversity needs to be supported and encouraged and we definitely need to do it as soon as possible by identifying learning styles as soon as possible!

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    • Dr. Patricia Porter says:

      I think that an understanding of learning styles is an important way to help teachers present information in a variety of ways.
      I also agree that if we can ‘catch’ learning problems in the early years we have a better chance of getting a child the help he or she needs.
      However, I know how long it can take for schools to go through the system to get the child assessed – often months or even years!
      So, parents need to know what they can do to help – maybe even before a child gets to school. Research shows that it is what parents do at home that accounts for up to 80% of a child’s success in school.

      Teachers can’t do it all. Parents need to know how they can support their child’s education in ways that work.

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  39. I think says:

    Teachers need to learn and school support workers too to have patience and how not to lose their patience. That’s how school bullying starts by the school staff sometimes. I got bullied and I hated it.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      We’re very sorry to hear about your experience. We strongly encourage all students who feel they’re being bullied to speak to a trusted adult, a teacher, or a parent and ask for help. Speak up – you have a right to be safe and free from threats or intimidation.

      The Ministry has also created a number of resources related to bullying and school safety. Please visit our Safe, Caring and Orderly Schools page for more details.

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      • I think says:

        school staff lie to get out of being in trouble when they know they did something wrong/ so we need a lie dedcitor test and this was my experience. in public schools that are owned by the bc government.

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  40. Joan says:

    I think you need to include non-teachers in the formal development of your plan. This process is fine where you are engaging the public but the formal process of changing the curriculum must include non-teachers and more men. The problems with our current education system have existed for decades and yet teachers have not fixed them for various reasons. It is time to formally engage
    non-teachers.

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    • Angie says:

      at Joan. I’m curious why you feel that teacher’s are the one’s who are responsible for the problems in the current education system. For example, teachers have been fighting for 10 years to be able to control how many students are put in a classroom and how many students with special needs are grouped in that classroom…and how much support they get for students with special needs. If left to government there would be unlimited class sizes and unlimited composition – without teachers fighting this you could expect a teacher to be dealing with a class of 37 and 8 students with special needs without any additional classroom support. Yet, teachers do deal with these scenarios because they are forced to by government funding cuts…teachers are constantly professionally updating and learning new techniques for effectively teaching a classroom of diverse learners…yet you claim, teachers are the bad guys…perhaps you can explain how non-teachers and men are better able to know how to educate the minds of our province than people who have been trained in child development; professionals who understand and apply every day; social, physical, and brain development, educational psychology, learning disabilities, differentiated instruction, sound assessment practices, to name but a few…I think we need to be very careful about who are claiming to be the experts and what is the real political agenda in this new Education Plan. I think the education system could support the unique needs of students by having smaller class sizes and more support for students with special needs.

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      • Joan says:

        Many articles have been written and studies done concerning boys being left behind because the current system is geared towards girls learning. I think much of this is in the control of teachers and education leaders. We have had decades of this yet no specific action plan to address it. We need to take a fresh look and that often means bringing in people without a prior bias. As far as engaging men, I believe this is important because we need a balance in the approaches used. Unfortunately I have lost confidence in many teachers due to most demands having to do with more wages and items such as time off for knowing someone who is sick. Personally I would like to see much more education privatized but still regulated.

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        • Moderator Chrysstena says:

          Do you have suggestions on how we can put some processes into place that would enhance the way that boys learn? Would you care to share some of the articles you refer to?

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  41. R J says:

    Re the Plan: By having the curriculum built around fewer but higher level outcomes, this plan gives teachers and students more time and flexibility to explore student’s interests and passions.

    Re Clare: Because there’s no way an educator can design a lesson plan to suit every student’s abilities, the best solution is to have the students construct, to an extent, their own lesson plans and then see where they go from there

    Re Gordon: not one size fits all

    Re Bruce: classroom curriculum has to be as broadly enabling as possible

    Sounds like….. having a curriculum that guides children to Advanced Learning in multiple outcomes with a higher level of achievement in the skills necessary to support their education. Understanding the unique needs of students incorporates the realization that their passions and interests are broad, and we need to guide towards what is appropriate for each child, while creating a solid foundation.

    re Bonnie: Was that a rage post Bonnie? It is important to have others, aside from teachers, involved.

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    • Sylvia says:

      Hi RJ,

      You said, “By having the curriculum built around fewer but higher level outcomes, this plan gives teachers and students more time and flexibility to explore student’s interests and passions.”

      However, my Home Economics experience as a classroom assistant in a middle school tells me that the expectation of the curriculum is way too high.

      The first year of the middle school was G-6, and the students were to learn to use the sewing machine from the very beginning. I saw a girl was almost trembling in front of the machine. She definitely showed the “passion” to learn, but I am sure that she had never seen such the machine before. And many others were in the same situation, didn’t even have one at home. I saw, after three years of middle school Home Ec education, not many even had the “concept” of just threading the machine.

      I asked the teacher, “what is the necessity for the kids to learn to use the machine, why can’t they learn from hand sewing, knitting, embroidering, making small things like handkerchiep, pillow sham, etc. by hand?”

      She said, “I know I know I do my best to include this and that but I have to meet the curriculum.”

      This class had over 30 machines, including two sergers to finish the edges and one embroidery machine.

      This is not just the curriculum was two “high”, but also allocation of the resources gone awry.

      I think that the curriculum, in the Home EC case, is killing both, the teacher and the students.

      You also said, “we need to guide towards what is appropriate for each child, while creating a solid foundation”.

      I am wondering, what this “solid foundation” would mean. A solid foundation for what?

      Please answer my question.

      Thank you.

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  42. Gayle Hernandez says:

    I would like to suggest that for our system to get better we restore funding to our classrooms and schools.

    When I began teaching 18 years ago there was much more adequate funding which enabled teachers to much more fully meet the needs of our learners.

    To cite just one example, our children with extra (aka ‘special’) needs recived one on one SEA support much more readily. This support is required to fully support our special needs learners.

    ESL and resource teacher time was also more abundant in schools, and these teachers were able to spend much more time actually working with children to help those struggling learners gain the skills they desperately require.

    In schools today this precious time and support is dwindling. Schools are facing an influx of children with greater needs than I saw when I began my work, and with funding cutbacks, I am able to do less and less – not because I am not skilled or do not work hard enough (I have a Masters degree and work at least 8 hours a day in my class as well as on weekends), but because I am not given the in class and resource support I need to do my very best work.

    Professional development also needs to be funded properly for teachers to be able to do their jobs to their best capacity. To be really good at what they do, teachers need ongoing training. And, it is my experience that professional development is most powerful when it is teacher driven and not a top-down initiative. Yes, we have the occasional teacher who needs to be ‘watched’ and directed, but this is not true for the majority. On the whole, we have highly dedicated and professional people running classrooms all over the province. We also have teachers who care deeply about the children in their care and who will stop at nothing to make their students successful. Teachers know what to do to support learners – they just need more support and resources to make it happen.

    When it comes to curriculum and deciding what needs to be taught and when, it is the teachers in the classrooms who have their hands on the pulse of this information – they live with the children every day and know the issues most important to child development. To make a better education system we need to empower master teachers and let them continue to develop curriculum. This can’t be a top-down directive. BC has been one of the top provinces in the world for many years and this has not been by accident – it is a testiment to our teachers working in classrooms as well as teachers who have authoured curriculum.

    While technology is a very important peice in the education equation, it is expensive. Without increasing funding to our schools I can’t see how schools will find the funds to purchase the equipment needed to make this apparent upcoming mandate as successful as we need to be. Like all areas of education, tech ed needs good teachers to instruct. And, with funding cutbacks, we don’t have the same number of teachers we used to.

    I’d like to suggest that before we go spending millions of dollars on tech equipment, we restore the funding to where it used to be so we can re-hire our SEA and support staff. I worry our system is about to break. It can’t be run without adequate funding!

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    • R J says:

      Re: This can’t be a top-down directive.

      In my opinion, we are in a top-down system with the illusion of bottom up support.

      How, can a Principal state that their classrooms are “Appropriate for Student Learning” while requesting additional resource.

      Principals are burdened with responsibility while placed in a conflict of interest. It is “Appropriate for Student Learning with what is provided directly to the Principal for their classrooms”

      Presumptive Deference in what is Appropriate for Student Learning is only applied to whether they can make it work, not whether they require more! This results from a conflict of interest, and lack of support for a bottom-up direction in consultation with parties responsible for educating our children.

      I suspect as well, that there are flaws in the foundation of “Appropriate for Student Learning” based on inequalities from school to school. Perhaps a more clearly defined expectation for districts in this determination is needed.

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      • Richard Ajabu says:

        You said, “we are in a top-down system with the illusion of bottom up support.”

        Well said.

        It is painfully ironic that the majority of our education dollars goes toward employing the best, brightest, highly educated and skilled education professionals we can find, and then we go about micromanaging them and otherwise underutilizing them. It’s a frustrating waste that I hope will change. We need to leverage our valuable human resources better.

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        • Gayle Hernandez says:

          As someone on the receiving end of the ‘micromanaging’ you allude to I’d like to respond. You are absolutely right – it *is* frustrating!

          I LOVE my job and pour my heart and soul into it daily. When I read and/or listen to the media my heart regularly sinks – deeply – particularly during these times of job action when we stand up to do what we can to ensure our students get all the support they need.

          Trust me – this might be hard for some of you readers but I’ll ask you to try.

          If teachers didn’t bellow no further funds would be put in place to support our well deserving students. We may sound like we whine but at the end of the day the intent is for the children we teach. I’ve been in the Education system long enough to *know* that if teachers didn’t take a stand no money would ever go into Education in our province. Have any of you ever heard of a Government putting money behind education if it didn’t need to?

          Enough said on this point.

          I could say many more things on this topic which would come from a place of frustration (which sometimes turns to anger) but choose not to. There is simply no point in doing so. Nobody likes a whiner, and I’d prefer not to be ‘tuned out’ by the audience I would very much like to consider my views. I think it is better to lead by example so here goes my attempt:

          Deep breath… breathing out…

          I’ve been an Educator for 18 years – 16 of these years in Kindergarten. I am at the forefront of the education system daily and have the privilege of being the first teacher families meet. I take this role very seriously as I am acutely aware of the important significance of this role.

          Based on a combination of my experience and years of keeping abreast of research (during my ECE Masters education and through regular readings), there is no contesting the importance of Early Intervention. So we (aka me, my colleagues, and on more formal occasions me and my school based team) sit and talk regularly – on the phone after school, in classrooms, in the staff room during lunch and recess, as well as in formal meetings. We regularly discuss strategies and attempt to get creative about how we are going to be able to meet the needs of the precious wee ones sent to us daily. This ‘stuff’ is very important to us as it goes to the heart of student success, and *this*, readers, is what we care about most – no matter what the cost, financially or where our time and effort is concerned.

          Our conversations are *always* thoughtful. Resourceful. Hopeful.

          Our conversations comprise first of a wish list (since we believe in starting with the biggest possibilities that have no limits) and after that we look at what is possible, given the time and resources given to us.

          When we get to the reality peice, (aka what is truly possible) our hope tends to dwindle due to a lack of resources and support.

          The conversations are (sadly) never good enough, though – at least not good enough to be able to deliver the best we know we *could*, if we had the resources we need to make possibility turn to reality.

          It is my wish that out of this job action comes a restoration of funding to our school system, which from my perspective is in crisis right now.

          Respectfully,

          Gayle Hernandez

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          • Moderator Virginia says:

            This discussion forum is a place to share your “wish list” then together we can prioritize and find ways to make change happen. Stay hopeful!

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            • Gayle Hernandez says:

              Thank you moderator Virginia,

              My ‘wish list’ is for funding lost to schools be re-instated so we can re-hire resource teachers as well as education assistants. This would allow teachers and assistants to get back to supporting struggling and extra needs students one on one in the same way they were able to do before funding cutbacks.

              Reinstating funding would also allow teachers to do the professional development at the same level of quality they used to.

              This funding would in addition allow schools to keep class sizes small and the number of children with special needs capped in each classroom.

              Since funding cutbacks there are too many needs for one teacher to cope with. This greatly deteriorates the opportunity for quality learning.

              Once the funding is reinstated we can institute the amazing ideas being shared on this site and then we can *really* make a difference!

              Teachers are overall exceptional at what they do but can’t do it without being given the support and tools they need.

              Thank you so much.

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    • Sylvia says:

      Well stated Gayle Hernandez. You said the same points I would have.

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  43. Richard Ajabu says:

    One way our education system can support the unique needs of students better is by more fully utilizing the resources that we have available.

    For example, online tools similar to this website allow for the emergence of a virtual community in which everyone can participate simply because it is more convenient, accessible and affordable than face-to-face meetings. It is significantly more challenging for a busy family to schedule and prepare for live, face-to-face parent-teacher meetings, PAC meetings, DPAC meetings, school district committee meetings, school board meetings, etc than it is to participate in an online virtual community.

    Online virtual communities like this website are asynchronous in nature so that anyone can participate whenever it is convenient for them (like after their children are asleep, etc). That is one of the significant strengths of tools like this and that strength should be leveraged, not hobbled.

    So I am scratching my head at why discussion was closed for the first three questions on this website yesterday at 4pm. If this website will be open until the end of the year, then simply allow commenting on ALL the questions until the end of the year. Why close commenting on a question before the end of the project?

    It is unnecessary to limit public input now, and such action will only be perceived with suspicion (something of which we already have too much in the BC education community). It is easier to simply leave all the questions open for commenting until the last day of this project (the end of the year or whatever date it will be…and I strongly suggest that the end date be made very clear to all users of this website if it will not be maintained as a permanent resource).

    One of the main advantages of this type of technology is its asynchronous nature; this technology can allow citizens to participate whenever they have the time and whenever they think they have something to offer. There is no need to control the conversation on this forum like you might need to do if you were hosting a live, face-to-face meeting (a synchronous meeting).

    If anything, add even more questions to this website and encourage more participation. Don’t unecessarily limit the power of this technology, utilize it! Less than that makes the project look more like political spin doctoring and less like a genuine attempt to have authentic dialogue and collaboration.

    Allow citizens to decide for themselves which questions they want to respond to, and when/if they want to respond. Some people may choose to read through the questions & comments, ponder them offline for a while, and then respond at a later date if/when they have something to contribute. That’s a good thing! The problems facing our education system are large and complex so it only seems wise to allow time for reflection and response.

    So, again, I suggest that the end date for this project be made very clear to all users of this website, and that this technology be better utilized by keeping all the questions on this website open for comment for the entire duration of the project so that more citizens will have an opportunity to participate and contribute.

    I think that we will have more success answering the questions posed on this website and ultimately improving our education system by more fully utilizing the resources that we have.

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    • Dr. Patricia Porter says:

      I soo agree….

      Why are questions being closed when there are people wanting to answer them?

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    • Gayle Hernandez says:

      Thank you Richard! I agree… it would be nice to be able to continue to respond to the same questions and not have them cut off.

      I value the opportunity to provide my feedback a great deal and I also value very much the opportunity to read and respond to comments from people not only inside the system, but also outside of the school system. I am always richest when informed about the issues and concerns being put forth by parents, students, and other tax payers. I adjust my practice regularly based on this feedback, as do most other educators I work with. The multiple voices are important and need to be heard. If my practice is not working, it needs to be adjusted. Either that, or I need to become better at communication. My job requires me to be reflective as well as responsive and I try my best to do both these things – always.

      I am also delighted that the Ministry is asking for this feedback – I am hoping that the collective voices will be listened to and heard – all of it – and not just the feedback that is convenient to hear and that supports a political agenda.

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  44. Sherry says:

    The education system will require major changes related to the philosophy of “what” is education for all children. One significant concern is that the “grade” system based on chronological age does not accommodate the range of cognitive abilities or disabilities reflected in the population of students. A significant change would require reqular standardized assessments that identified both student abilities and challenges. Then, students could be grouped and taught at the level of their skills to whatever level they could achieve during the school year. While the School Act indicates the job of school is to develop literate citizens, there is no accountability for the individuals who have cognitive abilities in the bottom quartile or who have learning differences that prevent them from acquiring skills incidentally. The concept of “inclusion” needs to be analysed and it should be recognized that sitting in a class where you do not understand the language of instruction or do not have the reading ability or math ability to do the tasks will not teach literacy nor does it lead to “inclusion”. Inclusion is an attitude not a physical place and educators can create an inclusionary environment that allows for all students to both be successful and to feel successful but that cannot happen with the current model that pretends that attending a chronologically same classroom is “education for all”.

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  45. Clare L. says:

    In an ideal world, every student would have their own specialized learning plan that they could follow through their school years, and would be able to meet regularly with a teacher or counselor to discuss their goals and progress. This is, unfortunately, far from realistic. On top of being impractical, it is also not necessary. Most students have similar if not identical learning needs, and so individually creating ten learning plans that are all almost-perfect copies of each other doesn’t make sense.

    It would be nice, however, if within a classroom students had a choice of what they wanted to learn. In English class, my favourite unit was always our novel study because I could choose what I read, rather than having to conform to what the teacher had decided was best for the rest of the class. From personal experience, I can say that being able to choose what I studied made me much more interested in the topic and more likely to keep learning about it long after the lesson had passed.

    As an example, let’s pretend that a science teacher is supposed to make a lesson plan about the structure of an atom. With BC’s current education system, he teaches the same level of material to students with disparate abilities. Some of them probably already know what he’s going to teach, and will tune out for the entire class. Others will have no idea what he’s talking about, and will be utterly confused throughout the lesson.

    A better option, then, would be to have the teacher let each student decide what s/he wanted to study. For instance, the top students in the class may choose to read about spectroscopy or atomic orbitals while the weaker students would learn about an atom’s constituents. Because of the numerous resources available to students online, from government databases to tutorial websites like Khan Academy, the teacher could offer the students a list of recommended websites that students would be able to find material for that was at their level.

    Because there’s no way an educator can design a lesson plan to suit every student’s abilities, the best solution is to have the students construct, to an extent, their own lesson plans and then see where they go from there.

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    • AT says:

      I agree with your comments Clare. As a science teacher I face this situation on a daily basis. The problem with technology is threefold.

      1. We don’t have enough. This new plan MUST be funded properly.

      2. What we do have often goes down. That means I must have something else ready to go, or the class will just be sitting and waiting.

      3. We have a lot of vandalism in our school. How do we combat that? Our computer lab is not fully functional. Despite my eagle eyes, as soon as I go to a computer to help one student, my eyes are off the others. It is very frustrating.

      Also, even if new technology is funded, where will all the equipment go? Will all of my students get iPads? I know of a district that gave all students laptops in one or two grades. They had so much trouble with vandalism and students not caring that they had to scrap the program.

      The idea is good. The implementation does not appear to be fully thought out yet.

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  46. Gordon says:

    Our factory model education system is better designed to rank and sort, conveyor belt style, according to grade, course and semester than to immerse students in learning in a deep, reflective way. Those widgets, namely students, that don’t really fit into being processed in this timely way for the system are reclassified or labelled as all sorts of things that have impacts on their lives.
    Most of us already have been ‘branded’ by the system as A’s, B’s, C+’s, or Lord forbid, an F person. More recently, we have created another labeling system as the first one had problems…now we call it Individual Education Plan (IEP), or for those not fitting that configuration, Student Improvement Plan (SIP) and use letter grades that reference other levels of learning – becomes confusing for many. These are all people made concoctions that construct realities for students and their parents. Many of us take a long time to recover our personal identity and confidence from what the system has bestowed upon us as our image of ourselves and our human potential.
    The factory model we run operates on the premise ‘one size fits all’. Everything is duct taped, shoe horned or otherwise an appendage of conforming to ‘the’ bureaucratic system. In most school districts, integration at the elementary level, regardless of needs and challenges, means putting the student in a large class of diverse learners and dropping as much educational assistant time as you can, if possible, in there. That system of ‘one size fits all’ in attending to unique needs is bankrupt and highly inefficient if not ineffective. We can’t afford that model unless society wants to invest more in education. That does not appear to be the case.
    Society, as well as the education system, can support the unique needs of students by having opportunities for parents to have high quality early learning child care and support for families according to the research of Dr. Fraser Mustard (very recently deceased) before they even reach school age. When they reach school age each child takes on a ‘medical chart’ or ‘learning chart’ of objectives tailored to their respective needs and progress is addressed according to such a format. A range of supports and programs – not one size fits all – needs to be offered by the education system to these students. A diagnosis should not specify a particular program as different programs work for different folks. Some students, for example, with autism can negotiate a regular classroom with modest supports with success…others cannot function in it as the class environment is too difficult to cope with.

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    • Angie says:

      @ Gordon. I agree. I just want to clarify that I believe you are not saying that every student would decide “what” they are learning but instead you are referring to “how” they would learn. That is, that students have unique needs and some students need more support than others.

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  47. Reece Jorgensen says:

    Provide individual Schools/Districts the ability to determine, and respond to the needs of all children early in their education. Provide a solid foundation, based on collaboration, in the determinations of what is “Appropriate for Student Learning”. Provide Presumptive Deference in what is Appropriate for Student Learning only to a school community in full collaboration of all the parties responsible for the education of our children. Empower Schools in the authority of response to need. Support and nurture School Communities in the cultivation of Advance Student Learning.
    And,
    Foster the equality needed based on the challenges of individual schools, so that no school, no child, is ever left behind.

    Reece.

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  48. Bruce Beairsto says:

    Since the second principle of learning correctly notes that every student is unique, this question is much bigger than “special needs” so the classroom curriculum has to be as broadly enabling as possible and the notion of a “universal design for learning” (see http://www.cast.org/udl/) is a good place to start this conversation. The question is how we can approximate this ideal within the context of the batch processing design of schools. Of course smaller classes would be helpful but as long as the starting point is classes of some size the basic question will be how to design curriculum that supports various ways to engage with, process and express the content. There are lots of proven practices within the educational community that can provide a palette of strategies but there is no one way to go at this so it will always come down to the professional expertise and ingenuity of teachers.

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    • Jan S. says:

      To follow up Mr. Beairsto’s comment about proven practices within the educational community:

      Effective teachers, throughout the ages, have known that, first and foremost, they must capture the attention and imagination of their students. They have done this by helping students connect with the learning, being responsive to the students’ contributions and reactions, breaking down units of learning into manageable parts that students can master, by designing lessons that are developmentally appropriate, regardless of what curriculum dictates, and by communicating with students about their progress. Teaching is both art and science and, like any craft, requires time, practise, and reflection to master.

      In contemporary terminology, this is called “engagement”. Much of what constitutes the craft of teaching remains the same. However, as the Minister of Education indicates, current research in many fields has yielded insights into how to increase student engagement and learning.

      For example, brain research and neurology have yielded information about how the brains processes stimuli and the role that novelty, prediction, emotional state, and incremental success has on learning. Information on this topic can be found at the website:
      http://www.ascd.org/professional-development/webinars/judy-willis-brain-and-learning-webinars.aspx?utm_source=willis-april-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=willis-webinar-archive

      Universal Designs for Learning and Backwards Design of Curriculum Planning are contemporary pedagogical models for effective instruction. An explanation of these models can be found in the work of Faye Brownlie and Leyton Schnellert:
      All abt Thinking.pdf,
      http://youtu.be/Tp1Vp4GYcN4

      Researchers at Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) have identified nine instructional strategies that are most likely to improve student achievement across all content areas and across all grade levels. These strategies are explained in the book Classroom Instruction That Works by Robert Marzano, Debra Pickering, and Jane Pollock. Link to the website:
      http://www.middleweb.com/MWLresources/marzchat1.html

      In recent years, the field of education has been enriched by research into effective instructional practice. Having said this, it is important that teachers have opportunities to absorb and master new practices in a way that is supportive and respectful. It is in everyone’s interests to increase the professional knowledge and practices of classroom teachers. However, teachers need to be supported, not only in their professional development, but also in ensuring the teaching environment is manageable for them and appropriate for student learning. Class sizes, numbers of IEP’s, supports for student having special needs are all factors which need to be addressed also.

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      • Angie says:

        @Jan, thank you for your wonderful insights. All of the fabulous resources you shared really highlights how important the experience and expertise of a teacher is to the education of children as well as how much education, experience and expertise most teachers have. I think that one of the best ways to support the unique abilities of our students is to support the unique abilities our teachers…allow them to continue to enhance their professional growth and have the respect for their professionalism that they know what their professional growth should look like. Learning is lifelong…

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  49. Jan S. says:

    Is the question really, “How do we support the needs of “unique” students?”, which really asks how we support “atypical” learners. This would include low incidence students such as special needs (ie: autistic, chronic health, hearing/vision impaired, etc.) and high incidence students (learning disabled, English Language Learners, students identified with mental health or behavioural issues, etc.). Please clarify what the question asks in terms of “unique needs of students”. Thank you.

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    • Moderator Chrysstena says:

      The question refers to supporting the needs of all learners as individuals and is not specific to any type of learner. Does this answer your question?

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  50. Joan says:

    -Education needs a gender balance among teachers and education leaders. Currently there is too much of a female bias.

    -Parents need choices, like the charter schools in Alberta or the ‘free’ schools in Britain.

    -classrooms and/or schools need to be gender specific so that curriculum can be taught in the ways boys and girls learn.

    - we need pay for performance for teachers and the elimination of seniority so that our best teachers are employed

    - the education system has ignored our boys for decades. We need an agenda specific to addressing this issue. Even this introductory video is female-dominated.

    -we need to include non-teachers in the development of the new curriculum. Teachers have had decades to make changes, yet have not, so perhaps they are too close to the situation. Let’s ask
    Salman Khan (KhanAcademy.org) and others like him for their input. Ask and LISTEN and CHANGE.

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    • L. Tooker says:

      “Joan” seems so sure that teachers have not made changes to the way they develop curriculum — which is not a valid point. Perhaps she is referring to curriculum delivery? If so, it is a straw man argument also used throughout the education plan to pillory teachers. Most teachers are using modern strategies to deliver curriculum, as well as tried-and-true strategies. It all depends on what is appropriate for the students and the setting in which they are learning. If she is indeed suggesting that non-educators could develop curriculum, who would she suggest could do that: businesses who want to market “packaged” materials? I do not think this would meet the other goals of personalized learning.

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    • Bonnie says:

      -RE Female BIAS: why is that? Not true at the senior levels? Where is your data?

      -Parent choice: I support public education with my tax dollars. I do not support supplementing other people’s private tuition.

      -Classroom composition: They can’t even compose classrooms that currently support students with special needs. Reality: budgets won’t support a class with only 10 children of one gender.

      RE Best teachers: What about rating best principals and superintendents. No one ever talks about the incompetent management who doesn’t do the reviews of teachers, is not a Master teacher themselves or has false credentials.

      Gender Communication Bias: It is better to teach the recognition of such bias and have people learn to question it.

      RE: non-teachers in the development of the new curriculum. Reality: teachers may develop some IRP’s but often non-teachers in government over rule them and the IRP’s are often unmanageable.

      SEE the movie Schooling the World to see what happens when non-teachers get involved. It ends up that curriculum is designed to make better consumers rather than critical thinkers.

      Others involved: right. Only if they have more education than the average teacher about learning and brain development too.

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      • Moderator Chrysstena says:

        Do you have suggestions as to the kinds of things you feel would make the education system better in BC? How do you feel we could transform things in a collaborative way?

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        • Michele says:

          I am an occupational therapist who works with the 0-6 year population and within the school setting. I am a parent of 2 teenage children who have been involved in the public school system, homeschooled and the private school system. I am also involved in creating independent study courses for those who are in the equestrian field so that they receive credit for their work as athletes. With all of my hats I see that curriculum teachers need to have a firm base in child development knowledge in all areas including gross motor, fine motor, concept formation visual perceptual skills in order to understand and teach to each students needs. Many students are entering school without the basic foundations of development that we excpect them to have when they enter school. Children need to be in classes matched to their abilities. Socially they are happier when they are with peers who are more like them instead of stuck into a melting pot. We have proven in our districts that expecting teachers to have individual plans for each student is not possible within our current classroom style.There are not enough hours in the day. Preschools work tremendously better when there are 2 teachers in the class with the same responsibilities. Just a thought. I also believe that funding should follow the student. Why do private schools and home schooled parents get only a portion of money alloted to public school children? Are they not worth as much? I realize that small rural schools would not have all the lab equipment and things that large schools could afford, but who’s to say with computers and ingenuity they couldn’t exlore subjects just as richly. More dollars does not always mean richer education. When I homeschooled I had $1000 per child from the government and was able to provide a very rich environment with maybe $500 more. This included music lessons, sports and basic academics. Often the community can provide cheaper courses that are far more superior to classroom learning as the instructors are more specialized in the topic. If the money went with the student they could choose what they wanted to learn with perhaps stipulations that the basics of reading, writing and math were covered. Michele

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          • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

            Hi Michele. My apologies for the slow response. Independent schools serve a diverse range of students, communities and interests, including First Nations schools, Montessori, Waldorf, university preparatory, faith-based schools, special education, and many others. We appreciate the contributions that each of these schools makes to our society, so we’re happy to provide them a base amount of funding. The reason why it isn’t more is complex, but at the core it comes down to freedom. Limited funding allows these schools to maintain more autonomy and to make certain key decisions that they could perhaps not make if they received funding equivalent to the public school system. In fact, many schools have specifically asked that the funding formula not change so that they are able to operate with a high degree of independence. The same approach applies to home schoolers.

            Does this answer your question?

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          • R J says:

            re: Socially they are happier when they are with peers who are more like them instead of stuck into a melting pot.

            So, diversity is a bad thing? I’m sorry, I don’t buy this argument. I know I’m twisting the interpretation, but its to make the point that diversity in academic prowess might not be as bad as it seems. I’m sure its harder to teach, but is that the only consideration? We try to integrate in this society, its a good thing. We integrate children of all different needs and now we suggest the opposite. Segregate by ability. What are the implications of your suggestion to some special needs children grouped by ability? Or the just not so smart kids. It should really only take about 1 minute in thought to travel this road and realize it is a dead end people.

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        • Joan says:

          I think we should look at the charter schools (part of public school system) that Alberta is using. This has improved the quality of all schools due to competition (the non-charter schools were losing students and so had to become better schools.)

          We need to find a way to get rid of teachers who are not good teachers and employ those who would be great teachers but are waiting to find jobs.

          We need to offer more choices (which charter schools could do) by offering gender specific classes or schools and also schools that focus on certain areas, whether arts, outdoors, environment, etc., so that students can be more engaged at school.

          I do not know the stats but I am guessing that teachers are 80% female. We need more men because they offer a balance in curriculum and have more in common with half of the schools ‘customers’, i.e., the boys.

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          • R J says:

            re: We need to find a way to get rid of teachers who are not good teachers

            That comment is about as laughable as getting rid of students who are not good students.

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            • FB says:

              …or as laughable as getting rid of parents who are not good at parenting.

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              • Dr. Patricia Porter says:

                Why don’t we try to help them all instead of just getting rid of them? I thought that is what education was all about?

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          • I think says:

            yes we sure do need to find a way of getting rid of bad teachers. do a lie dedictor test and they can’t lie. and make the teachers and school staff follow the professional code of conduct.

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          • AT says:

            How do you define a ‘good teacher’? Does it depend on student opinions? On class achievement? If so, I’m out of my rural, disadvantaged school. Some students don’t like to do assignments, some don’t like a topic, and shift that to the teacher. Some skip class regularly. Some of my students have drug and alcohol addicted parents. My school is well below provincial averages in family income and parent education levels. It is above in drug and alcohol abuse. Despite taking extra pro-d and trying all kinds of new assessment techniques, developing engaging lessons, and trying (but failing) to meet everyone’s needs, the level of achievement in some of my classes is abysmal. Should I be fired?

            Also, some teachers don’t demand much and pass all of their students. Are these the ‘good teachers’? The parents and students think so. You have to be very careful of how you go about this.

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          • AT says:

            Smaller class sizes will be required to look after everyone individually. Technology, education assistants, and resources must be available before going ahead. I’d love to see students on individual plans, but I’ll need time to properly monitor, help, and assess students. Also, what about students who are not motivated to learn? To say that everyone will be is not facing the reality that no matter what teachers do, there are always some who are resistant to learning.

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  51. I think says:

    a good teacher would be caring and helps their students and is very friendly and does not bully.and gets along with students just like the governments safe caring and orderly plan is about.

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  52. I think says:

    on the bc teachers fedration website it says The teacher speaks and acts toward students with respect and dignity. and if they don’t do that then the bad school staff member is suspened or fired. it should be made in consultation with the bc teachers union and the bc government. please protect all students from teachers and school staff who like to bully and get away with it.

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  53. I think says:

    have hallway monitors in all public schools that are students and volunteers, and they make sure no one gets bullied by anyone. and they make sure there is no volience. and they have a walki talki to talk to the school office.

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  54. I think says:

    parents need to be involved in the education of their children with special needs and without too. and parents should be advoactes for their children with special needs. and I answered Joan about we need to get rid of bad teachers and what is a good teacher.

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  55. I think says:

    I have another idea that might work better then a lie dedctor test Joan. put video cameras in classrooms mostly in special ed classes because people with special needs are the most venerable and need to be protected.

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  56. I think says:

    students have rights too in school. they have a right to be respected and treated with care and not be abused. parents install video cameras for babysitters why not for teachers and school staff who bully. and I am sticking up for students and I am an advoacte for them. teachers have rights too teach and be treated nicely by their boss. we need great teachers. great idea and great system then. we have too way the cons.

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