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 “ Meeting the unique needs of students ”

  1. Student Teacher says:

    I believe one of the best ways to support unique students is to reduce class size. The best way to know about a student’s interest, ways of learning, and strengths and weaknesses, is to converse with the student or have one-on-one work time. This is only possible when class size is relatively small, small enough that during work period, the teacher can go around and talk to every student. It is vital that all questions are addressed after a lesson to clear misconceptions before students leave school and attempt homework.

    It might seem that having Education Assistants in the classroom solves the problem, however, they aren’t the ones teaching the class and modifying lessons, and they are not experts in every subject.

    It might also seem a good idea that the school make individual learning plans for every student. Again, that is only possible when class size is small.

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  2. Gwen Smith says:

    Every student needs basic skills (reading, writing, math, sciences) more than they need their “unique needs” satisfied. Due to job action, I cannot even find out how my son is doing in school (blank report card), unless I go there, never mind judge if his unique needs are met.

    If I didn not have to work full time for financial reasons, I would certainly home school him, as I find the ammount of work he is given to do when we go for holidays takes a number or hours rather than days. He feels he spends enough time in school and does not want to work more at home on things like writing. I understand exactly how he feels – he’s there all the time and yet he doesn’t seem to get much focused practice at any basic skill. He has and IEP and has yet to recieve any real assistance.

    This sounds like I am blaming the teachers for not meeting his needs, but I don’t really. They seem interested and knowledgable (mostly). Its the way the schools are (dis)organized that wastes time. His Learning Assistance Teacher told me she has 54 students with IEP’s; if I had to run a project with 54 outcomes, I would make a plan and get the students started based on their last year’s IEP, then adjust their IEPs for the current year. But instead, she has to have a signed off IEP before she starts working with the students and that takes a couple of months. Meanwhile, no Learning Assistance for the students, but plenty of work for the teachers.

    Another example; the documents we get home from the school often had vital peices of information missing, spelling mistakes, ect. Sometimes the info came from the office, sometimes from the teacher. Why? There should be clear division of labour and there are templates to ensure that notices contain all the pertanent information. The admin- the teacher, everyone seems to be doing a little of everything.

    Another example: my son had 5 different principals at his one elementary school. How’s that for consistent leadership? If it were a business, would you say it was well managed? Would you buy stock?
    So, in answer to how the school could better meet my son’s needs, they could focus on teaching him the basics in an efficient way and to do this, they need to be better organized. The support staff needs to be managed, the teachers need to focus on teaching, the vice principal needs to be focussed on discipline and the principal on supervision of staff and strategic/budget planning. The parents and students should be given the curriculum in the beginning of the year and the staff roles should be clearly defined. Teachers should consider project management and time management techniques in their professional development.

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  3. Rick Price says:

    I think, in the context of personalized learning, homework will have to be rethought. Currently many students are assigned an amount of homework that interferes with learning opportunities outside of school. These may be music or dance lessons, sports activities or part time jobs. They usually involve legitimate learning that should not, in my opinion, have to compete with school. Instead, we should consider acknowledging and enabling this learning as a valuable aspect of student growth and development.

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    • Moderator Chrysstena says:

      These are very good points and you are absolutely right to say that the outside learning opportunities that students have are often very beneficial in teaching life skills. Learners will be provided with more opportunities to include the activities that now lay outside of school, into their individual learning plans.

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    • Richard Ajabu says:

      Above, Rick said, “…Currently many students are assigned an amount of homework that interferes with learning opportunities outside of school…” and below he also stated that we need “…a specific, defined effort to reduce child and family poverty, and to increase opportunities for parents to spend time with children…”.

      I completely agree.

      Work/life balance is extremely important to a healthy, respectful, effective, realistic and sustainable lifestyle. As professionals, teachers need to model and promote that as part of their daily practice. Both students and Teachers need to work in an environment in which the objectives are deliberately chosen and prioritized in realistic consideration of the time and other resources available to achieve those objectives. Available time and other resources available need to be explicitly acknowledged and a realistic schedule needs to be designed with the realistic goal of achieving the chosen outcomes using the budgeted time and resources. By design, the chosen goals should always be attainable using available time and resources; we need to plan for success by design. We need to be realistic; we need to do the best with what we have. We need to explicitly acknowledge that, learn that, teach that and model that in our school system and in our society at large.

      School is only part of a student’s life, and school obligations should not be forcably extended beyond the temporal and spatial boundaries of the school. Similarly, work is only a part of anyone’s life and work obligations should not be forcably extended beyond the temporal and spatial boundaries of work. We all have personal needs, interests and objectives that are outside of school and the workplace.

      It is disrespectful, unreasonable and unsustainable for the school system to require students (and their families) to use their personal time to complete objectives that are set at school, by the school, for school purposes. Schools need to set realistic goals that can be achieved during regular school hours using the resources available. Families have precious little time outside of school hours and that is their personal time to schedule as they see fit. It is extremely disrespectful of families for the school system to set goals at school that utilize the personal time and resources of families without each family’s voluntary participation. As Rick stated, we need to increase opportunities for parents to spend time with their children, and a good way to start is by not taking away from their personal time by imposing homework on them.

      Similarly, it is disrespectful, unreasonable and unsustainable for an employer to require an employee to use their personal time to complete objectives that are set at work, by the employer, for work purposes. Families have precious little time outside of work hours and that is their personal time to schedule as they see fit. Similarly, it is extremely disrespectful of families for employers to set goals at work that utilize the personal time and resources of families without each family’s voluntary participation.

      If a family chooses to use their personal time to pursue either school related goals, work related goals or strictly personal goals with their personal time then that is their decision to make; schools and employers should not be attempting to make those decisions for them. We need to respect personal boundaries and promote a healthy, respectful, effective, realistic and sustainable lifestyle.

      Professional Teachers, Schools, Districts and Governments all need to need to explicitly practice, model and teach rational, realistic and sustainable strategies, processes, procedures, and tools to achieve realistic goals on time, on quality and on budget without spilling over into personal family time or personal budgets. Prioritizing, goal setting, project management and negotiation are just some of the skills required.

      In the Questions 1-3 Wrap-up section of this website I have already commented on a similar problem regarding the disconnect between goal setting and funding by the government so I won’t repeat it here, but it is just another face of the same coin and so it needs to be included.

      While I strongly oppose homework being imposed on students (and their families), I strongly support the use of technologies and libraries to extend the spatial and temporal boundaries of the classroom so that students and families have the opportunity to supplement student classroom activities if they choose to do so. If families decide that they want their children to do extra activities during their personal time in order to supplement their classroom studies then that is their decision and if we can afford to provide those support services then why wouldn’t we? Online technologies and libraries could allow families who want to do homework related to their classroom studies to do it, and allow those who don’t want to do homework to do other things. I think we need to reform our education system with these kinds of win-win objectives in mind.

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      • Moderator Chrysstena says:

        You have made some very good points here from the perspective of the students, the teachers and the families. We would be interested in knowing how you feel we could make the changes you refer to if you hvae not already brought up those comments in other parts of the blog. We are open to all comments that you may wish to share and we are grateful when you take the time to make your comments, but also when you continue to monitor and comment on the blog as the questions change and as people make posts that interest you. Thank you.

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        • Richard Ajabu says:

          You said, “We would be interested in knowing how you feel we could make the changes you refer to if you have not already brought up those comments in other parts of the blog.”

          Well, regarding homework, direct the schools that all school work must be completed during regular school hours and direct them not to require any school work to be completed at home. In fact, don’t allow it at all.

          If a student cannot succeed at a lesson given the time and resources available then record that fact and adjust the next lesson requirements so that success becomes achievable for that student given the time and resources that are available. Different students will successfully address a different quantity of learning outcomes to a different standard of quality given the same time and resources. That is normal.

          If students and their parents want the student to do additional work at home that correlates to their studies at school then perhaps the government could provide a website from which students and parents can access learning activities correlated to the same learning outcomes being addressed at school. Library’s could provide access to those same learning activities as well.

          Students can learn to set realistic goals by explicitly considering the quality and quality of the outcomes they choose to attempt in combination with the time and resources that are available to them. Teachers can model this as a standard part of every lesson taught. Reflecting upon the complexity (quantity/quality) of a goal, the time available to achieve that goal, the resources available to achieve that goal, past performance on similar goals, etc and adjusting them as necessary to converge on improvement can be a standard part of goal setting every day. Teachers can explicitly teach it to students. Students can witness it and practice it every day as part of every lesson.

          Teachers can model the same professional attitude by planning and scheduling their school hours so that they themselves do not bring school work home. Teachers can set realistic goals that can be achieved with the time and resources available at school for those goals. If goals cannot be achieved with the time and resources available at school then the quality/quantity of the goals can be adjusted and/or the resources available can be increased accordingly until the teacher can be successful.

          Professional Teachers, Schools, Districts and the government can model the same professional attitude by explicitly measuring, acknowledging and addressing the balance between quantity/quality of goals achieved versus the actual time and resources consumed to achieve that quantity/quality of goals.

          The entire education system needs to accurately measure, record and report the quantity/quality of goals set/achieved along with the time/resources that were budgeted/consumed. Reflecting upon the complexity (quantity/quality) of goals achieved, the time available to achieve those goals, the resources available to achieve those goals, past performance on similar goals, etc, and adjusting them as necessary to converge on improvement can be a standard part of goal setting every day. Professional Teachers, administrators and government employees need to witness it and practice it every day as part of the normal way that they work.

          Goal setting/measuring is not independent of time/resource budgeting/accounting, and time/resource budgeting/accounting is not independent of goal setting/measuring. They are interdependent factors; they are an equation that must be balanced from Student to Minister.

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          • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

            Finland has a no homework policy, and it is widely regarded as having one of the best K-12 education systems in the world. Is there something to be said there? Is this a model we should be looking at more closely, as Richard and others have said above? Anyone else have thoughts they’d like to share here?

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  4. Rick Price says:

     I like what I see in the ed plan so far.  But I think you are missing an important element, without which it will not achieve its goals.  That element is a specific, defined effort to reduce child and family poverty, and to increase opportunities for parents to spend time with children.  Paul Kershaw has written extensively on this recently in the Sun, and articulates the strategies well. Without a serious commitment from Government to address these issues, I think the schools will still spend 13 years trying to erase the deficits that about 25% of our students bring with them to Kindergarten.

    In other words, if the MOE tries to solve these problems strictly within the walls of classrooms, and without a larger cross-government effort to address family stressors, the ed plan will fail.  With Education leading the way to such a commitment, however, the Ed plan could be revolutionary in its positive contribution to our province.  Think big!

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  5. Roy Humphrey says:

    Time to re-think.

    The manufacturing/Industrial era almost died about 39 years ago at the hands of Information Technology and jobs being shipped abroad. Since then our workplace has changed dramatically. We are now predominantly small business. In general, small business is defined as under 5 people. They are specialists with a limited range/scope and supply of work. They work in a competitive market on small margins. They are NOT in the business of employing and training new workers or apprentices –repeat they are NOT in the business of employing and training. 30 years ago the Government took over Youth Training. The I.T. era needed computer skills, language, math and communication. Today these same work skills are a pre-requisite the Govt. recommend to obtain a good job. With no previous experience in the workforce, a diploma means very little when applying for a job. Each year nearly 1 million well educated youth leave the school system looking for a career, only 20,000 of the school leavers end up with ‘red seal’ trades certificates’ (2%). For years tens of billions of dollars have been allocated to this dead-end cause. It will never work because we don’t understand that work skills are only obtained ‘on the job’ not in a classroom at college.
    My suggestion is to look closely at the needs of the people involved and re-think how they can best be served and gradually develop a system that caters to these needs:
    1. All kids are school educated for a working career. All kids should be included.
    2. Every business needs new employees to expand or replace natural wastage; all businesses need to be involved.
    3 Proper funding. We could save millions of dollars each year with a direct funding system.
    It would be quite simple to set up an Administrative Office in each community to match work learning situations to trainees. The trainees would all be employed by the Admin Office. Their work experience would be with the business community.
    Funding would be by contribution from the business community. As all business related costs are tax deductible, so all contributions would be refunded. In other words the funds for jobs and training would be kept in the community, not sent to Ottawa.
    THIS IS SIMPLE, BASIC COMMON SENSE. IT WILL PROVIDE ALL THE TRAINING JOBS THE WORKPLACE NEEDS AT A FRACTION OF THE COST.

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  6. NonbedazzledTeacher says:

    This entire plan is a smokescreen for firing teachers, crippling a public education system so that people pay for private school and saving money. Has this government looked into education systems that are working globally ie.Finland? And ones that aren’t ie. USA?

    This proposed model has only worked in very small class settings with huge amounts of money invested and teacher support. Given that this government is insisting there isn’t any money for education (yet money for sports arenas), how do they propose this to be implemented?

    What about social development? Inclusion? How will sports be included if everyone is on a flexible schedule? If it costs too much now to keep schools open, why would you propose to keep them open on a lengthier flexible schedule?

    I find it interesting this education plan coincides with the new teacher evaluation plan-being able to dismiss a teacher after one review for “suitability, administrative or financial” reasons.

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    • Moderator Marg says:

      The BC Education Plan is based in part on actual examples of what’s already taking place in many BC Schools (http://www.bcedplan.ca/happening.php). You’ll find other examples from around the world here as well.

      The plan is intended to provide a framework for dialogue with the public – including teachers – about what we can do to create a more innovative education system that meets the current and future needs of BC students, teachers and families. With changes to the system, we recognize that the funding criteria may also need to change.

      We want all British Columbians to play a part in modernizing our education system. Our vision is one that gives students more options in terms of what, where, when, and how they learn. Do you have suggestions on the direction the BC Education Plan should take? What is your vision?

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  7. Julia says:

    There is a significant lack of awareness is the area of educational policy and its impact on Aboriginal communities which leads to a disparity in our school system. Our ‘system’ needs to be more transparent and critical in the delivery of curriculum concerning Aboriginal studies. Our ministry, districts and schools need to do a better job at addressing the systemic racism still alive and well in schools across British Columbia that directly impact our Aboriginal students.

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    • Moderator Marg says:

      Thank you for raising this important topic. We know that the issue of racism is commonly discussed in Aboriginal education communities and we need more people to engage in this conversation.
      As part of the conversation, the Ministry encourages the education system to bring more awareness and knowledge about our diverse population, including First Nations, and historical events to students and staff. New courses available to all students have been recently added to the curriculum (BC First Nations Studies 12, English First Peoples 10, 11 & 12) and the Ministry supports the integration of Aboriginal content in all curriculum, not just specific courses. Additionally, as of June 2011, 52/60 school districts have signed Aboriginal Enhancement Agreements that focus on improving educational outcomes for Aboriginal students. As you can see, much work is going on but there is more to be done. People might be interested in an opportunity to learn more about the ongoing effects of the residential school system on Aboriginal people through community events in spring of 2012, sponsored by the Federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission: http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=3

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  8. Neil M. says:

    It is certainly desirable that our system support the unique needs of students. However, before such needs can be addressed, it would seem that a number of conditions have to be met. A partial list might include:

    1. The “unique needs” must have a valid foundation, be observable and be articulated in clear and meaningful language.

    2. Curriculum experiences/materials appropriate for addressing the “unique needs” must exist.

    3. Pedagogy required to support the “unique needs” must exist.

    4. Teachers need to be be trained in the required pedagogy.

    5. Funding has to be be sufficient to provide the conditions required for success.

    Other conditions will also be important but it seems improbable that the system can provide sufficient support without satisfying those noted above.

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  9. Leah McGovern says:

    As a parent I am used to dealing with the reality of the education system at present. My daughter is in grade 6 this year and so far I can only really give credit to 2 teachers that have recognized her needs and actually made an impression on her. I am also the PAC treasurer at our school this year and have had the opportunity to see the system from the inside. I must say that I am disappointed and the future does not look bright. There is a lack of funding everywhere in the schools and the parents are left to struggle. My daughter was lucky she has had outside tutoring at my own expense which has assisted in helping her with Math and Literature. I know when I went to school, I believe we had a better system and I am more than positive it worked with a much smaller budget then the current day system. There are many factors that have contributed to the current status of the education system and in the end the victims are always our children. I believe there needs to be a more accountable system. Its not easy to be a teacher in this current education system and its not easy to be a student either but the most stress lies with parents like me who are trying to make the best out of a something that is seriously broken.

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    • Moderator Chrysstena says:

      Your points about a system that needs help are well taken. What kinds of things do you feel we could do to change the system to assist us in making this a better environment for learners, parents and teachers to work within?

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    • Doug Smith says:

      It’s often said that the system is broken. While I can point to problems, I can’t say I understand how exactly it is that the system is broken, and how things used to be better. One casual observation I’ve made is that I think high school dropouts have decreased, which perhaps means that there are more struggling students maintained within the school.

      I think there were always tremendous amounts of students with literacy or numeracy issues, but maybe they just weren’t identified as well as students are now.

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      • Leah McGovern says:

        Doug:

        I know for a fact that our particular school district has a “no fail” policy. That means of course more students are graduating but are they really? I know from my own experience that it does not matter whether your child is actually capable of doing the work. How many of these graduates are actually achieving even the minimum required? Its a fact that Canada is no longer even in the top 5 countries internationally for either reading or mathematics. The number one country for reading is China a country where English is not even their primary language and they beat out Canada and the United States. When I went to school if you weren’t able to do the work you did not go on to the next grade. Failing is a part of life just like succeeding . I think this no fail policy does not prepare our kids for real life. Which also leads to my other feeling that schools have become distracted from what they are really there to do which is educate. So much time and energy is spent in the system walking the fine line of socially developing our children when in fact the system does the opposite. It is my job as a parent to teach morals and other socially responsible behaviors to my child – not the school system’s.

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  10. John says:

    Maybe the funding should be restored from 10 years ago. The class sizes have been increased which has a negative affect on learning. Students need to follow directions from their teacher and not sit in front of a computer. The last thing they need is a cell phone or tablet on their desk. All they will be doing is surfing the web and watching YouTube. The BC Ed Plan is a smokescreen for inferior education that saves the province a whole load of money.

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  11. Ellen O'Brien says:

    As I look over the plan, I see much to cause hope.

    Please add teachers of students with learning differences will have extensive education, training, experience with teaching students who learn differently prior to being unleashed on the students. As the parent of four children, two of whom are gifted and “learning disabled,” I’m thankful for the technological push. Unfortunately after Grade 1, my children were under teachers who were kind but inexperienced and unknowledgeable in literacy instruction.

    Great shame and frustration has ensued. Even to use spell check on the computer, a person needs at least a grade 6 writing ability. Without evidenced based instruction, students cannot thrive.

    Thank you for incorporating special learners in specific ways in your plan.

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  12. laura says:

    Teachers already take action every day to support the unique needs of our students. When we teach and assess our students’ progress we are always adjusting what we are doing to support those who struggle with new concepts and skills. This is individualized learning and it’s something we’ve been doing for years. However, reasonable class size/composition are crucial for us to tailor our teaching and reach those who struggle. It just makes sense that you can’t reach every child and tailor to their needs with 30 kids in the room.

    Finland’s much-praised school system, has an average class size of 18-20 throughout all grade levels. According to the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leonie-haimson/post_1650_b_816043.html), the “average class size in Finland’s first and second grades is 19; in grades three through nine, it is 21. All science classes are capped at 16.” Clearly they have figured it out as they top the international scores consistently. Further in the same Huffington Post article, I find this particularly interesting: “Smaller classes were won by Finland’s teachers union in return for agreeing to the elimination of tracking, as it would be too difficult for teachers to lead heterogeneous groups if classes remained large.”

    The research shows that heterogeneous groupings are best as they benefit the lower achievers (while high achievers do well in any kind of grouping)–(http://www.flms.org/research/Heterogeneous_Grouping.pdf). However,we need reasonably sized classes to be successful, as noted in Finland. A quality public education system is the great social equalizer, helping to create a superior society that is well-educated and learns how to learn. We want our school system to benefit our society as a whole, not just those who can afford to pay for small classes through tutoring or private schools.

    As a result, we have to fund our public education system adequately if we want a just and equitable society. Quality public education is the best investment we can make. This takes adequate funding, not cuts since the imposition of Bills 27/28 in 2002. We need “reinstatement of funding and staffing levels prior to Bills 27 and 28, which cut approximately $275 million in education funding — $331 million in today’s dollars” http://thetyee.ca/News/2011/06/29/TeacherStrike/. That’s right, there’s been a reduction of over $300 million every single year for almost 10 years. It’s a matter of spending priorities. We don’t need stadium roofs on the public dime for heaven’s sake. We need to invest in our future generation.

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  13. ADW says:

    They need to have more of a support network for special needs as well as their parents.

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  14. Linda McMullan says:

    I am a retired teacher and current trustee. Thirty years ago, I participated in Professional development that talked about Learning Styles; later, I attended Professional Development that addressed Multiple Intelligences. I read books on Brain elasticity. Yet I still meet teachers who think these are novel concepts. We need better teacher training to address the HOW to teach, not the WHAT.
    Once teachers understand with WHOM they are dealing, and what teaching style best suits that particular student, then a Learning Plan can be developed that is unique to that individual child.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Thanks, Linda. We’re working with the teacher training programs at the different universities to determine what changes may need to be made so our new teachers are well versed in personalized learning. Do you have any suggestions from your experience that you’d like to share?

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  15. Anonymous says:

    1) As a math teacher, I can tell you that social promotion and inclusion is a disaster in terms of learning math. Students get passed on to the next level despite without mastering the content, which compounds their confusion and de-motivates. I have had students enter my math 10 class that have NEVER before passed a math class! I do not believe that students gain self-worth by following their peers through classes that are setting them up for failure in the end. Students gain self-worth by mastering something that is at their level and then going out to play with their peers at lunch time or in PE class.

    2) It is only logical that as family structures are less supportive for kids in our society, more responsibility is placed on the education system. More students come from broken homes, poor homes, or homes where parents are too busy for them… They soon require special attention, labels, and resources at school. So why does our government give less funding all the time for these realities and download more responsibility and blame on teachers? You hire me to teach math, and now you want me to help every child deal with his specific emotional issues? If one teacher is gradually going to replace 30 parents, I think some support is in order.

    3) I would have liked to have better training in my teaching program for dealing with all the “unique needs” that I encounter. We learned a whole lot of useless educational philosophy for the utopian classroom.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Let’s say you had the opportunity to share your experiences with student teachers. What things would you tell them about dealing with special needs kids in the classroom? What suggestions would you make for retooling some of the teacher prep program so they are better prepared for accommodating these students?

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  16. CLM says:

    class composition needs to be changed. i can barely keep my 2 kids and their playdate friends engaged and entertained for 2 hours….I can’t imagine how hard it must be for teachers to teach & get through to over 25 kids, some of whom are challenging and have special needs even if they don’t meet classification criteria.

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  17. neil bryant says:

    I think you’ve missed the point of teaching – it isn’t lecturing and it isn’t videos. There is the human element of face to face dyadic conversation that the best video cannot reproduce. The video cannot respond to the mood in the room, gauge the level of children’s understanding midway through the lesson. Technology has a place in education, but technology for technology’s sake is foolhardy. Your suggestion is tantamount to taking away doctors and replacing them with videos on how to diagnose your own ailments – it might work for cuts and bruises, but not for surgeries. Teacher do diagnostic and remedial work every day, which is the point of advocating for less varied demographics and smaller populations in classes! Every conversation is an invitation to relationship and even moreso with every taught lesson. Replacing such with videos is inane…

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  18. neil bryant says:

    The real issue with education is hard to grapple with. Children are complicated beings that represent the sum total accomplishments and failures of schools, teachers, parents and peers.

    The failure of the school system is BC is a corollary to the breakdown of the family; with divorce rates and two parent working families on the rise, so too have the number of children with “unique” needs. Those needs are as much socio-emotional as they are educational. We’ve removed actively involved parents and tried to replace them with barely 40 hour a week contact time teachers…of course it doesn’t work.

    Having said this, the Ministry still needs to fund and resource its employees appropriately as if it were working in a vacuum, because it is not like a greater level of coordination is going to occur between Ministries any time soon.

    So, the most obvious problem we can pragmatically tackle is how teachers are hired. Kids are still kids, teachers still join the profession for the right reason, but there is not a proper level of accountability in hiring or retaining teachers. As a teacher myself in the independent system in BC it has become abundantly clear that you cannot have proper education without accountability. If I do a poor job of teaching my class, then other teachers come in to help me. If I still don’t respond well in terms of how well the students learn, then I am let go.

    Comparing salaries public to private, the issue is not really pay. Like the coal miners were treated by Thatcher in the UK and how the air traffic controllers were treated by Reagan in the US, we need the back of the union broken in BC. The BCTF and the BCCT are….non-functional. They do not represent teachers well and the only thing we get in return for our fees we pay every year is the right to teach in BC and a newsletter that talks about how poorly behaved a few of our profession were in the past 6 months.

    Teachers attracts all kinds of people and some of them are not appropriate. Whether they have post-graduate degrees is irrelevant, whether they have many years is helpful but not the best measure. In my experience, there are only two ways to evaluate teachers properly; 1. if they have children of their own and 2. (much more practically) if they have allowed themselves to be evaluated properly by other teachers and administrators.

    Teachers should not be hired by seniority off a substitute list, but if we can’t change that, then evaluate them EVERY year by both peer teachers of the same subject, other subjects and administration. Administrators should also be evaluated by other administrators. Sick leave should be reduced to something more reasonable and the government should get out of the way.

    A school is not a business, but needs to have economic factors considered. There are ways public schools can act to help themselves be funded. They can gain some experience from their private school peers.

    Provincial exams should come back. They hold teachers accountable to the subject material and prevent grade inflation. Their removal had to have been financially based, not pedagocically so. Most keen high school students now take SATs and pay money to the college board racket as they have no other external measure of how their kid is doing.

    Inclusion, as others have written, should be scaled back. The socialization that occurs is valuable, but it has gone too far. A bed-ridden, intubated child is not gaining anything of value in a classroom setting. The IEPs where the child is encouraged to turn a light bulb on and off again is an insult to the purpose of the IEP.

    Teacher librarians should be funded again. Music teachers should be funded again. Physical education programs such as the bronze, silver and gold awards for fitness back in the 80s should be brought back at a Provincial level.

    Substitute teacher pools should be reduced and teachers should not be taking so much time off. Part of the reason they are is because their class sizes and composition are ridiculous. That should be addressed in any future contract.

    Private and public school teachers should be under the same benefit package. This happens in Ontario and is brilliant. Rather than bleeding the public system dry of good kids who can afford private education, private schools can go back to what they should have always been – alternatives for rowing, rugby, boarding, music specialties.

    There is more I could say, but this post is already too long….

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    • JB says:

      “In my experience, there are only two ways to evaluate teachers properly; 1. if they have children of their own”

      Having children should NOT be a requirement for a teacher! OMG – I can’t believe someone could be that insensitive! I know many excellent teachers who don’t have children. As well, I know some teachers who have children and who shouldn’t be teachers.

      That doesn’t make sense at all!

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      • neil bryant says:

        try reading the rest of my post. The practical way is evaluation. Nevertheless, the best teachers I’ve seen in 13 years of teaching are parents themselves. By extension, there are plenty of new teachers out there who are not parents yet who think that the bulk of teaching occurs in the classroom, which of course it doesn’t and that being part of the 3:00 track team is alright too. If you’re not coaching, you are not getting the full experience. I have also seen teachers who have become so jaded with the system and their own kids have passed through the system so long ago, that they have forgotten the daily practiced discipline of stick and carrot and are ineffective dinosaurs. If my words were offensive to you, consider perhaps the longer version – that there is an optimal level of experience with kids that teachers can have that makes them ideal. Some teachers don’t have it and some have lost it. Their own life experience is usually the determining factor.

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        • JB says:

          FYI, Neil, I had already read the rest of your comment. I was responding to your assertion that “there are only two ways to evaluate teachers properly; 1. if they have children of their own”.
          I agree that some teachers are clock-watchers, and I work with some today. In fact, as I reach retirement in a few years, I’m concerned that the next wave of teachers misses out on the extra bits that go into teaching. Sometimes, though, they’re rushing to get their own kids into after-school activities. As I look back on my own experience, I know that I often short-changed my children, when I stayed late at school or spent money on school materials that should have been spent at home. It can be difficult to balance home and work, as many people have realized. Thankfully, now, there is the Internet, which can alleviate the financial aspect, as many materials can be downloaded.
          Kind of off-topic…

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    • Doug Smith says:

      Some good points there Neil, but a few things sort of stuck out at me. First, I kind of doubt that most keen students take SATs. I would imagine that the number of students that take SATs is actually extremely low in BC, even if you consider just keen kids. However, I think that is neither here nor there, relative to having provincial exams.

      More importantly is the idea of peer evaluation. In such highly politicized environments as schools, I think most teachers should be scared of the idea of peer evaluation, if the evaluation has merit other than feedback. A teacher couldn’t dare to try something new or abnormal in their practice, in case peers disagree. For example, I’m doing standards based grading this year, and you can be sure that it would raise some eyebrows. There are many more reasons why peer evaluations wouldn’t work in terms of consequences. Offhand I cannot think of any other profession or career that uses peer evaluation to any great extent and this should tell us something.

      Let’s not kid ourselves that teachers are really that different from other people in our society. Teachers will always have a gradient of good to bad, dedicated to disengaged, etc, just like any other job, career or profession. At the end of the day, a teacher is someone that does a job, gets paid, tries to make the world just a little bit better, has an important family life outside of their work, and doesn’t want to be stepped on. If we really want the best of the best, then the most likely way to accomplish this is through promotion of internal motivation. If the employer figures out what really drives teachers, and then enables this drive, then they will reap the benefits.

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  19. Mike says:

    My youngest son has a learning disability. He is currently a grade 9 student with an IEP in a Vancouver high school. He is also in a special program, in a classroom with only 15 students. We were recently informed by the school “…you know, with 15 students in a classroom it is really impossible for a teacher to actually apply an IEP”. Your desire for each and every student to have an IEP sounds good, but is impractical to the point of being doomed to failure. Combined my children have 35 student-years in the public education system. Based on observing those years, I offer the following recommendations on personalization:
    (1) The idea of mainstreaming is laudable, but has gone much too far relative to the resources typically available in the classroom. When a primary teacher has 20+ students, several of whom have virtually no functional english and one of whom is severely autistic (I have seen this exact situation) the nice pleasant scenes depicted in the plan brochure simply do not happen. You need to find a way to either have resources in the classroom sufficient to support that diversity or you need to accomplish mainstreaming in a different way.
    (2) Let’s face it, not every student really needs an IEP. Having seen students on both ends of the spectrum, the ones who are well-suited to mainstream education will thrive and learn with each other in group settings. My guess is that this probably applies to about 30% of students. Sure, in a perfect world the “gifted” students would have personally tailored enrichment programs. But again, let’s face it, we are so far away from an ideal world that we should first concentrate on those who fall through the cracks. The ones who really need enrichment can and will ultimately seek it out – they don’t need IEPs in the early years at least.
    (3) Consider more specialties for teachers and create a payscale that includes a meaningful difference for teachers who become specialists (at at least a masters degree level). These salaries will have to be comparable (not equal, but comparable at least) to what these talented people could earn in the “real” world. In my view we should aim to have 30% – 50% of teachers with a post-graduate degree.

    These last two are a little off-topic, but for what they are worth:
    (4) The aspect of the current system which has by far frustrated me the most is the absolute lack of accountability from teachers. There are good teachers and bad teachers to be sure, but quite honestly neither group seems to feel that it is actually their job to ensure that my children learn something. I attribute this jaded attitude to the apparently common feeling among senior teachers that they can’t be fired, but that they will never get another raise. Teachers are human beings like all of us and to stay motivated over long careers they need many things, among them the carrot of financial reward and the stick of accountability. Both require a system which can meaningfully separate the high performers from the weak performers. Ironically, I believe that only teachers themselves can really design such a system (let’s face it, they all know who the good ones and the bad ones are). My suggestion here is that gov get out of the way, let teachers design and implement such a system, then create meaningful differentiation between under and out-performance.
    (5) Education is probably the most important aspect of the Province’s long term success, competitiveness and prosperity. Take a long term view. Don’t try to fix everything before the next election. Pick one or two of the most important structural flaws, fix them in a sustainable way, then move on.

    thanks for the chance to contribute.

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    • Moderator Rebekah says:

      For more information regarding IEPs (Individualized Education Plans), there is a good primer available here.

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    • Angie says:

      Excellent points Mike. Especially about funding special needs. I think it interesting that the smoke screen of this platform is to create an agenda on how/why education should be privitized.
      Let’s face it, the government is already seriously underfunding education – we all know that schools do not get enough money to provide individualized education for those that are already needing it – students with special needs/IEP’s – and now they are suggesting an IEP for everyone? With what gazillion dollars would that be possible? Including parents as partners will mean financial partners as well..mark my words.

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      • Moderator Chrysstena says:

        The idea behind this forum to is to gain the opinions of the people in this province in order to create an education system that does the best it can for each and every student. This is not a smokescreen for any preconceived plans or ideas. The BC Education Plan is a blueprint and the Ministry wants to hear the opinions of teachers, parents, students and all citizens of the Province on how we can make an already good system much better and serve the needs of all students in the Province to the best of our ability. We recognize that the funding model will be different and we would like to hear your input on the kinds of things you feel, would make this system better. Please share your thoughts on how you think we can make a difference.

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  20. Sara says:

    I believe we need to provide an honourable route of graduation for those students who have traditionally dropped out to go into trades, because they just can’t meet the science or English or Socials requirements due to their special needs or learning style or preferences. The stigma of not graduating with a Dogwood still affects those who make valuable, and sometimes very well paid, contributions to our society.

    The education system as we know it was designed with a reading and writing output for testing, which discriminates against those who work with their hands creatively, in shop, mechanics, fine arts etc. I believe we need to reevaluate some of the hurdles we are forcing these students to attempt, while their efforts are truly focussed in a different direction, which is undervalued by the system.

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    • Moderator Catherine says:

      The BC Education Plan is open to discussion and refinement and trades-related courses support the goals outlined in the Plan. One example is Victoria High School’s recently-opened technical wing which gives more than 350 students the opportunity to take courses like wood and metal work, auto mechanics, auto body, carpentry joinery, electronics, jewellery-making and industrial design. These programs help to prepare students for careers in trades and industry while still in high school.
      Your comments regarding an honourable route of graduation for students who have traditionally dropped out to go into trades are welcomed and will be considered as we shape the BC Education Plan. Thank you for writing.

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      • MDERGOU says:

        I think that trades in every high school is very important and ideal. I don’t think it will happen. Thank goodness Victoria High School has that opprotunity but most of the small high schools have some wood work some mechanics maybe some metal work. Often it is hard to find qualified teachers for these subjects and the resources the students use the students pay for. I just don’t see interior students from smaller communities getting the trades and technology they want because they do not have the population or the teachers to supply the need.

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  21. lora bruncke says:

    We are missing a good opportunity to teach children skills that they are not being taught very well anywhere else. Children are unique in that they learn how to live in their world by watching each other and the adults closely. Good habits repeated over and over again while they are growing up, will help them become smarter, healthier, more tolerant adults.

    My advice. Teach at least four more subjects.
    1) Anatomy: teach our children anatomy, so they will know how they work and why everyone looks different. They will also understand better what damages bones, muscles, ligaments and where sickness comes from. They will study how different vitamins, chemicals and additives in foods affect human anatomy.
    2) Street Smarts: accidents are the number one disabler and killer of healthy children. Teen drivers are at a high risk of making a mistake and crashing. Teach our children at an early age what their parents can’t – how to stay safe at all ages on our streets and highways. And please give them driving lessons because driving skills are more important than math when you need to slam on your brakes!!!
    3) Marketing: energy drinks would be an example of marketing aimed at our youth.
    4) Relationships: in light of the extreme cases of child abuse our children must learn about if they watch the news or read the paper, we could teach our children what appropriate relationships look like! Many children are being brought up by one parent and random boy/girlfriends and many only hear arguments at home.
    Thank you!!!

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    • Angie says:

      Iona,
      These are excellent points and in fact much of what you suggest is in fact being taught in schools already.
      There is a Health & Career curriculum. You can find the learning outcomes here: http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/irp/all.php?lang=en
      under Health & Career education. Topics include Healthy Relationships/Safety/Diet and Nutrition – Healthy Bodies as well as Career Education. As well, the Language Arts curriulum has a componenet of Media awareness which would address your point on Marketing.

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  22. Wendy says:

    As an education assistant and childcare worker in the school system, I feel more money needs to be there to support students and teacher’s with students with greater needs in the classroom. The funding formula is weak, and we, the frontline workers get cut more and more every year from our positions. This creates inconsistency for the children, and the ones who need help the most will continue to fall through the cracks unless something is done about it. Teacher’s already have their hands full with class sizes, and then they are not given the support they need with these students.

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  23. Edward Deng says:

    There are several ways that our education system can support the unique needs of students. One way is to make classes live. For example we can have math classes work with real objects rather than paper work. In science class we could examine real animals when we learn about life science. Students don’t want to sit in a classroom for 1 whole semester. One way to do this to go on more field trips.
    Lots of times students get tired or bored in class. One way to overcome this issue is to stop class in the middle of the time frame and make them go outside for a physical activity like running. Maybe we could even play a game of soccer or california kickball just so students are refreshed so they can learn with more enthusiam.

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  24. Rebeka says:

    Our education system can support the unique needs for students by consuidering that ll students learn differently.Some students learn better visually, some by audio and some learn better interactive. Teachers must not wait to support a child because if they wait too long, it is very hard to change.
    Teachers could even spend a lot of time with eachstudent to ensure the child fully understands, or better yet teachers could personalize lessons for each student.

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    • Angie says:

      Great points Rebeka, the issue is time…which means money. Teacher’s would love to create individualized lessons for every student and meet each person’s unique needs. In fact, most teachers I know try their best to support every learner in their classroom. Unfortunately this is very difficult to do when you have a large classroom full of students with no assistance and limited time. Highschool teachers are generally faced with 200-210 students over the course of a year. They teach – that is, are in front of the students, for 6 hours of their day. Imagine how much time it takes to prepare 6 hours of “presentation” each and every day for 160 days of the year. They then need to prepare lesson plan/activities, mark, meet with students for extra help, meet with parents to discuss children, help with clubs, coaching…attend meetins as necessary within the school…attend to professional development. The average teacher works well over 9 hours a day, works on weekends, during christmas, during spring break, and during summer…More time for preparation and more assistance in the classroom would allow more personalization and individual attention. Unfortunately, this requires more money.

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      • Moderator Chrysstena says:

        If you feel that you have suggestions about how the system can make things better for teachers based on the comments you have made, we would love to hear them. We know that changes will have to be made and that the transitions will require changing the things in the system that need it and recognizing where we do things well. The Ministry recognizes that funding changes will have to occur and if you have suggestions as to how funds in schools an districts can be better spent, we would like you to share them.

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        • laura says:

          Re: “if you have suggestions as to how funds in schools an districts can be better spent”–this implies no more funds beyond the amount we already have, which is shamefully low compared to the rest of Canada. Instead of asking how to cut the pie into different shaped pieces in an attempt to feed all the family members sitting around the table, we need a bigger pie!

          Here are some interesting facts, all from http://stopeducationcuts.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/bceceducationfactsaug2010.pdf

          1. In inflation-adjusted dollars, BC’s 2010/11 operating budget for K-12 Education is $500 million less than the 2000/01 Education budget.

          The reality is BC’s public schools face the daunting task of trying to do more with less. Public education funding has also lagged economic growth in British Columbia.

          2. We spend significantly less of provincial GDP on public education vs. a decade ago. So we can afford to do better.

          3. EDUCATION SPENDING:
          BC vs. rest of CANADA
           In 1991, 26% of the BC budget went to education. That proportion has shrunk to 15% today.
           Relative to provincial GDP, BC’s Education spending has declined 14% since 2001.

          And most concerning:
          In 2006/07 (latest StatsCan data), BC spent a smaller share of provincial GDP on public education than every other province and territory except Alberta and Newfoundland.

           Despite roughly similar costs, Education funding in Ontario averages $10,730 per student for
          2010 (a 4.5 % increase) compared to BC’s funding of $8,301 per student.

          So please don’t ask us to figure out how to keep on doing more with less. It’s time to fund the system adequately, or at the very least, fund the system to at the least the levels we were at a decade or two ago.

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  25. Morgan and Leia says:

    Using modern technology as a tool is a significant role because it allows a more broad way to explore and learn as students use the internet as a tool at home.
    Asking for help and being aware of the different opportunities given to you are a big thing most students regret taking when they graduate. I think if the students were more comfortable and open with their classrooms/teachers, they can achieve greater aspects in their lives. Also if the teachers were more flexible in the ways they taught. I know from experience that some teachers won’t change their teaching skills from the past because it’s their ‘comfort’ technique of teaching. But every student learns in a different way.
    TOODLES~ THANKS FOR READING~

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  26. Kristin Narvaez says:

    The system can support our unique needs by hiring teachers that are willing to communicate and connect with students. They should be accomodating to our individual needs and open to discussions, not only about the curriculum but also their own life experiences and advice. Teachers are in a position that can impact our lives in a crucial and positive manner.

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  27. Alex says:

    Early on, a student could take a sort of placement test, to determine his or her learning style. Not everyone can perform to their potential in school because the subject material is not being taught in the most beneficial way. The three main types of learning are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Already, some districts have Montessori programs. This is a good start, but more personalisation is needed.

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  28. Kevin Wang says:

    Determine the problem right away. If you detect it early, and get the help as early as possible the other students will be able to adapt to said person accordingly.

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  29. Victor and Richard says:

    Every student is unique and should be given a wide variety of options to complete the task at hand. Examples are having the choice between doing an essay as opposed to doing a presentation. The creation of many different types of clubs in our school and community will create a greater understanding and promote confidence to find and develope their talents and abilities.

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  30. Mary says:

    The education system must necessarily embrace a larger scope in supporting the unique needs of students. Beyond the classroom, students require personal assistance and technical expertise in navigating information and translating it using critical thinking.

    Public Libraries offer the space, both individual or collaborative, the information resources and the expertise necessary for discovery and connection.

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    • Moderator Rebekah says:

      Thanks Mary,

      Can you elaborate more on how you envision Public Libraries role in education?

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  31. Stephanie says:

    The need must first be identified. Waiting until grade 3 or 5 to find ‘support’ for a struggling child is too late. Determine right away, as soon as a child enteres the system, or before, what type of learner they are. What are their needs? How can they be met? Meet their needs, don’t try to support them once they are failing!
    Train and expect all teachers to have the training to identify students needs and learning styles, so that if they change as the child grows older, they will still be met every year.
    Start every year, at every grade level, with a learming week! No teaching, just learning about the students, the class, the expectations of everyone in the room and what is going to be accomplished in the year to come. Then a teacher can address the needs of each child, because they will know and hopefully understand them.

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  32. Charles says:

    Implement a school size limit. By having smaller schools the learning environment becomes more personalized. Teachers/Administrators know all students and are able to sculpt the educational process to suit individual needs. Stake holders are continually involved in a small school atmosphere to allow for opportunities that do not present themselves for larger institutions.

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    • Shirley Turner says:

      This can also be achieved by podding or cohorts within schools, however, there needs to be funding for a “cohort” leader/admin person – this used to be done by giving an extra prep to the teacher who took the admin responsibility. This funding has been cut in the last 2 years in [district removed by moderator].

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    • Anonymous says:

      For high school teachers, this needs to include a year-round prep. If you can’t fund that for all teachers, then at least for teachers with less than 5 years experience to develop new courses and new routines.

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  33. Mark says:

    To really address the needs of each student, an ‘living’ learning plan has to be developed from when they begin the schooling process. It should be driven from the learning outcome to address the path that the student is on. As the student moves toward their future career, the plan will become more and more refined in order to ensure that they have the skills and knowledge to move toward that career.

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    • Angie says:

      I find it difficult to imagine that a child just entering school, or even just entering high school know’s exactly what they want to do in life. I think providing a broad based education – similar to what is currently offered allows choice. Having targetted directions may be beneficial for some, for example, a gifted pianist or scientist who knows that is all they want to do…but for the majority…and schools are for the majority…I think they need to have exposure to as many possibilities as they can to determine their path.

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      • Moderator Chrysstena says:

        Many learners will benefit from choices in the school system, and others will be very well versed on what they want to do and how they want to get there by the time they are entering high school. The BC Education Plan will provide an opportunity for learners to find what works best for them and participate in their learning paths and outcome as they go through the system. It will also allow opportunties for learners to try more things throughout school and consider paths, they may not necessarily have the option to consider in our current system.

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  34. Brian C says:

    Our boys were in private school until last year, and after a year and a half of the (middle school)public system, we are seriously planning on making the family changes necessary to get them back into the private system.
    Not all students have the same capacity for learning which results in not challenging those who are fortunate to be able to learn at a higher pace. Schools should not be required to be surrogate parents, or social welfare delivery systems or baby sitting services. The non-sentient child in the wheelchair making strange noises and defecating in the classroom adds nothing to my childs learning experience.
    The last time I checked, I pay for the education system and teachers are contractual providers…..and some are excellent educators and their experience and knowledge provide a valuable component to the learning process, but for other teachers not so much….the BCTA needs a reality check and parents need to become more active in the education process….PAC participation is very sparse….

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  35. Sallie Cabrera says:

    We do know that we need more health care professionals, and in order to get more students in this field of study, the government HAS to give more incentives. I suggest giving a no-interest student loan that works like the “no interest for nn months” promo we always see. That is, if they have finished their studies and got employed related to what they studied for, no interest; if not, same interest as everybody else.

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  36. Stephanie says:

    Personalized learning plans that require involvement of the parents. Reduction of courses that do not provide for laddering into post -secondary.

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    • Shirley Turner says:

      Not all parents are able or willing to be involved in personalized learning plans – for example what about the many students in foster care. Not all students are aiming for post secondary education – arguably the ideal curriculum provides more depth than simply academics – students have many needs that can not be addressed through academic subject content. However I do agree that the amount of content should be reduced & streamlined accross the whole education system 4 – 12 so that there is less repetition of content.

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  37. Brigitte Malana says:

    I believe that having a mandatory peer mentoring program between students in grades 8 and 12, or grades 9 and 12 would greatly benefit our school system. Having an older peer mentor to guide younger students through their first year or two of high school would make sure that the younger student gets off to a good start in high school. Younger students would feel much more comfortable and welcome in their high schools by knowing that they have a connection with an older and more established student. It would also be a wonderful opportunity for the older students to reflect on their high school careers and make a difference in someone else’s life by offering them guidance and advice. If an older student took a wrong turn when they were younger, sharing that experience with a younger peer might prevent that student from making the same mistake. This would create a domino effect of positive results in communities across B.C. Everyone can learn something from everyone, and setting aside an hour or two for these partners to meet once a month could be put into the Graduation Transitions as a mandatory requirement. This would greatly benefit our school system by creating well-knit schools and a stronger sense of community.

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  38. Shirley Turner says:

    We need to be very careful to check our assumptions when talking about the range of “unique needs of students” in BC. As the province with the worst level of child poverty in Canada many of these needs are at what Glasser [1999] describes as survival needs. Only once these are met does it become possible to address other needs. We might also pay attention to Noddings [2005] http://www.infed.org/biblio/noddings_caring_in_education.htm who distinguishes between relational caring [ inquiring into student needs by encouraging the student to articualte them in a dialogical process] and virtue caring [basing our care on assumptions that we know what students need].

    The use of technology as a communication device does not always allow collaborational dialogue that is based on somatic clus [tone of voice, body language etc.] that can guide a professional educator in guiding a constructive dialogue. In addition as a multicultural province we also need to bear in mind cultural worldviews that impact this process. In particular, Aboriginal students may need different scaffolding for building capacity to even articulate their needs based on the long term intergenerational impact of residential schools on students currently within the eduaction system. This is only one pertinent example of the sort of considerations we need to consider when inquiring into the “unique needs of students” but an important one when taking the child poverty issue into account.

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  39. Sterling says:

    This is regarding Distributed Learning (DL) in the province. A suggestion to improve, and “support the unique needs of students” would be to have all of the distributed learning be unified in the province instead of having it done by each district. Having a provincial system would save money that could be directed else ware, say building new schools or updating technology in the districts that need it. This would counter how the districts use DL as revenue. The extra money could go to the province’s grant that districts can apply for. In addition to funding, having the DL system be unified would make it easier to set, and update, educational standards. I know for a fact that in some districts DL courses are not always up to par with one taken in class. Having a unified system could also open up opportunities for more electives that are reliable, and independently paced learning for those who want it.

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    • Moderator Catherine says:

      Allowing individual boards to operate distributed learning schools is consistent with practices that allow them to operate continuing education centres, alternative schools, special academies, and neighbourhood schools. The benefits include innovation, adaptability to local circumstances, and the development of expertise that can be shared locally to support blended learning. As you point out, there are also advantages to centralized models. Across North America, both approaches exist, but the trend appears to be moving to decentralization [see Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning: An Annual Review of Policy and Practice (2011)].

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    • Mark says:

      The Virtual School Society and LearnNowBC were developed to try and provide a cohesive front to DL programs and services around the province. While they have done some good things, there really needs to be a unified DL program or even a DL school district to ensure consistency in quality of the courses and programs being offered.

      While we have seen students in BC leave bad bricks and mortar classes to attend a DL course, there are no further options if the DL course are also poor. Really only the ‘best’ DL courses should be allowed to survive.

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      • Moderator Angie says:

        In BC’s co-governance schooling model, program delivery is a board of education responsibility. This extends to distributed learning schools. A unified DL program would represent a unique exception to our current model. However, as we look at ways to implement personalised learning and support flexibility and choice, the role of distributed learning schools will not be overlooked.

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  40. Pat Dooley says:

    I think we have to think about this question from two perspectives:

    a) What competencies and skills will all students require to be successful in their futures?
    and
    b) what makes students unique? (background, passions, gifts such as dominant multiple intelligence and etc.),

    and then design an approach to education which enables (a) to be acquired through a focus on (b).

    In terms of big ideas, we need lots of choices for students both in terms of how they represent and present their learning and what they learn. We can draw on resources, some of them from our own province and some of them with a long history:

    1. Thinking in the Classroom is a resource developed many years ago which consider ways to engage students with curriculum and represent their learning in a variety of ways, consistent with both celebrating the gifts that all students bring to the classroom and also reflective of the need to develop a well rounded way of expressing oneself and one’s learning.

    2. Resources from educators such as Faye Brownlie and Leyton Schnellert, including Diversity in the Classroom, give practical ways to engage students and celebrate diversity. These materials have been accessible for many years and fit very well with the concept of personalized learning.

    Similarly, SmartLearning developed by Susan Close Earle provides a framework which is highly personalized to the student and able to be used with a full class.

    3. Learning models from High Tech High in San Diego focus on project based learning, development of peer and self-assessment strategies, presentations of learning and increasing independence. At least 2 districts in B.C. are in the process of implementing this approach, which I believe has much potential to transform both teaching and learning.

    4. Implementation on the research and practice around assessment for learning should be a REQUIREMENT in B.C. classrooms: To ignore this body of research which has been shown to impact struggling and all learners is, as one educator put it so well, akin to malpractice.

    In my 36 years working in public education, I have seen enough evidence and examples of practices that can attend to the unique needs of students….What is needed is the will and a plan to make them systemic.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Thanks for pointing out these great examples, Pat. High Tech High, for example, is a really interesting one that we are looking at closely here in BC. For other examples of personalized learning in action, please visit our It’s Already Happening page.

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  41. Denise Billard says:

    Well put! Technology surrounds us, definitely certain technology works in the classroom and others do not. Just like in the real world certain technology works for an employee’s tasks and other technology does not. In all fairness to the teacher and the student’s ability to be successful in the classroom and meet the learning outcomes, as this is their job as a student, lets encourage students to leave these toys out of the classroom, completely out of sight! For the time it takes a teacher to plan a lesson, the activities, the instructional strategies, and ensure that the lesson considers adaptations, interests, modifications for every child. It is really unfair for the teacher to have to waste time managing, debating, and policing technology that has been permitted by parents to be sent to the school. Every students attention, successful engagement into the lesson to meet the prescribed learning objectives is carefully planned out by the teacher. IS IT really all that hard to keep the cell phones, I tunes, I pad touch and many other devices that are not facilitating the learning process or the learning outcomes of the day at home or at least send the message to children that they should be kept out of the classroom? I’m an educator, but also a parent. My daughter entered middle school this year and got a paper route, and will be gaining more and more freedom as she takes on more responsibility. As a parent, I believe it is my responsibility to teach her how to use cell phones respectfully, and the teacher’s job to inform me if she begins to use her cell phone in a way that disrupts classroom learning and activities. She is very clear about what I think is an appropriate way to use her cell phone. I gave her the message and had the discussion that if she uses her cell phone during class she will lose her privilege to own and use one….

    It is the parents job to inform about how and when to use a device and teacher’s, educator’s, parents, students need to be on the same page about this, so that squabbles and uncertainties about which teacher permits what and when and which device etc. How does the teacher know that the parent approves of the student using that technology in the classroom??? I know I don’t approve of my child using her phone in the classroom and if the district policy states this is not to happen, I assume that there is no exception to this rule… However, many exceptions are made….

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    • Moderator Virginia says:

      Denise raises some interesting points. Should cell phones be completely out of sight? What if a student uses the phone as a clock, or scheduler or memo keeper? Would this be okay? The question asks how can the system support the unique needs of students. Should everyone be on the same page? And who decides what that page is? Can there be exceptions? Should the exceptions be justified, or can exceptions be more random and based on preference or teachable moments? What do others think? Students – should mobile devices be allowed in classrooms? Under what conditions?

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      • Stephanie says:

        The decision should be the teachers! Some classes may want them or encourage them, others may find them a distraction. I feel a this is a classroom, not school issue.

        The school should support what ever the teacher feels is appropriate in their classroom

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    • Mark says:

      Denise really brings up some important issues. Maybe it all comes down to her statement: “Every students attention, successful engagement into the lesson to meet the prescribed learning objectives is carefully planned out by the teacher.”

      As a teacher, that has largely been true of my classes. I did the planning, they did the learning, and thus there was no place in my classes for much of this mobile technology. But I don’t think that is the only way to teach (and more importantly, learn).

      The whole idea of personalized learning is a change from the teacher making all of these decisions to the student taking a much larger role, and as the student decides WHAT they will learn they will also decide HOW they will learn. Thus it will make sense for them to decide how they will use mobile technology.

      This is expecting a lot of maturity from students. I have seen some students who have this maturity in grade 5 and some college students who still do not have it. The challenge is going to be creating a system that adapts to the maturity level of the student.

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      • Matthew M says:

        I agree that students should have the ability to select the tool which best fits their unique learning style and the requirements of a project or point of inquiry. I also believe that students need some clearly guided learning opportunities using a variety of tools so that they have the skillset (or technological backpack) from which to draw the appropriate tool for each learning task.

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  42. R J says:

    The Education system could;

    Invite participation of children in their education by Networking schools, and allowing participation in social exchange of ongoing work within the school.

    Support the growth of Mentors within the schools that include Teachers, Districts, Ministry(s) and Children to experience with, learn from, and support each other within this social structure in their individual quests for what Advanced Learning is for each.

    Provide Visionary Inspiration and Motivation through Social Networks within the Schools(s)

    Supply technical systems, assistance, and software appropriate for each class within the School(s)

    Inject in experience driven support for transforming learning for participants within this social network.

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  43. L Lee says:

    Having smaller groups of learners would be a big help. My kids both excelled at math and reading, yet had to keep pace with the others and just got bored. There is no such thing as an “average” person, everyone has different learning styles. Providing structure for children to learn at their own pace would be a great help.

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  44. A mom of 5 children says:

    I am a volunteer parent. I have seen technology enhance our classrooms, and parent envolvement within the last 2 years. Smart boards, Online software, Laptops, &Scanners too name a few on the top of my mind.The AFV program(limiting primary classes to less than 18/k-3) has a huge part of this, personalized support with our kids with these two elements have complemented each other…Just starting to see scanning work (Art& major assignmets) to Student’s Profiles, Teacher website for Student to double check their homework assignment(s), Email’s recieved from PAC & School events & programs. Sure there are educational software out there,that could help with our Primary “at risk” children. However, I find a well balanced with up to date teaching, Teacher is alway better.With supports & manditory training is needed. CEA are always always so very very important. That extra set of hands, that extra time to spent indivdually is what is needed with struggling subjects. I have had experiences with 2 children staying in the same smaller groups, same classmates (Kto3) parents & classmates are like a family&friend enviroment.love it.that is why I became a volunteer/more involved.

    Personal Devices (like cell phones/ipods/gaming devices etc..) in the classroom would be hard to monitor, a very big Social distration. Cheating on tests/Cyber-bullying in middle/ secondary/highschool too. It would be too hard to monitor with no limits. Limited,controlled or monitiored timeline is needed for it to be Educational tool.

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