How do you think our schools and school districts need to change to support more flexibility and choice?

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. Ability to select school of choice (1, 2, 3, 4)
  2. More emphasis on practical life skills, real world connections (1, 2, 3, 4)
  3. More calendar flexibility (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  4. Reduce school district bureaucracy, duplication of services (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  5. Fewer learning outcomes per course (1, 2)
  6. More support for at risk and special needs students (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  7. Government needs to make changes too (1, 2)
  8. Smaller class sizes (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  9. More funding (1, 2, 3)
  10. Funding for independent schools (1, 2, 3, 4)
  11. Concerns with standardized testing (1, 2)
  12. More support and respect for teachers, greater awareness of their working conditions (1, 2, 3)

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

402 Responses to “ School and district changes to support flexibility and choice ”

  • Shaun says:

    Funding seems to be a huge issue. Obviously, the money seems to be an issue with our government. It doesn’t grow on trees but, it is all about priorities. Public Education should be at, or very near, the top of the list. Every child deserves an equal opportunity to be successful. They didn’t choose the family they were born into.
    To answer a question about funding…I think that the Ministry should cut the number of school districts and therefore the number of upper management positions that eat up salaries in the six digit range. Put more responsibility and power to hire with the principals. This would create some extra money to use towards funding our children.

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  • Niki says:

    1.Smaller class sizes. I’ve taught a class of 30 and a class of 5. It’s simple. One teacher with a degree and three with other education experience in a room of 25 students.
    2.Involving the parents more – have a different parent helper each day of the month.
    3.More arts. Visual arts, musical art & performing arts. All children are different and some have a harder time conforming. Arts allow us to express ourself differently, thus encouraging choice.

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    • Bev says:

      I disagree with your idea of “involving the parents more – have a different parent helper each day of the month”. Many families now have both parents working during typical school hours or are single parent families where the one parent works during school hours. These parents are simply not able to help in the classroom as much as they may wish to.

      Yes, parents need to be involved in their chilren’s education but not to the point of “being in the classroom” with them.

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  • At this point they need to be very creative. I think that those people making these choices need to look at the needs in the district and not at the number of students to staff there are. Listen to the parents, teachers, support staff, other frontline workers. The right people need to be at some of these meetings to hear opinions of those that are concerned, those that make these decisions.

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  • Brendan says:

    I think this education plan is great! When I talk to people about their experiences in school, a lot of them say they were bored, and that school didn’t really connect with who they were, and what they wanted to do. It’s important to remember that students spend 13 years of their lives in school. That’s a long time, and by the end of it, students should feel like they’ve accomplished something important, and should have at least some sense of who they are, and what they are capable of. It seems that more often than not students begin their search for life goals after high school ends. What were they doing the rest of the time? I know for myself I’ve learned about what I enjoy, and what my strengths are on my own. Music class bored me and was limited in time and scope, but I later took up playing the cello, and acoustic guitar. I also never felt like I could draw good enough, so I hardly ever tried. Many years later I had taken up drawing on the ferry for fun, (I rode the ferry everyday) and it’s now one of my favorite things to do. These are just two things that are integral to who I am, and I figured them out long after I had graduated from high school.

    I think taking away some of the learning outcomes and adding depth to the more important ones is a great step in the right direction. I’m not so sure about the greater emphasis on technology though. I didn’t get my first computer until I was 13, and I learned how to use it just fine. I took one typing class in grade 9 and that has served me well up to now. I didn’t get the internet until I was 20, and again, I figured it out pretty fast. I think forcing technology at the elementary level is unnecessary, because they still have several more years to pick it up in secondary. We also have to remember that technology can fail, and getting students to rely on it is not necessarily a good thing. I know I enjoy getting handwritten Christmas cards over an email.

    The one problem I see in implementing all this is class size. I know that there is a lot of debate about whether or not this will work, and if it is financially viable, but for a plan such as this, I think it’s integral. Here, let’s try an analogy. There’s a medium pizza on a table and 4 people are to share it. Chances are all the people will be satisfied after sharing it. Now try splitting the pizza up with 12 people. Will they be equally satisfied? If anything, they will just end up grumpy. And who’s to say that all 12 of them even get a piece? It’s the same way in a classroom. The more students there are, the less attention each student gets, and the less individualized their learning will be. There is only so much of the teacher’s time and energy to go around, so decreasing class size is a must. I think the only problem here is money. If we decrease class size, then we need more teachers, and bigger schools for the additional classes. When you think about doing this province-wide, it’s going to add up fast. I’m not sure how much taxes would increase, but I bet it would be enough to cause some controversy. On the other hand, if you look at it as an investment (an investment in children, our communities, and society), then it might be worth considering.

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  • I think that having the same maximum number of students spelled out in the Act for each subject in Grades 8 to 12 doesn’t make sense. There should be some flexibility to have larger class sizes in some subjects where it makes sense which could be offset by smaller class sizes in others.

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  • Joan says:

    Just as pharmacies have hired assistants to do some of the work of pharmacists, we should also be able to hire assistants to do some of the work of teachers. Do we really need to spend as much money as we do paying teachers? Why not hire people with diplomas in education who would be very capable of making a significant contribution to the delivery of education. Again, it seems like the BCTF is a typical union that is not concerned with the members or customers but has a sole agenda of keeping jobs, raising wage rates and increasing benefits. Why do you think we have all day kindergarten?

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    • Jennifer says:

      All-Day Kindergarten = free babysitting.

      Declining enrollment in virtually every District except Surrey results in hundreds of teachers losing their jobs every year.

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    • Shaun says:

      Joan, all day kindergarten was not the work of the BCTF.

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  • Amelia says:

    As I read these comments and reflect on what it means to be a parent, a student, and student teacher, I realize that the changes that are happening need to continue to keep our education system current, engaging and relevant. I think that the students are probably more ready for the changes than the rest of us and will eagerly accept the challenges and even lead the way.

    I think that schools and school districts need to keep parents and the public informed as to what changes are happening and why, remembering that many parents and community members may not understand the need to change a school model that they have always been familiar with.

    As opportunities for new school models develop, I urge schools and school districts to remember that many students come from families that work traditional Monday to Friday day jobs and may find it difficult to accommodate non-traditional school hours and flexible locations. If these programs are to be part of the public school system, then I think there needs to be accommodations in place to ensure all students can have access to the programs, be it through school buses, in-school child care and/or other flexible options to accommodate real-life families.

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  • WN says:

    I think the use of technology in the classroom can be positive, and i do think an update for students need to happen to help with digital literacy.

    My question however is
    With the new supplier of internet Telus, will Telus monopolization of internet in the school have an effect on computer labs in the way of advertising?

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Great question. Under the recent Telecommunication Services Master Agreement (TSMA) signed back on July 29th, Telus was selected as the primary Internet Service Provider for PLNet and Core Government. What this means is that Telus will be providing the major network transport connections (pipes) to the Internet from different locations on the network. The new service will provide additional capacity, diversity and performance in a flat rate pricing model. The network transport itself will be seamless to the end user, similar to what users experience today. There will be no commercial advertising as part of TELUS providing the Internet Service.

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  • Christina says:

    I find it interesting that we see comments and ideas around a technology focus. As a university instructor, parent and librarian, I think there is a strong need for critical thinking skills. While students need access to technology, the focus of instruction should be on thinking. In order to do this, however, teachers need a broader support system for their own needs and this includes access to libraries and support services that facilitate teaching and learning.

    One idea that has been explored by educators is the idea of maximizing school space to provide more round the clock community services for children that serves a broader range of needs from dance classes to advanced programming for at-risk or special need youths.

    We must be very cautious about online instruction as it can appear to be any easy ‘fix’ at providing educational opportunities at a lower cost to geographically separated people. Children require a more diverse range of educational experiences, many of which involve the advancement of their interpersonal skills and the love of new experiences. If our future is dependent on a culture of innovators, students are going to need greater access to experiential learning – inside and outside of a classroom.

    This leads me to my final point that we must diversify what makes a ‘teacher’. A one year teacher’s certificate helps those professionals deliver the ‘curricula’ but the labour issues around this have created a stranglehold on the definition of k-12 educators. There is little space, money, and willingness make room for other experts to play an integral role in the educational process of our youth. However, it is such diversity in educators that can lead to innovative approaches to successfully teaching diverse communities and individuals.

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  • Krista says:

    To support this new Educational plan there needs to be more money put into the education system and class size needs to be smaller. In order for students to learn about technology students need to be able to have hands on activities on computers or smart boards. In order for students to be able to have choice in their learning they need to be in a smaller class so the teacher will have more time with individuals to support that students learning.

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    • I don’t buy the argument that more funds are needed for this initiative, or that smaller class sizes are a fore-gone consequence. It may even be that a smarter approach will result in the need for less funding and fewer teachers per student.

      As one example (and this is not necessarily a recommendation) do we really need teachers to provide a live, in-class lecture, when those can be recorded once and streamed on demand? Moreover, when students are collaborating on learning a concept, a case could be made that the cross-fertilization of ideas from a *larger* pool of students — aided perhaps by something like Google Hangouts — could increase understanding and retention.

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      • Stephanie says:

        Funny you should say that, Jonathan. I have often thought how great it would be if the lecture or lesson, were to be recorded by a celebrity (preferably a comedian). Played for the class, then the ‘teacher’ in the room supports the ‘learning’ part with the students after having heard the lesson.
        Snip-its on subjects that would engage the students. Then the teacher does the work, the learning, with the students personally. Lets face it some teachers may be great at personal support, but not very engaging when they stand at the front of the room and drone on for 60 minutes about something that the students could not care less about. (Our secondary school has 80 minute blocks and some of the teachers have still not embraced the idea of chunking blocks of learning time) But if Robin Williams, (edited of course) were to explain something about the same subject, I believe the students may be more engaged from the start.
        In a larger school many classes could attend the lesson or lecture, with one teacher present. The other teachers using that time as prep time. Then once the lesson has finished, assuming it is short, the students split up into their classes to work in smaller groups.

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        • Dave says:

          We have teachers in our school who pre-record snippets of “lecture” that the students watch at home, then come to class to work through problems and assignments with (presumably) more one-on-one time with the teacher. This works reasonably well in some areas, but the main criticism is this: very, very few teachers do a 60-minute “monologue”-style lecture. My “lectures” are full of “back-and-forth Q&A” with the students. I ask questions and elicit responses, they ask questions for clarification, and the looks on their faces and the questions they are asking cue me on areas that need further explanation or another example.

          So far, you just can’t do that with the Robin-Williams-Pre-Recorded lecture – which is of course not to say that it’s an outright bad idea. We just need to think carefully about which topics something like that might work effectively for. It won’t be every one.

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  • Sandy Watson says:

    The province needs to remember that not all of us live in the lower mainland and that the northern schools have unique needs to that of the rest of the province. In order for SD82 to change to be more flexible, they need adequate funding. SD82 has one of the highest special needs populations per capital in the province yet we are not funded adequately. SD82 can barely offer programs like elementary band.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Thanks for your comment, Sandy. We recognize that different districts have different needs and there is not a one size fits all solution here. That is indeed the essence of flexibility and choice: finding out what your needs and wants are and determining what can be done to support that.

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      • Steve says:

        Mike, I teach Psych 11/12, and Psych IDS. I am stunned at the “nasty” level of my students writting skills and have had to begin a process of writing in which I know that I will see the students paper …. “many times” before we get to an acceptable final product. I am having to spend up to 20 % of my marking time (that’s at home!) completely destroying the students papers with corrections over the most elementary mistakes. I deal with many of our town’s employers and the most common comment is “what the H__l are you guys teaching these kids!” We’d rather have them un-schooled so that we can teach them “real” skills. And I AGREE with them. I’m an employer too. Many kids have lost (maybe they never developed it) the skill of being to think.

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  • Dave says:

    High schools already feature a significant amount of choice, while balancing that with “core competencies” that are mandatory. The average high school gives students a flavour of the different branches of science, art, humanities, etc. in Grade 8-10, and then allows a significant degree of choice in Grades 11-12. For example, in the sciences students can study biology, chemistry, physics, and earth science in pretty much any school, in addition quite often to one or more other options. Should we offer more choice within in the individual courses? Perhaps – but in, for example, Biology 11-12, we try to offer a broad spectrum of biological topics, since they tend to interrelate and inform other areas. If we dropped the “broad spectrum” approach, students may be missing some of the broader “general principles” of biology.

    That being said, there’s a lot of benefit in allowing the students to research a particular area of interest in addition to the broad-spectrum. In IB schools, this is accomplished by way of the “Extended Essay”, and in science the “Group IV Project”, which are student-directed, deep studies of a particular topic of interest to them. Such a thing could certainly be incorporated into our “regular” high school curriculum – but we need to be careful how much of the “regular curriculum” we axe to make room for it. There’s still a lot of value in graduating well-rounded students who are conversant in a broad variety of topics (even a few of those which may be of less interest to them).

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Great points, Dave. As we’ve said in the Plan, there will be continued emphasis on the core competencies, with infusion of new skills, flexibility and choice where and when it makes sense. The foundation of the educational experience will remain intact but then layered with the changes that we are all discussing here and in other conversations.

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  • Mark says:

    You either throw more money at the system – smaller classes, smaller high schools, more support staff – or you have to change the system fairly radically. If we change the way we engage and teach children in high school then we will also need to change the way the post-secondary system is prepared to take these new thinkers in. I strongly recommend that any one engaged in this Conversation take the time to watch this video:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

    Ken Robinson Is a highly respected educator and I believe his thoughts on the need for more creativity in our schools is central to this discussion.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Indeed – Sir Ken’s ideas are certainly influencing our thinking in the ministry around needed education transformation.

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  • Chelsea says:

    I feel that students should have choice and flexibility in what they are learning. But I also think that students should be allowed to work on some things at their own pace. If a student is struggling I don’t believe that they should have to rush their learning just so that they can have their work in on time. How is that learning? I understand that students need to learn self-management and organizational skills but when is the learning taking place if they are just rushing and not doing something to its full potential. Everyone learns at different rates and so I think on top of flexibility and choice there needs to be some sort of self accountability and self management for students to explore learning at their own pace as well.

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  • gordon says:

    I believe education should prepare our children for the future. Some ideas to this avail should include
    1. Chinese language immersion
    – we are Canada’s gateway to Asia and world dynamics are changing
    2. Entrapereurial training.
    – many educators have only experienced the public sector and might not have the bachground to prepare our next generation for life in the private sector.
    3. Higher emphasis on technology

    *be proactive* A high percentage of today’s students will end up in the pricate sector dealing with Asia.

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  • Thomas says:

    I’m not sure what the magical number is but school districts require a funding allocation that supports flexibility an choice. What if a class only had 10 students? Currently, a school could afford it. But, what if it meant that all 10 students graduate? Would it be worth it to society?

    Year round schooling. It’s time to change the “farming” calendar that schools follow. Prescribed learning hours must change, not every child learns at the same pace. How would we fund a system whereby students and teachers learn and taught at different times?

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  • As a parent of four I see a need for greater accountability of the teachers (ie. their behavior and teaching skills). I also think students should have more options given to them regardless of the school they attend. For example, the International baccalaureate (IB) program is not offered at every school. If a student wants to enter this program they should be able to transfer to a local school that does offer this program. We also have friends with children that have learning disabilities. I think there should be specific schools designed to meet their needs just as there should be schools tailored to meet the needs of students with talents in the trades ( ie. plumbers, welders, …). Students, as they better learn what talents they possess, should be able to freely transfer to one of those specialized schools. There would still be a need for the status quo schools as a discovery period for students before they learn their individual skills and for those that prefer the current learning system.
    I also think students should be able to grade their teachers in order to give administrators indicators of areas of improvement. All of our children have had teachers that they have be able to learn a lot from and some that they have learned very little from. Similar to us adults there will always be those children with alterior motives other than improving teaching quality, but these students are in the minority. For example, if 90 percent of the students are reporting that a teacher has behavior problems and this report continues from year to year then it should be addressed and evaluated. These teachers should not be aware of this evaluation due to the tendency that people change their behavior when being observed.

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    • You said, “…I see a need for greater accountability of the teachers (ie. their behavior and teaching skills)…I also think students should be able to grade their teachers in order to give administrators indicators of areas of improvement…”

      The target of evaluation is ultimately the one who needs the feedback. I like the idea of 360 degree evaluations for school board executives (superintendent, district principals, sec-treasurer, etc), school administrators (school Principals and VPs) and teachers. In a 360 degree eval you receive evaluations from those above you, below you and beside you in the org chart, including clients (students & parents) as well as a self evaluation. Free Open Source software exists that makes requesting and compiling such evaluations online cheap and easy to do. I wrote a related comment with more details here…

      http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/10/question-3/comment-page-3/#comment-502

      …and here:

      http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/10/question-3/comment-page-3/#comment-493

      You also said, “…teachers should not be aware of this evaluation due to the tendency that people change their behavior when being observed.”

      I disagree; in fact, I think it is best if the target of evaluation initiates and actually leads their own 360 degree evaluation (see details in the previous two links).

      I think that an education system in which we model personal responsibility, accountability and transparency will be more effective and more conducive to continuous improvement (life-long learning). I think that a professional and collegial education system will be more effective and more conducive to continuous improvement (life-long learning) than an authoritarian one. I wrote other related comments here:
      http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/12/question-wrap-up/comment-page-1/#comment-1331

      There is also a thread of related comments from other contributors here:
      http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/10/question-3/comment-page-3/#comment-407

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  • Joan says:

    Many jobs require a university degree of some sort. It has been said many times that university is the new high school. If this is what the job market is requiring, then it would disservice the student to not prepare them for university. Unfortunately, university education has another bunch of problems.

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    • Agreed on the problems with universities. Increasingly, their “bang” is diminishing, while their “buck” continues to grow. Getting the perfect, Solomonic formula for schools will be largely wasted for those who go on to University.

      As a half-baked idea, colleges and universities should be required to post and update “outcome” statistics of former students.

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  • Joan says:

    I think schools and school districts need a direct ear to students and parents. I think the BCTF has too much influence and control and does not represent teachers. Schools need to have more control so that the schools can offer what parents and students are looking for. We need variety and choices because one model will not fit all students. Most importantly, I believe we need to offer more independent schools. Parents should have more affordable choices as to where they would like their child educated. The current “BCTF headed schools” focus on wages, benefits and sick days and not on the student.

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  • Steve says:

    Sorry, one more thought: I believe that we are far, far to university focused. The majority of our students will not attend a university and yet the entire progem is driven by exams and programs catering to this belief. What about the rest of our young people who have an incredible capacity to learn but are raced through things in order to meet exam expectations but would have benefitted far more with a deeper more indepth study of the material? See TED Talks;Ken Robinson, Mike Rowe etc. The current system “doesn’t service” any more.

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    • Brianne says:

      I agree that schools, especially in the middle to high school level are far too university driven. Students learn in many different ways, so why is it that in high school, most of their marks are based on exam scores? Why is it also that all of the exams are written ones? There are so many other mediums to assess student learning, but once students get to be a certain age, they are given papers and exams to write. It is because that is what universities focus on. Perhaps university education should be reconsidered? Most of the university programs could learn alot from the Education departments. In my ED program, we focus on practical strategies, reflection, teamwork, collaboration, problem-solving, and critical thinking, which are all very important life skills. However, when I was taking sciences, our classes were all lectures, and our mark was based solely on 3 midterms that were all multiple choice. Most individuals do not learn this way, they just memorize what they need to memorize and forget it the next day. That is why I think that shifting to more personalized learning is SO important! Perhaps universities should think about doing this as well.

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      • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

        We’ve had several people — including university professors — comment that students are coming in to post sec without the necessary writing skills. Is there a risk that if we make written exams less important that this crucial academic skill will further erode? Or is it really a problem in the first place? Curious to know what you and others think,

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        • JT says:

          Although I understand where Brianne is coming from in regards to papers and exams to write, having attended university, and am currently pursuing a Master’s degree, I do not agree that writing exams and/or papers is strictly a university focus.

          Solid writing skills are needed in all walks of life, even after educational degrees are completed. We all write daily with our jobs, whether those are proposals, memos, reports to supervisors, etc., etc. Therefore, it is essential to have future generations be able to write in a coherent manner.

          That said, I do not think that making written exams less important would have an effect on the skill, because exam writing is not where writing begins. Learning to write begins in a classroom, from simple sentence writing, to paragraph writing, and ultimately essays (which may or may not lead to exam writing). Exam writing is a skill on its own, but it is also an application of general writing skills when writing essay-based exams.

          In general, I think there needs to be a greater focus on the steps of writing (process, grammar, spelling and punctuation) along with proper sourcing/bibliography etc. in the school system.

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        • Steve says:

          I don’t know what the answer is Mike. What I do know is that Grades 11 and 12 is not the time to begin trying to instill the “files” of proper writing. These skills need to be introduced in the home right from the “get go” when the children are young. It starts with parents giving “face time” to the kids, reading, drawing and all of the other things that instill the early building blocks that make (or not) the foundation that the rest of the childs life will be built upon. The early teachers (K-3 ish) can help install some of these building blocks and patch some of the already apparent holes in the childs education but all of these efforts are a waste if the child does not get the re-enforcements at home. TV etc., does not educate!! the studies are conclusive. If we want them to read and write we have to practice it. That means turning off the tube and games etc. and making learning a valued thing and an important part af their day. We have to stop pushing through and worrying about how they will feel if they get a bad mark. Success takes work … EVERYWHERE! If more kids failed due to the reality of their true marks, they would learn to apply themselves more in order to get the job done. If there is no consequence for producing a lousy product, why would anyone be bothered to make the changes needed.

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          • Moderator Rebekah says:

            Thanks Steve,

            I am a parent of two young children myself and your comment brings up other important questions. How can the education system cultivate better parental engagement? How do we ensure parents have the tools and supports they need to work with their children at home? From what I have seen, often it isn’t a lack of interest on the part of some parents, it’s a lack of know-how: it’s hard to model what they may never have experienced themselves. Often too, there are many other barriers they need to overcome – language, cultural, economical etc. We can’t expect different results unless we make some changes. I recognize this is a complicated and multi-faceted issue, but do you have any suggestions?

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            • Stephanie says:

              Hi Rebeka, I agree, parents do not get the support they need to help their children succeed. We have a program in our SD called PARTNERS. I think it stands for Parents are ready to nurcher early reading success. I am not sure as my youngest was in grade 5 when it was introduced. From what I have read it is a great support to help parents help their children learn to read. In my house our children all get the prizes from the reading at home programs, as we read to them every night. BUT, no one taught us how to read WITH them.How my kids school lives would have been so much different if we could have known more about helping children learn to engage in reading at young ages.

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    • Heide says:

      Steve, I agree with your ideas. Many students are not necessarily headed to university. Yes, basic literacy and the ability to be articulate is essential, as are basic math skills. Some schools do offer alternative courses which are less demanding than those geared to university entrance. But, much of the curriculum seems geared to university level skill. I myself am a university graduate who thrived in the rigour of that environment and was very successful. This is not the case for many students who have a different path to follow. Here is my question: Why, oh, why does this province and country not look to the successful education model of countries in Europe? For many decades, children there have been streamed into schools, often separate, that are geared to their abilities. Those headed to university attend “Gymnasiums” in Germany, Austria, etc., or Liceums in France, Poland and many others. Children whose potential lies more in the area of practical, work-related skills requiring less academic rigour, attend “Realschule” in Germany and similar schools elsewhere, where they graduate with trade-ready skills and an employability factor far beyond that which the average 18-year old in Canada could demonstrate. Those in the trades in Europe are not considered “less than” by the society at large. Somehow in North America, the attitude is that the trades are for those who “can’t make it” to University. What nonsense! If high schools, at least in urban centres were to be redesigned, reconfigured and staffed with well-trained teachers for both streams, I believe we would have a far better trained work force and less frustration and stress for students, teachers and parents, knowing that a system exists which well best accomodate the particular traits in each student. Please see the article written by Geoff Johnson in the Jan. 2 edition of the Vancouver Sun for a similar perspective.

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      • frank says:

        I could not agree more Heide. We (North America in general)spend far too much time in stretching basic learning requirements to accomodate all rather than recognizing earlier students abilities and providing the path of success.
        We need to utilize technology to support the change, but not at the cost of basics learnings skills. Math, language, comprehension, problem solving, are essential for success. At the early stages of development these must be emphasized. To replace this with fluffy concepts like collaboration, teamwork and innovation are flawed. These come with learning, memorization, analysis, problem solving and so on.
        I am quite concernd about some of the direction I have heard that sound a lot like a lot of public service hiring process. Soon we will have all these people who will be great team players that collaborate well, however, none of them will know what to collaborate on because they have not learned the technical skills to have a common understanding.
        The last time I checked you still need to show up to work on time. You still need to have a strong technical understanding of your profession…Only then will you be able to effectively apply teamwork and collaboration.

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      • Sheila says:

        My concern with this that how many teens have a clear, definite idea of what they want to do when they’re older? I know I didn’t even when I went to college. How do we ensure that when they’re “herded” off into specialized schools, they are not losing opportunities? And if there is a way to ensure that they aren’t losing opportunities, why only high schools in urban areas? Then you are really setting up a system for “less than’s”. Opportunities have to be presented to all students, regardless of where they live.

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        • Heide says:

          Just to clarify, I want to assure you that my many friends in Europe were very happy with their “stream” and choice of life path. Growing up in Canada, I was not sure at all of who I was, or what I could do when I graduated high school and I was, frankly, terrified. It took me much longer to figure out my path than it did for my friends abroad. Those in the “gymnasium” stream became successful professionals in various fields, my friends who studied in the “commerce” schools became accountants, business people and so on. I also remember that they were very grateful for the involvement of their parents in making these choices. Some did indeed change tracks and needed only upgrading and training at adult educational facilities to realize their plans. This is not as limiting a model as you would think. Secondly, my comment about urban centres was not intended to leave out rural areas, but simply to acknowledge the logistics of setting up schools of this type where there may be a lack of sufficient population. I still think it could be done, with separate areas of existing high schools repurposed etc. Even here in the city we have “haves and have nots”, just look to the disparity of schools in affluent neighbourhoods and inner city schools. I leave it to the Ministry to figure out how to make it fair for all.

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        • Stephanie says:

          “less thans” Really? I don’t think choosing a trade or other avenue can be considered less than anything. Our district has been working with the local college and have ramped up our trades training for years now.
          Can we really be surprised that when the people that are ‘teaching’ and leading our students are highly educated, that they want to lead them to university?
          We had a fellow speak to our board and admin about what a ‘trades’ career could mean in the way of income and all the masters degrees in the room were shocked. It was a lack of their education outside the system that was causing the problem.
          The next problem is finding a trades person who is willing to take a decrease in wages to teach their trade. That needs to be addressed as I have found at our secondary school finding and keeping good trades teachers is a bit of a trick! But our partnership with the local college has vastly improved the success of trades students.
          Some of my children’s time was clearly wasted in the ‘higher learning’ requirements for math and english in grade 11 and 12. They hated it and they will never use it. Keep in mind we can all go back and learn what ever we want if we change our career choices. Pounding higer math into a person who is going to be a chef is a waste of everyones time! and makes the student HATE school, possibly even drop out because they see no need and are just not cut out for it.

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          • Dave says:

            “Pounding higer math into a person who is going to be a chef is a waste of everyones time! and makes the student HATE school, possibly even drop out because they see no need and are just not cut out for it.”

            Well, sure, it could be a waste of time. That’s why we don’t require students to take what you call “higher math”. BC high schools offer different streams of math right from the grade 10 level – and trust me, Math 9 is not what you’d call “higher math” since the latest round of curriculum revisions. The student who wants to be a chef already has the choice to take a “basic useful math skills” course in grade 10 and 11 (even chefs have to use math! Think about calculating nutritional information, measurement, etc).

            Of course, I would also argue that having a broad education – even when it doesn’t seem to “fit” into a particular job – is of tremendous value. I’m glad that I’m somewhat conversant in history, geography, English literature, computer science, and, yes, math – even though I don’t necessarily use those on a day-to-day basis. Some, like the computer science I took in high school, have turned into nice hobbies (and even some extra income). Others, like the math, have proved useful in strange places – like when I needed to appeal an at-fault decision that ICBC made. I used my high school physics and math skills to demonstrate that their adjuster had gotten something wrong, and they reversed the decision.

            Education is not “job skills training” – and even for those students who struggle with school or don’t like a particular subject, there’s a great deal of merit in educating rather than simply training.

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  • Steve says:

    I find that while there is this real desire to “appear” to be providing all this “choice” to students and parents, it is not a reality. While I do have a number of young people who do have a clear understanding of the role that education is/and will play in their future, the majority of students DO NOT have a clear understanding of this concept. This means that asking them what they want as related to educational options is a fruitless exercise and leaves us with inferior information. This goes for their parents as well. I teach grades 11 and 12 and can say with complete certainty that many (bordering on most) parents are completely disengaged from their highschooler school experience. I realize that this influenced by location and demographic but the reality is there. I know what is needed for my young people to be successful, for most part, they do not! Before I start laying allowing to many players to be involved in the re and re of our system (which I believe is in dire need of redesign) I would want to provide ample opportunity to encourage parent engagement and bring them up to speed as to the very real challenges that we face. I say this not only as an educator but also a parent, I had all four of my children sitting in my classes (kind of wierd) and I am very passionate about what they needed to know to move forward in life. Lastly; their is a HUGE disconnect between the reality of classrooms and kids ….. and ….. board offices and admin. We have got to get everybody into the same game.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      What you speak of, Steve, is the ongoing critical role of the teacher in the process. In order for students to better be prepared to make more independent choices and decisions about their education teachers will need to guide them carefully along the way. Same goes for the relationship with many parents.

      No one is suggesting these skills are innate in learners and their families; like many aspects of our education system, they need to be carefully taught, nurtured, and reassessed at frequent intervals.

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  • Kim Morton says:

    Several things need changing in the way school districts operate. We have far too many high paid administrators that do nothing to advance learning. EG: Every school district has its own payroll department which is a huge duplication of services. Not every district needs its own director(s) of curriculum development either.
    There has to be a better method of screening out people that will never make good teachers. Far too many have zero skills or experience outside of a classroom, they simply spent a bunch of years sitting in various classrooms and eventually earned a chair facing the opposite direction.
    Thinking back to my own school days in the 60s and 70s I can recall only 5 good teachers and at least double that that were spectacularly bad. My son can’t claim even that many in the 90s.

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      I’m sorry to hear about your experiences with the system, Kim. Do you have any specific concerns about teacher training or suggestions for what you think needs to change to make things better?

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    • Steve says:

      Sad, but I have to agree

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  • Janine says:

    I think the community should be more immersed in education. More exposure to the people who actually work in the community. When I finally went to university i had no idea what i wanted to be or do as I had no idea what everyone out there in the workplace actually did. More mentoring and work place interaction. More working people coming into the schools to explain, in detail, what their jobs entail. University originated as a luxury and in many cases it remains so. Yes, it is fun to learn but is it useful? How many of us know young people who have a B.A. and cannot find a job. The people making money at university are the text book manufacturers. The focus is not on making useful citizens.

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  • Mrs. S. says:

    I am a University professor and teach first year University courses. I feel strongly that the public school system needs to change so that students entering University are better prepared. We need more rigourous focused education in mathematics where students do not go onto to advanced concepts before learning the basics (without using a calculator). About half of the students entering my University courses do not know how to construct a simply mathematical formula, do percentage or use exponents. Another weaknesses is grammar and spelling. Again, many students entering University cannot write a business letter or simple paper using good grammar and perfect spelling e.g. they don’t know the difference between “their” and “there”. If the spellchecker doesn’t pick it up, they assume that their grammar/spelling is correct.

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    • Doug Smith says:

      Yes, it is very strange that students can get high enough marks to enter university yet cannot do some basic math. There is a disparity here.

      As well, there is a disparity between what a secondary school mark represents and what this means for post-secondary education. For example, I am using a standards based grading system. My students’ mark represents what they know. For some students, it takes them a long time to learn. This mark may cause conflict with universities, in that a student that learns 90% of the material in 2 months could possibly excel at university whereas a student that takes 7 months to learn 90% of the material may not. But I consider this to be a problem for universities and their admissions protocols to sort out.

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  • TW says:

    Also redefine the role of the PAC. Many schools only seem to want PAC as a fundraising body where it should be operating as more of a parental advisory/oversight committee for the flexibility and choice in schools.

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  • TW says:

    1) They need to get with the digital age right now. I.e. Trustee meetings should be on-line. New subjects can can be offered by video streaming (then my child at least wouldn’t be subject to a screaming teacher who bullies and shames in her classroom).
    2) Stop the grade split classes – my child is too far behind on basic math skills for his grade because he is in a split class and this gives them no flexibility at all.
    3) Let my kids work in advance and graduate ahead if they can.
    4) Make schools positive places by opening up the gyms as active community space in the evenings, on weekends and in the summer – this happened at my school thirty years ago (!!!) and it provided an excellent connection to the school for the youth in the community and utilized some of the taxpayer owned capital investment when it wouldn’t otherwise be used.

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  • Liz says:

    1. Make sure principals/administrators have management skills to get schools to move from the antiquated model of classroom domains to seeing the entire school as the student’s classroom. Note that I do NOT support multi-age classroom groupings. Let’s remember that the Year 2000 program FAILED. I do support an additional elementary classroom in every school to which students can go if they are not at “grade level” in any subject AND they cannot behave in the classroom. In this classroom, students could get the extra help they need from a teacher who has taken additional training AND who works in partnership with the student’s classroom teacher. It is NOT a room where students are SENT by a classroom teacher who would rather not do the additional curriculum prep required.
    2. How do classroom teachers get fired? Let’s face it: there is a very small percentage who really need to find an alternate way to make money, but they are reluctant to leave a job with such a great salary and benefits.
    3. School District Trustees need to be supported–not threatened–to make difficult political decisions, like closing small schools, to better redirect funding that creates flexibility and choice for students.
    4. Stop wasting money on surveys such as this that yield very little but motherhood statements that are unattainable because the surveys suck money away from real education.

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  • Eva Hope says:

    I would like to see core subjects taught in the morning. In the afternoon children could choose their course of studies in the arts, music, business, sports. These courses should be taught by professionals in each field. Example: Piano by a pianist, hockey by a hockey coach. Rec centers and arenas would be used as needed. In this way all students have a chance to explore their interests and talents. By graduation students could be truly skilled and trained in their areas of choice.

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    • Kevin says:

      Eva,
      Interesting idea Eva about using mornings for core focus and afternoons for other activities. What do you think of the spiral curriculum where important concepts are retaught throughout the day/week at different times and with different slants / tools? This has proven very effective at our school.

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  • Diana says:

    I think it will be clearer for us, parents, to give you a more substantial answer once we know what “flexibility” is. I do agree, however, that there needs to be more methods available to teach our kids.

    Right now, my daughter is more advanced than her other peers when it comes to reading and writing, but is not being given a chance by that teacher to try harder things because she is not required to do so. If more choices and flexibilities will help a child like mine, then we need to first start changing how teachers feel about their own teaching methods.

    There are many teachers out there who are teaching that should not be, or at least who really need to be trained further on how to treat children or teens emotionally. Just like any other job where there is interaction with the public and an emphasis is on how that public is treated, so should it be so in schools. How many times has one heard how a child is failing because the teacher was not willing to help out or was teaching straight out of the textbook? Too many times.

    Parents really need to be involved with their own child’s needs, but there are cases where there is a single parent who may not have as much time as a stay at home mom to supervise. If that is the case, the schools should have an after school program for such children to make sure their homework is done. Or better yet, have them work on those assignments while at school so there is not as much homework, and therefore, not fall behind.

    I completely agree with other comments that basic learning skills need to be kept and taught well. It is ridiculous how a teenager cannot even do cursive or has even a hard time spelling. Yes, technology is nice to have like spellcheck, but it is so important to have grammar skills. Why is there such a trend now for teachers to not care and for kids not to learn such a valuable skill? Life skills are important too, like learning to cook and drive. And please, keep funding for arts available instead of cutting it. Not all students are inclined to the arts or sciences, but rather more inclined to the fine arts, graphic design.

    It is exciting to see this open communication between the gov’t, teachers and parents. Hopefully something more concrete will come out of this soon so we can have more people willing to comment and get involved.

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  • I think first I would like to see a shift in attitude of educators. A shift from power over, judgements, labels,reward & punishment… to power with, listening with empathy, teaching skills while staying with the passions of children.

    Treating each child like they matter, they have gifts to share, mistakes are wonderful because it means they are trying new things….

    This is non-violent communication (Dr.Rosenberg) which fosters flexibility and change to meet everyone’s needs!

    How can you have flexibility and choice if educators are stuck in playing the old roles?

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    • Penny Barner says:

      Becoming a mentor, teaching children to teach themselves, not just being the talking head at the front of the class — these are important ways for educators to change.

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  • Heide says:

    I have read many of the comments with great interest. Maybe I have missed the ones that address the need for greater support specialists in schools. As a trained ELL specialist, I have watched the erosion of specialized support for immigrant students for the 20 years I have been teaching. As an ELL teacher I went from teaching beginner to advanced students, to no advanced, now no intermediate and now not even some of our beginners. The last blow came when many school districts implemented an “integrated“ model where specialists are no longer specialists but are required to be support teachers to all and sundry, whether learning disabled, immigrant, weak learners, behaviourally disordered or whatever comes along. Bean counters in district offices regularly reduce, reduce, and reduce levels of teachers who have these qualifications, and in addition, too many young, inexperienced teachers with little or no specialized training, particularly in second language acquisition areas, are being put in positions which require knowledge additional to that of a classroom-curriculum teacher. When the universities and governments succeed in training all teachers on these issues prior to their entering the classroom, perhaps things will improve with regard to the reality of one young man or woman handling 28 to 32 diverse learners. Until then, greater attention to the specialized knowledge a specialty teacher has needs to be recognized. Teachers in the classroom need to communicate and collaborate much more than is now permitted in a system which at present still puts a single teacher in charge of the way 28 children learn, with little or no input from the specialist teachers that have the knowledge to build those adapted and modified programs that will lead to success for our students. As I see our economy worsen, I see students worsen, stressed parents, immigrants struggling to establish themselves, broken families, poverty and more, I wonder why our government doesn`t see this as well and yet expects that, even without the needed help to do so, these struggling students will succeed. The supports are crumbling from year to year, but the number of compromised students is steadily increasing. Arguments about how immigrants should already know English, unmotivated students should get a swift kick…, and children with cognitive impairments shouldn`t be in regular schools, are all non-starters because they are here and they are all welcome. That said, I would love to see a forum question here on the issue of support specialists. Thank you for this opportunity.

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  • Tracy says:

    I think allowing there to be some flexibility in early admission to school would be beneficial. As it stands right now, in our school district if the child is not born before midnight on Dec 31, they need to wait an additional year to begin school. I have met many children who are not ready to enter school when they should, and I have also met children who are ready early. I really beleive that there should be an avenue that parents can take if they feel there child is ready early, or later, to best suit the needs of the child, not some arbitrary cut off date.

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    • Penny Barner says:

      If the government properly funded early childhood education, we would see much better prepared learners heading into elementary programs around the province.

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      • Stephanie says:

        Perhaps the government needs to educate the parents of those young children more than they need to educate those young children.
        More opportunities like Strong start are needed. I would like to see a graduated Strong start program, one that if the parents attend on a regular basis with their children at some point they can drop them off.
        This would help the parents learn and truly prepare the children for kindy. (as well as reward the parents with a bit of time by investing in the classes in the first place).
        Strong start does not help those parents who do not know about it (and really need it) or those parents who need to work.
        I feel those early years are really mine, as a parent to prepare my child for school. I wish I knew then, what I know now. All of my children would have done better in school, if I had known how to prepare them more than I did.

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  • In an earlier comment I argued that the question needs to be broadened to something like, “How do you think our government needs to change to support more flexibility and choice?”
    (see http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/12/question-9/comment-page-1/#comment-1166 ). While thinking about this more broadly, one question I asked myself was, “Would things be the same for children if children themselves could vote, or if a proportional number of children’s advocates were assigned to represent them in elected governments?”

    I just took a quick look at the Stats Canada website, at the population by age table here…
    http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/110928/t110928a4-eng.htm
    …and it indicates that a significant percentage of Canadians are under the legal voting age; almost 1/4 of Canadians are too young to vote! That is a significant proportion of the Canadian population without a democratic voice in government.

    I can’t help but have noticed the significant work that is being accomplished by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond as the BC Representative for Children and Youth, and I wonder how much more could be accomplished for Canadian children if they were represented proportionally in all levels of our government (Municipal, Provincial and Federal).

    One complaint I have often heard about elected politicians is that they focus mostly on shorter term goals like winning the next election, and longer term goals fall off their radar. It seems to me that if a proportional number of seats in government (almost 1/4!) were reserved solely for advocating for children then longer-term goals that more significantly impact children during their lifetime would receive more attention from the government.

    So then, why don’t we reserve a proportional number of the total elected seats in our government for advocates for children?

    And if we are completely convinced that is not reasonable or feasible, then why don’t we at least have more people like Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond advocating for children?

    I can imagine class student representatives being elected for every classroom, school student representatives being elected for every school, district student representatives being elected for every district and provincial student representatives informing a group of adult advocates for children. I imagine that group of adult advocates for children also being informed by parents via PAC/DPAC/BCCPAC and by other voices for children.

    What do you think?

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  • Jeff says:

    If what we mean by flexibility is the ability to develop and staff innovative programs then what we are really talking about are three core things which are pivotal to supporting this shift: funding, calendar and labour contracts.

    Funding needs to be provided on an equal basis for all students whether they are brick and mortar based, blended or distributed learners. Districts will not seriously support innovation for flexibility if they face a net loss of funding for DL learners or blended programs. The funding should also promote flexibility so that students and parents can access blended formats that suit lifestyle and learning preferences. Per course funding should be extended down to grade 6 and there should be consideration of “segment” funding to K (i.e. a parent wants to have their child enrolled in a partial program in a different school or district in a specific curriculum area). This will promote innovation and competition in a system that has been starved of it for far too long.

    The school calendar regulations and policies need to allow schools to set the academic year accordance with the programming needs centered on the learner and family. This could mean that different schools in a district could offer various choices, but also programs within a school. All year round schooling is one option, but also different hours, weekend schools etc. Students need to be able to schedule, accelerate or pace their learning in ways that support their learning.

    No shift is more critical to supporting flexibility in schools and districts than labour contracts. To date this factor alone has shackled most attempts to innovate and promote flexibility in the educational system. All teachers are not alike – the same – or interchangeable. While seniority is important in supporting stability and commitment to the system, it can no longer be the prime driver of staffing programs as it will choke all innovation before it begins. Teachers need to demonstrate that they have acquired and used skills appropriate to the instructional demands of a program or course at a high level before they are considered qualified to apply. The need to document and maintain the requisite skills of a course or program should trump seniority at every turn. Principals, Vice-Principals and district staff need to be empowered to determine when a teacher’s experience and qualifications meet the threshold needs of a posting. In the very same vein, support staff need to demonstrate the same dynamic of professional upgrading and skill maintenance in order to stay or be qualified for positions. If we continue to treat the public education as the job trough of the two big unions then we are destined to the same mediocrity that has plagued the current system.

    A few sound bites to consider.

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    • Stephanie says:

      Jeff, I could not agree more with what you have said here. I wish I could give you more thumbs up!
      Thank you so much for saying it so well!

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    • Doug Smith says:

      To date I have not heard of any actual unbiased methods of evaluating teachers. This is a major concern for labour contracts. I know that you didn’t specifically mention merit pay, but it is one example aspect of labour contracts and evaluation. Even people like Peter Cowley from the Fraser Institute have admitted on-air (you can find interviews with him on CBC) that there are problems with how to actually evaluate teachers. While I agree on principle that teachers should be rewarded for their aptitude, I think that in reality this would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. Outliers could be easy to identify (ie the very best and worst) but for others it will be shades of gray.

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    • L. Tooker says:

      This is a specious argument. You state, “Principals, Vice-Principals and district staff need to be empowered to determine when a teacher’s experience and qualifications meet the threshold needs of a posting.” This is what happens presently in all except the smallest or most quickly shrinking districts. One might also demand that principals should have to “demonstrate that they have acquired and used skills appropriate” (your words to describe teachers) in order to be permitted to make such determinations? Many teachers are at least as highly educated as their supervisors, and in many cases have specialized training not shared by their supervisors.

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      • Mark says:

        …it may be difficult but all staff, teachers, administrators, support staff need to under go meaningful performance reviews. Most other professional workers do. As far as I can tell this just isn’t done in the teaching profession. There is little point on spending more time and money on new resources , programs and technology if staff are not evaluated on whether they are adopting these new approaches. Performance reviews would identify those who have fully adopted the new methods, and can help others, those that would like to buy in but need more help, training or whatever and those who might have dug their heels in and are not going to change.

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  • mom says:

    I really do not understand all this concern OVER flexibility! I looks like that is ALL it is – wayyy tooo flexible! Especially for students that do not want to do the REQUIRED work to get the DESIRED results! Once the door is closed – EVERY classroom does it’s OWN thing! There is NO continuity in any class/school/district/province/counrty! Everything is flexed to accomplish WHAT exactly! How does a fine arts school fit in the actual ‘BC required?’ ciriculumn? I cannot see how it can all fit into the super short school day! More flexibility? How about more guidelines and basic requirements! We need to get back to basics. We send these KIDS into the real world and they cannot understand why EVERYONE is NOT accomodating their NEEDS! Geesh!!

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      As we’ve said in the BC Education Plan, flexibility and choice are important but will NOT come at the expense of basic skills and competencies. The core elements of each curriculum will remain intact but will be supplemented with new material that allows students to learn how, when and where it may work best for them as individual learners. This will require careful consideration and planning by all groups concerned – including teachers, parents, and students.

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    • Penny Barner says:

      In my mind, it’s not about getting back to “basics” — which hasn’t been successful so far — but about teaching children to meet their own needs! In Montessori, three year olds are teaching themselves! We have to create independence and a love of learning. The existing system — especially the “basics” — doesn’t do this.

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      • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

        What we’re envisioning, Penny, is a balance between the basics and new competencies. Core content knowledge is still, and always will be, important but how it’s taught and learned is changing to reflect a changing world. Giving students more ownership of their learning and more flexibility and choice in how, where, etc they do it will teach them valuable skill such as self reliance, collaboration with peers, critical thinking, problem solving, etc. These are skills that will serve them well in the 21st century.

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  • Louise says:

    Continue to support DL opportunities. I have greatly appreciated my daughter’s opportunity to have support blocks in school and still get full courses (not having to give up anything to get help). She had learning assistance, and then took a couple of courses from her area of strength online.

    I have heard that those blocks will no longer be funded by the ministry and she won’t be allowed to take both Learning Assistance and online courses (or that isn’t going to be funded or something), so that is what I think the Ministry will need to change to support flexibility and choice within the schools.

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    • Moderator Chrysstena says:

      Hi Louise – as we gather information through this blog, and work with experts in the field and in the Ministry to develop the BC Education Plan, we will definitely be looking at ways of changing the current funding formula to provide the best funding options for the Education system in BC. No decisions on what the funding formula will be have been made as of yet.

      Depending on the grade level, students are continued to allow to take courses both through DL and in a neighbourhood school and we will certainly be continuing to look at all of these options. The Ministry strongly believes in supporting change, flexibility and choice through the BC Education Plan and as we move forward, we will do our best to provide open options to all of our learners to be educated in a way that works for individual students.

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  • I think that our schools have always changed to reflect the needs of the community, and I would like to see evidence that this isn’t the case. This is why it is important to have small schools as they are then accountable to the community it services. However, the smaller schools are continually being closed as School District’s struggle to find money to fund their operation.

    For example, the high school in Chemainus used the provide many more programs and choice for students until the funding was cut (I mean changed, didn’t a previous Education Minister say “Highest Funding Ever” when she changed the funding model to a per student formula?). Now they cannot offer the courses that they used to. This causes more of the kids to go to bigger high schools so they can attend the courses they want to attend, which means fewer students at Chemainus, so their funding is lower.

    Conversely, at the larger high school, this means more overcrowded classrooms and fewer one on one time with a teacher for the students.

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  • Jason McMain says:

    Perhaps the most important change is the ability to give real feedback to the government; right now our board of education is merely an extension of the mandate of those in power. Also, if school districts are to have real sources of income, as they can’t rely on government funding, the school act should be changed, giving school boards direct access to sold properties and the ability to spend that income/revenue how they would.

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  • Tina says:

    Teaching students the ability to be flexible and make choices should be at the heart of a strong curriculum. In the constantly changing world in which students will be working and living, these two abilities will give them the edge in life.

    However, having a curriculum that is flexible and provides students choice has several flaws.

    Where is teacher accountability?
    Where are the standards? Who will decide if a student has the ability to be successful in their adult lives (eg. reading skills, writing skills, math skills)?
    Yes, some students in schools do require Individual Education Plans (IEP’s) because they are unable to meet the curriculum standards because of a variety of physical, emotional, genetic or intellectual differences.
    Every student in every class should not have an Individual Education Plan.

    To best meet the needs of students and ensure they are prepared to succeed in their adult lives the government needs to provide more one on one meaningful interactions with highly trained and skilled classroom teachers, resource teachers, educational assistants, speech and language therapists, and school counselors.

    Students must develop a strong set of core skills (reading, writing, math) if they are to compete in today’s every changing world.

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  • Gordon says:

    As you can infer by the diversity of responses and perspectives to these BC Education Plan questions,likely premised on implicit differences in views on the purpose of schooling, one size rarely fits all. So beyond a reduced core curriculum around big ideas impacting humanity, our democratic values and uniting the human experience, flexibility and choice in emphasizing certain areas of the curriculum in certain schools is possible. There are many ways to do it, from changing traditional ways of delivering education in a classroom, to offering schools that have divergent curriculum emphases or teaching methodologies. We already have such schools such as French immersion, Montessori and so on. Imagine a high school that offers the core academic courses, but has the flexibility to specialize and offer more courses in dance, drama, music and the visual arts for students who choose such an area to practice in an area of expertise. A large department of instructional specialized expertise in such a school would enhance curriculum delivery for students and energize kindred spirit teachers. Schools that emphasize business and entrepreneurship or science and technology and so on after the middle school years would likely encourage more enthusiastic and engaged participation by interested students. Choosing an elective specialty area to finish schooling on might make schooling a more transformative experience for students. By Grade 9, and certainly by Gr. 10, our young people are ready to put their minds and hearts into something beyond “receiving, retaining and returning” content that they do not find meaningful at that moment in their lives. Schools and their districts (and has been pointed out the provincial jurisdiction) would need to support and provide opportunities for such change.

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  • Bev says:

    As Richard said earlier, it’s not only schools and school districts that need to change to support more flexibility and choice in the school system.

    The political leaders/Ministry of Education also needs to change. Right now our system is too adversarial. The Ministry and the teachers have issues. The teachers and parents have issues. Parents and teachers have issues with administration. And on it goes. The ones who suffer in the end are the children.

    The “system” needs to come up with province wide, long range goals and all the stakeholders need to come up with collaborative and creative ways to make it happen. Could it include changing school hours or calendars? Possibly. Could it include online/distance learning? Maybe. Is funding going to be an issue? Most likely.

    The focus should be on the students and how to educate them so that they become independent, self-supporting adults who contribute to our society. We need to make sure that the money that is allocated to education is used effectively and not wasted on one or two year “experiments” that end up serving no useful purpose or on oversized administration or red tape. Not everyone is going to go to university or college so we need to make sure there are other opportunities for these students.

    Also, we need to have more effective communication between the adults in the system. This forum is going on and to be honest the only reason I know about it is because I had sent an e-mail to the Ministry about an issue last school year and they sent me a link. I was not informed about it by my school and it was only briefly mentioned on our school board website. I have mentioned this forum to other parents in my school district and to date, not one other parent knew about it either. If we want to have flexibility and options for the students, we need to make sure that everyone knows what’s going on. Someone earlier mentioned schools that cater to things like fine arts, or sports, or academics, or trades. We have schools in my district that do offer these types of programs, even some at the elementary school level, but I have not met one parent who knew about them when they signed their children up for kindergarten. How can the students take part in these types of programs if no one hears about them?

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    • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

      Hi Bev. We want to hear from as many people as possible on this site, so we’re continually working on new ways to spread the word about it. Over the next few days we’ll be sending an email notification and invitation to a lot of different organizations and community groups that so far we haven’t reached. We also encourage everyone who knows about the site to share the word with their friends, relatives, and networks. It may be that we need to start advertising, too. Time will tell.

      We also hear your and Richard’s comments about the scope of the question. Indeed, the ministry needs to be part of this discussion – i.e., what changes do we need to make to support and facilitate the move to more flexibility and choice?

      By all means, you and others should share your ideas with us.

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      • I have had the same experience as Bev; few people I contact seem to know about this website.

        Consider putting a link to this website on the front page of every school district website. The bright green “Have Your Say” and BC Education Plan” graphic links that are near the top right-hand corner of the Ministry of Education website could easily be copied to the front page of every school district website, school website, DPAC website, PAC website, public post-secondary instituion website, etc.

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        • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

          Thanks for your suggestions, RIchard. Some districts, such as Qualicum, already have the banner and link on their district sites. Most don’t, though. We will certainly invite them to add it but whether they do is obviously their choice not ours.

          Your other suggestions are also very helpful, and in fact, are part of our next communication rollout. Fingers crossed we’ll see the BC Ed Plan link on lots more websites and on bulletin boards in libraries, rec centres, community hockey rinks, etc over the province very soon! We have a very large list of places and groups we’ll be sharing our message with over the next few weeks.

          if anyone else has other ideas around getting the word out please let us know. It’s kind of off topic for this question so a private email to us at bceducationplan@gov.bc.ca is probably the best way to contact us with your marketing ideas.

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        • I used this convenient Ministry of Education webpage to navigate to each of the 60 BC school district websites to visually scan their homepage for any reference to the BC Education Plan.

          As of just now (4:55pm Saturday January 7, 2012) only 10 out of the 60 school districts had a link on their homepage regarding the BC Education plan (SD6, SD28, SD45, SD50, SD51, SD59, SD60, SD63, SD69 and SD70). Ten out of 60 (17%) is not a very good grade.

          Only 2 of those 10 school districts used the highly visible and recognizable graphic logo links also used on the BC Ministry of Education homepage and on the BC Education Plan website (SD69 and SD70); the remaining 8 school districts just used plain text links that are nowhere near as noticable as the highly visible and recognizable graphic logos that were no doubt designed (at some expense) to deliberately be highly visible and recognizable. Two out of 60 is not a very good grade.

          Of the 14 school districts in the lower mainland, only SD45 mentions the BC Education Plan on their homepage.

          I haven’t looked at BC post-secondary website homepages, but I suspect that the situation is similar.

          If we want the BC Education Plan to be successful, I think we need to do better than this.

          Another thing that is very apparent after looking at all 60 school district websites is the huge technology gap between the “have” and the “have-not” school districts and schools. Here are some related comments I made elsewhere on this website:
          http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/10/question-3/comment-page-3/#comment-516
          http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/12/question-wrap-up/comment-page-1/#comment-1332
          http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/12/question-wrap-up/comment-page-2/#comment-1411

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          • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

            Wow, that’s some impressive detective work, Richard. We certainly would like more uptake than that. We’ve asked, but maybe it’s time to ask again!

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          • A couple of months later I took a second look at all 60 school district homepages. See the results in this related posting on the BC Education Plan website.

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    • Regarding your comment, “…we need to have more effective communication between the adults in the system…”, I completely agree. We need an permanent online venue for communication, collaboration and constructive debate regarding education issues. If you are interested, I wrote more about this topic in the following comments:

      http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/10/question-3/comment-page-3/#comment-493
      http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/10/question-3/comment-page-1/#comment-496
      http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/11/question-5/comment-page-1/#comment-871

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  • The question posed, “How do you think our schools and school districts need to change to support more flexibility and choice?”, is missing at least one other critical partner required to support more flexibility and choice: the provincial government.

    Every school district is co-governed by the Ministry of Education and the local Board of Education and so the provincial government necessarily has a significant responsibility in supporting any increase in flexibility and choice. After all, it is the provincial government that specifies the learning outcomes and many other requirements that parents, students, teachers, schools and districts must address. It is also the provincial government that decides how much money will be alloted to each school district to achieve those outcomes. Since the provincial government ultimately sets specifications of the job and funding for the job, obviously the provincial government must play a significant role in supporting any increase in flexibility and choice.

    I wrote more regarding the necessary relationship between goals chosen and funds available over in the Question Wrap-Up forum here:
    http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/12/question-wrap-up/comment-page-1/#comment-1040

    Also, now that the provincial government is taking over the function of the teacher’s professional association, The BC College of Teachers, the government is assuming direct responsibilities regarding teacher education programs as well. Preparations to support any increase in flexibility and choice will need to be addressed in teacher education programs as well.

    So it is just as relevant, if not more so, to also ask the question, “How do you think our government needs to change to support more flexibility and choice?”

    Perhaps a more comprehensive and realistic question to ask is, “How do you think our education system needs to change to support more flexibility and choice?”

    Parents also play a significant role in support of the education of their children. Any increase to flexibility and choice will impact parents too, so they need to be considered as well.

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  • First, more flexibility and choice must include schools and school districts backing away from imposing political or moral views. Banning books (or making them required reading) because of some implied value they convey is a relic of a time when information was not available at one’s fingertips.

    Second, core subjects and their learning outcomes should be few but well-learned. For example, only fools and academics would consider advanced trigonometry or Salish history a core life skill. However, business writing and basic math are.

    Third, the Internet is here and it isn’t going away. Embrace it. As much as possible, examinations should accept the fact that in real life “Google is your friend.” I know this amplifies the question of Instant Chat and cheating, but that’s also real life.

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  • Wendy Jessen says:

    I am a former teacher in addition to being a stay-at-home mom.

    I believe more memorization of : facts, poetry, classic works of western culture , and mathematics should be taught in schools.

    Lip service to critical thinking is given but our children graduate quoting the leftist party line which they have swallowed hook, and line. Seldom do they question, but they do defend using cliches and factoids. Few source materials are used but in text books snippets of quotes or long quotes from source material is given rather than have the student read a long book and form an opinion from a source. The danger from learning from a text of snippets is the spin that is put on concepts.

    Additionally far too much emphasis in school is put on trending movements ie. the green movement. In fact the student knows little else but the tenets of this movement ….why the agenda. It is good to clean up after ones self and it is good to waste not—but the continual mantra of this movement tells us there is an agenda—no one is asking the questions of why? and where it is taking us? Educators need to lead the way in questions –not indoctrination. Why the fear to freely think? Why the constant bombardment of immorality disguised as sex ed–how about more math ed. Lets stick to the very basics in our schools, and do them well. This will give the students more choices and it will be their choices as our students will be able to think and move about as a free people.

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    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Wendy, I find you comments to be a bit contradictory. You say they should do more memorizing and yet they should be taught to question. At what point does the teaching shift from pumping facts in to questioning? Do you feel there is a good age for that?
      I feel the best way is to teach them how to learn. Engage them in the idea of learning, teach them the basics thru exploration, not repetition. I fear your thoughts are to unteach the creativity born in children then try to bring it back a some time. If schools ‘stick to basics’ where will the children learn to question?
      Some things like times table (everyone favourite) does not need to be taught by boring methods. Songs and rhymes and games are much better ways to learn these basics. (how did you learn the alphabet? repitituion or a song)Card games and board games, even computer games, are all “flexible” tools that can be used to learn the basics.

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  • Donna says:

    I think it comes down to choice… do we want a public system, a private system or both??? That seems to be the root of the problem. The government is obviously leaning towards a private system. Do we want that??

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  • Donna says:

    I think we need updated technology at our school. Our computers are so old and rarely work. We have one computer hooked up to the internet in each classroom, and no access to a working computer lab? What century is this?? Our kids deserve the best! They are the future!

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    • Moderator Virginia says:

      Technology has been a common theme in many of the questions. “Learning Empowered by Technology” is one of the five main elements of BC’s Education Plan. Check out the planned actions in the plan. We agree that in the 21st Century technology is an essential tool, and the ability to use it well an essential skill!

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  • Elly says:

    Schools should remain open all year. Students and teachers should have vacation time, but certainly not the ~16 weeks that they get now.
    It must cost a lot just to keep the heat and/or air conditioning on.
    Students would also retain a lot more if they didn’t have long breaks. It seems to me the first month after summer vacation is “review” and the last month before summer vacation not too much is learned.

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    • Donna says:

      I wish we had air conditioning…

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    • Donna says:

      I agree with changing the school calendar and making the summer break shorter. Note… teachers do not get paid for their summer break and personally, I would choose to work through the summer if I could.

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  • lora bruncke says:

    Allow input on what to teach our children from a broader base of society other than for profit corporations.
    Subjects to consider:

    1) anatomy
    2) relationships – it is obvious when you watch the news we need this.
    3) marketing – see below why
    4) street smarts/driver ed – it is more important to know how to drive well than higher math.
    5) nutrition and cooking
    6) motivation – a lot of money is made selling adults motivation and self help. Why not start teaching it in schools.
    7) politics

    Have a wonderful end of 2011.
    Thanks to all who endeavor to make sure our children have the skills to succeed in our ever faster stressful world

    Why marketing?
    Energy drinks are very dangerous because of the high amount of sugars, calories, caffeine, ginsing, ginko and other ingredients in a taurine liquid. It was marketed to children and teens. Many grocery stores gave it out free at events. Athletes use them to perform better but it puts too much strain on the still growing hearts of our children. High powered teenage athletes in the States are dropping dead from enlarged hearts. Remember the heart is a muscle so will grow with exercise.

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    • Stephanie says:

      HI Lora, if I could give this thought 10 thumbs up I would. There is so much for them to learn that is so more important then Math 11.
      Nutrition should not be an option. It needs to be learned every year and in depth.
      A lot of the learning that you speak of (not all of it) is taught in AVID classes, that start at grade 8 in our district. It needs to start earlier.
      Such a great comment on how much money is spent on adult self improvement.
      Thanks for bringing it up!

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  • Stephanie says:

    Schools need to offer more flexible hours. Expecially Secondary!
    Seconday schools should start at 8am and continue until 5 or 6 pm. With the key courses being offered from 10 to 4. Electives and other courses before and after those hours.
    Elementry schools and middle schools that are near each other should have different start times to help accomodate different students and family needs. Just like jobs do in the real world.
    SD need to support and encourage Principals to be bold with thier requests to be flexible and different than the usual.
    SD should also look into offering balanced calendars and 4 day weeks along with those flexible school hours for teens.

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    • Tanya says:

      I agree, as a working parent, I find school hours, particularly start times, very difficult. How many parents can start their job after 8:46am drop off in the morning (add a commute and I roll into work around 9:35am)? It’s not practical for me, so the option is then to have before school care at an additional cost and then someone else drops my child off every day, and I am a parent who never enters the school (and would suggest not engaged).

      As for school choice, this is specific, but I don’t understand why the Victoria School district does not introduce languages in early grades. Why does it have to be French immersion or nothing? Choice and flexibility as a provincial policy is one thing, but how does that roll out in districts to meet the needs of parents and students?

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      • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

        What do others think of the earlier start times for school to allow parents to drop their kids off and get to work at a decent time? And how about later ends to the day, as Stephanie suggests? There are lots of factors to consider here besides just better alignment with parent and guardian work schedules. For example, there has been a lot of literature suggesting that kids (particularly teens) learn best later in the day, as a lot of them stay up late. Does that in itself justify a later start times for middle schools and high schools?

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        • Joan says:

          I would like to know the statistics regarding how many parents are needing childcare before and after school. I know many parents who work their schedules around the school schedule. And definitely, teenagers do better with later schedules. The other part of this that bothers me is that there does not seem to be any emphasis from anyone for parents to look after their own children. No one seems to consider the impact of two working parents and latchkey children on our society.

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          • Tanya says:

            Joan, not everyone has the luxury of flexible schedules, and I think the data would show a lot of uptake and/or patchwork to make school hours mesh for working families. I am sure that most parents wouldn’t choose latchkey.

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  • -->
    1. I think the middle, junior, and secondary schools might be positioned with more advantages to offer students with choice and flexibility. However, there are many opportunities for our elementary aged students, and it might be by simply capitalizing on a narrowing curriculum that offers more freedom to engage students in depth of learning.

      Project based learning opportunities can afford a teacher to offer choices to students while ensuring core competencies are included within. Understanding what true PBL is key as cooperative learning is integral within. Students work together to answer a conceptual question, or to produce a product.

      PBL and cooperative learning is such a meaningful manner to offer choice, engage our students, and provide a richer learning experience than might be in place for some. PBL and cooperative learning is much more that just “grouping” students together to complete a science project – it’s about organizing learning teams who work together and count on each other. Many schools and districts already do this, and I think we can learn from their examples.

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    2. Shaun says:

      Funding seems to be a huge issue. Obviously, the money seems to be an issue with our government. It doesn’t grow on trees but, it is all about priorities. Public Education should be at, or very near, the top of the list. Every child deserves an equal opportunity to be successful. They didn’t choose the family they were born into.
      To answer a question about funding…I think that the Ministry should cut the number of school districts and therefore the number of upper management positions that eat up salaries in the six digit range. Put more responsibility and power to hire with the principals. This would create some extra money to use towards funding our children.

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    3. Niki says:

      1.Smaller class sizes. I’ve taught a class of 30 and a class of 5. It’s simple. One teacher with a degree and three with other education experience in a room of 25 students.
      2.Involving the parents more – have a different parent helper each day of the month.
      3.More arts. Visual arts, musical art & performing arts. All children are different and some have a harder time conforming. Arts allow us to express ourself differently, thus encouraging choice.

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      • Bev says:

        I disagree with your idea of “involving the parents more – have a different parent helper each day of the month”. Many families now have both parents working during typical school hours or are single parent families where the one parent works during school hours. These parents are simply not able to help in the classroom as much as they may wish to.

        Yes, parents need to be involved in their chilren’s education but not to the point of “being in the classroom” with them.

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    4. At this point they need to be very creative. I think that those people making these choices need to look at the needs in the district and not at the number of students to staff there are. Listen to the parents, teachers, support staff, other frontline workers. The right people need to be at some of these meetings to hear opinions of those that are concerned, those that make these decisions.

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    5. Brendan says:

      I think this education plan is great! When I talk to people about their experiences in school, a lot of them say they were bored, and that school didn’t really connect with who they were, and what they wanted to do. It’s important to remember that students spend 13 years of their lives in school. That’s a long time, and by the end of it, students should feel like they’ve accomplished something important, and should have at least some sense of who they are, and what they are capable of. It seems that more often than not students begin their search for life goals after high school ends. What were they doing the rest of the time? I know for myself I’ve learned about what I enjoy, and what my strengths are on my own. Music class bored me and was limited in time and scope, but I later took up playing the cello, and acoustic guitar. I also never felt like I could draw good enough, so I hardly ever tried. Many years later I had taken up drawing on the ferry for fun, (I rode the ferry everyday) and it’s now one of my favorite things to do. These are just two things that are integral to who I am, and I figured them out long after I had graduated from high school.

      I think taking away some of the learning outcomes and adding depth to the more important ones is a great step in the right direction. I’m not so sure about the greater emphasis on technology though. I didn’t get my first computer until I was 13, and I learned how to use it just fine. I took one typing class in grade 9 and that has served me well up to now. I didn’t get the internet until I was 20, and again, I figured it out pretty fast. I think forcing technology at the elementary level is unnecessary, because they still have several more years to pick it up in secondary. We also have to remember that technology can fail, and getting students to rely on it is not necessarily a good thing. I know I enjoy getting handwritten Christmas cards over an email.

      The one problem I see in implementing all this is class size. I know that there is a lot of debate about whether or not this will work, and if it is financially viable, but for a plan such as this, I think it’s integral. Here, let’s try an analogy. There’s a medium pizza on a table and 4 people are to share it. Chances are all the people will be satisfied after sharing it. Now try splitting the pizza up with 12 people. Will they be equally satisfied? If anything, they will just end up grumpy. And who’s to say that all 12 of them even get a piece? It’s the same way in a classroom. The more students there are, the less attention each student gets, and the less individualized their learning will be. There is only so much of the teacher’s time and energy to go around, so decreasing class size is a must. I think the only problem here is money. If we decrease class size, then we need more teachers, and bigger schools for the additional classes. When you think about doing this province-wide, it’s going to add up fast. I’m not sure how much taxes would increase, but I bet it would be enough to cause some controversy. On the other hand, if you look at it as an investment (an investment in children, our communities, and society), then it might be worth considering.

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    6. I think that having the same maximum number of students spelled out in the Act for each subject in Grades 8 to 12 doesn’t make sense. There should be some flexibility to have larger class sizes in some subjects where it makes sense which could be offset by smaller class sizes in others.

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    7. Joan says:

      Just as pharmacies have hired assistants to do some of the work of pharmacists, we should also be able to hire assistants to do some of the work of teachers. Do we really need to spend as much money as we do paying teachers? Why not hire people with diplomas in education who would be very capable of making a significant contribution to the delivery of education. Again, it seems like the BCTF is a typical union that is not concerned with the members or customers but has a sole agenda of keeping jobs, raising wage rates and increasing benefits. Why do you think we have all day kindergarten?

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      • Jennifer says:

        All-Day Kindergarten = free babysitting.

        Declining enrollment in virtually every District except Surrey results in hundreds of teachers losing their jobs every year.

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      • Shaun says:

        Joan, all day kindergarten was not the work of the BCTF.

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    8. Amelia says:

      As I read these comments and reflect on what it means to be a parent, a student, and student teacher, I realize that the changes that are happening need to continue to keep our education system current, engaging and relevant. I think that the students are probably more ready for the changes than the rest of us and will eagerly accept the challenges and even lead the way.

      I think that schools and school districts need to keep parents and the public informed as to what changes are happening and why, remembering that many parents and community members may not understand the need to change a school model that they have always been familiar with.

      As opportunities for new school models develop, I urge schools and school districts to remember that many students come from families that work traditional Monday to Friday day jobs and may find it difficult to accommodate non-traditional school hours and flexible locations. If these programs are to be part of the public school system, then I think there needs to be accommodations in place to ensure all students can have access to the programs, be it through school buses, in-school child care and/or other flexible options to accommodate real-life families.

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    9. WN says:

      I think the use of technology in the classroom can be positive, and i do think an update for students need to happen to help with digital literacy.

      My question however is
      With the new supplier of internet Telus, will Telus monopolization of internet in the school have an effect on computer labs in the way of advertising?

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      • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

        Great question. Under the recent Telecommunication Services Master Agreement (TSMA) signed back on July 29th, Telus was selected as the primary Internet Service Provider for PLNet and Core Government. What this means is that Telus will be providing the major network transport connections (pipes) to the Internet from different locations on the network. The new service will provide additional capacity, diversity and performance in a flat rate pricing model. The network transport itself will be seamless to the end user, similar to what users experience today. There will be no commercial advertising as part of TELUS providing the Internet Service.

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    10. Christina says:

      I find it interesting that we see comments and ideas around a technology focus. As a university instructor, parent and librarian, I think there is a strong need for critical thinking skills. While students need access to technology, the focus of instruction should be on thinking. In order to do this, however, teachers need a broader support system for their own needs and this includes access to libraries and support services that facilitate teaching and learning.

      One idea that has been explored by educators is the idea of maximizing school space to provide more round the clock community services for children that serves a broader range of needs from dance classes to advanced programming for at-risk or special need youths.

      We must be very cautious about online instruction as it can appear to be any easy ‘fix’ at providing educational opportunities at a lower cost to geographically separated people. Children require a more diverse range of educational experiences, many of which involve the advancement of their interpersonal skills and the love of new experiences. If our future is dependent on a culture of innovators, students are going to need greater access to experiential learning – inside and outside of a classroom.

      This leads me to my final point that we must diversify what makes a ‘teacher’. A one year teacher’s certificate helps those professionals deliver the ‘curricula’ but the labour issues around this have created a stranglehold on the definition of k-12 educators. There is little space, money, and willingness make room for other experts to play an integral role in the educational process of our youth. However, it is such diversity in educators that can lead to innovative approaches to successfully teaching diverse communities and individuals.

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    11. Krista says:

      To support this new Educational plan there needs to be more money put into the education system and class size needs to be smaller. In order for students to learn about technology students need to be able to have hands on activities on computers or smart boards. In order for students to be able to have choice in their learning they need to be in a smaller class so the teacher will have more time with individuals to support that students learning.

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      • I don’t buy the argument that more funds are needed for this initiative, or that smaller class sizes are a fore-gone consequence. It may even be that a smarter approach will result in the need for less funding and fewer teachers per student.

        As one example (and this is not necessarily a recommendation) do we really need teachers to provide a live, in-class lecture, when those can be recorded once and streamed on demand? Moreover, when students are collaborating on learning a concept, a case could be made that the cross-fertilization of ideas from a *larger* pool of students — aided perhaps by something like Google Hangouts — could increase understanding and retention.

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        • Stephanie says:

          Funny you should say that, Jonathan. I have often thought how great it would be if the lecture or lesson, were to be recorded by a celebrity (preferably a comedian). Played for the class, then the ‘teacher’ in the room supports the ‘learning’ part with the students after having heard the lesson.
          Snip-its on subjects that would engage the students. Then the teacher does the work, the learning, with the students personally. Lets face it some teachers may be great at personal support, but not very engaging when they stand at the front of the room and drone on for 60 minutes about something that the students could not care less about. (Our secondary school has 80 minute blocks and some of the teachers have still not embraced the idea of chunking blocks of learning time) But if Robin Williams, (edited of course) were to explain something about the same subject, I believe the students may be more engaged from the start.
          In a larger school many classes could attend the lesson or lecture, with one teacher present. The other teachers using that time as prep time. Then once the lesson has finished, assuming it is short, the students split up into their classes to work in smaller groups.

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          • Dave says:

            We have teachers in our school who pre-record snippets of “lecture” that the students watch at home, then come to class to work through problems and assignments with (presumably) more one-on-one time with the teacher. This works reasonably well in some areas, but the main criticism is this: very, very few teachers do a 60-minute “monologue”-style lecture. My “lectures” are full of “back-and-forth Q&A” with the students. I ask questions and elicit responses, they ask questions for clarification, and the looks on their faces and the questions they are asking cue me on areas that need further explanation or another example.

            So far, you just can’t do that with the Robin-Williams-Pre-Recorded lecture – which is of course not to say that it’s an outright bad idea. We just need to think carefully about which topics something like that might work effectively for. It won’t be every one.

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    12. Sandy Watson says:

      The province needs to remember that not all of us live in the lower mainland and that the northern schools have unique needs to that of the rest of the province. In order for SD82 to change to be more flexible, they need adequate funding. SD82 has one of the highest special needs populations per capital in the province yet we are not funded adequately. SD82 can barely offer programs like elementary band.

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      • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

        Thanks for your comment, Sandy. We recognize that different districts have different needs and there is not a one size fits all solution here. That is indeed the essence of flexibility and choice: finding out what your needs and wants are and determining what can be done to support that.

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        • Steve says:

          Mike, I teach Psych 11/12, and Psych IDS. I am stunned at the “nasty” level of my students writting skills and have had to begin a process of writing in which I know that I will see the students paper …. “many times” before we get to an acceptable final product. I am having to spend up to 20 % of my marking time (that’s at home!) completely destroying the students papers with corrections over the most elementary mistakes. I deal with many of our town’s employers and the most common comment is “what the H__l are you guys teaching these kids!” We’d rather have them un-schooled so that we can teach them “real” skills. And I AGREE with them. I’m an employer too. Many kids have lost (maybe they never developed it) the skill of being to think.

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    13. Dave says:

      High schools already feature a significant amount of choice, while balancing that with “core competencies” that are mandatory. The average high school gives students a flavour of the different branches of science, art, humanities, etc. in Grade 8-10, and then allows a significant degree of choice in Grades 11-12. For example, in the sciences students can study biology, chemistry, physics, and earth science in pretty much any school, in addition quite often to one or more other options. Should we offer more choice within in the individual courses? Perhaps – but in, for example, Biology 11-12, we try to offer a broad spectrum of biological topics, since they tend to interrelate and inform other areas. If we dropped the “broad spectrum” approach, students may be missing some of the broader “general principles” of biology.

      That being said, there’s a lot of benefit in allowing the students to research a particular area of interest in addition to the broad-spectrum. In IB schools, this is accomplished by way of the “Extended Essay”, and in science the “Group IV Project”, which are student-directed, deep studies of a particular topic of interest to them. Such a thing could certainly be incorporated into our “regular” high school curriculum – but we need to be careful how much of the “regular curriculum” we axe to make room for it. There’s still a lot of value in graduating well-rounded students who are conversant in a broad variety of topics (even a few of those which may be of less interest to them).

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      • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

        Great points, Dave. As we’ve said in the Plan, there will be continued emphasis on the core competencies, with infusion of new skills, flexibility and choice where and when it makes sense. The foundation of the educational experience will remain intact but then layered with the changes that we are all discussing here and in other conversations.

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    14. Mark says:

      You either throw more money at the system – smaller classes, smaller high schools, more support staff – or you have to change the system fairly radically. If we change the way we engage and teach children in high school then we will also need to change the way the post-secondary system is prepared to take these new thinkers in. I strongly recommend that any one engaged in this Conversation take the time to watch this video:

      http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

      Ken Robinson Is a highly respected educator and I believe his thoughts on the need for more creativity in our schools is central to this discussion.

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      • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

        Indeed – Sir Ken’s ideas are certainly influencing our thinking in the ministry around needed education transformation.

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    15. Chelsea says:

      I feel that students should have choice and flexibility in what they are learning. But I also think that students should be allowed to work on some things at their own pace. If a student is struggling I don’t believe that they should have to rush their learning just so that they can have their work in on time. How is that learning? I understand that students need to learn self-management and organizational skills but when is the learning taking place if they are just rushing and not doing something to its full potential. Everyone learns at different rates and so I think on top of flexibility and choice there needs to be some sort of self accountability and self management for students to explore learning at their own pace as well.

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    16. gordon says:

      I believe education should prepare our children for the future. Some ideas to this avail should include
      1. Chinese language immersion
      – we are Canada’s gateway to Asia and world dynamics are changing
      2. Entrapereurial training.
      – many educators have only experienced the public sector and might not have the bachground to prepare our next generation for life in the private sector.
      3. Higher emphasis on technology

      *be proactive* A high percentage of today’s students will end up in the pricate sector dealing with Asia.

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    17. Thomas says:

      I’m not sure what the magical number is but school districts require a funding allocation that supports flexibility an choice. What if a class only had 10 students? Currently, a school could afford it. But, what if it meant that all 10 students graduate? Would it be worth it to society?

      Year round schooling. It’s time to change the “farming” calendar that schools follow. Prescribed learning hours must change, not every child learns at the same pace. How would we fund a system whereby students and teachers learn and taught at different times?

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    18. As a parent of four I see a need for greater accountability of the teachers (ie. their behavior and teaching skills). I also think students should have more options given to them regardless of the school they attend. For example, the International baccalaureate (IB) program is not offered at every school. If a student wants to enter this program they should be able to transfer to a local school that does offer this program. We also have friends with children that have learning disabilities. I think there should be specific schools designed to meet their needs just as there should be schools tailored to meet the needs of students with talents in the trades ( ie. plumbers, welders, …). Students, as they better learn what talents they possess, should be able to freely transfer to one of those specialized schools. There would still be a need for the status quo schools as a discovery period for students before they learn their individual skills and for those that prefer the current learning system.
      I also think students should be able to grade their teachers in order to give administrators indicators of areas of improvement. All of our children have had teachers that they have be able to learn a lot from and some that they have learned very little from. Similar to us adults there will always be those children with alterior motives other than improving teaching quality, but these students are in the minority. For example, if 90 percent of the students are reporting that a teacher has behavior problems and this report continues from year to year then it should be addressed and evaluated. These teachers should not be aware of this evaluation due to the tendency that people change their behavior when being observed.

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      • You said, “…I see a need for greater accountability of the teachers (ie. their behavior and teaching skills)…I also think students should be able to grade their teachers in order to give administrators indicators of areas of improvement…”

        The target of evaluation is ultimately the one who needs the feedback. I like the idea of 360 degree evaluations for school board executives (superintendent, district principals, sec-treasurer, etc), school administrators (school Principals and VPs) and teachers. In a 360 degree eval you receive evaluations from those above you, below you and beside you in the org chart, including clients (students & parents) as well as a self evaluation. Free Open Source software exists that makes requesting and compiling such evaluations online cheap and easy to do. I wrote a related comment with more details here…

        http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/10/question-3/comment-page-3/#comment-502

        …and here:

        http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/10/question-3/comment-page-3/#comment-493

        You also said, “…teachers should not be aware of this evaluation due to the tendency that people change their behavior when being observed.”

        I disagree; in fact, I think it is best if the target of evaluation initiates and actually leads their own 360 degree evaluation (see details in the previous two links).

        I think that an education system in which we model personal responsibility, accountability and transparency will be more effective and more conducive to continuous improvement (life-long learning). I think that a professional and collegial education system will be more effective and more conducive to continuous improvement (life-long learning) than an authoritarian one. I wrote other related comments here:
        http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/12/question-wrap-up/comment-page-1/#comment-1331

        There is also a thread of related comments from other contributors here:
        http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/10/question-3/comment-page-3/#comment-407

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    19. Joan says:

      Many jobs require a university degree of some sort. It has been said many times that university is the new high school. If this is what the job market is requiring, then it would disservice the student to not prepare them for university. Unfortunately, university education has another bunch of problems.

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      • Agreed on the problems with universities. Increasingly, their “bang” is diminishing, while their “buck” continues to grow. Getting the perfect, Solomonic formula for schools will be largely wasted for those who go on to University.

        As a half-baked idea, colleges and universities should be required to post and update “outcome” statistics of former students.

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    20. Joan says:

      I think schools and school districts need a direct ear to students and parents. I think the BCTF has too much influence and control and does not represent teachers. Schools need to have more control so that the schools can offer what parents and students are looking for. We need variety and choices because one model will not fit all students. Most importantly, I believe we need to offer more independent schools. Parents should have more affordable choices as to where they would like their child educated. The current “BCTF headed schools” focus on wages, benefits and sick days and not on the student.

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    21. Steve says:

      Sorry, one more thought: I believe that we are far, far to university focused. The majority of our students will not attend a university and yet the entire progem is driven by exams and programs catering to this belief. What about the rest of our young people who have an incredible capacity to learn but are raced through things in order to meet exam expectations but would have benefitted far more with a deeper more indepth study of the material? See TED Talks;Ken Robinson, Mike Rowe etc. The current system “doesn’t service” any more.

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      • Brianne says:

        I agree that schools, especially in the middle to high school level are far too university driven. Students learn in many different ways, so why is it that in high school, most of their marks are based on exam scores? Why is it also that all of the exams are written ones? There are so many other mediums to assess student learning, but once students get to be a certain age, they are given papers and exams to write. It is because that is what universities focus on. Perhaps university education should be reconsidered? Most of the university programs could learn alot from the Education departments. In my ED program, we focus on practical strategies, reflection, teamwork, collaboration, problem-solving, and critical thinking, which are all very important life skills. However, when I was taking sciences, our classes were all lectures, and our mark was based solely on 3 midterms that were all multiple choice. Most individuals do not learn this way, they just memorize what they need to memorize and forget it the next day. That is why I think that shifting to more personalized learning is SO important! Perhaps universities should think about doing this as well.

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        • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

          We’ve had several people — including university professors — comment that students are coming in to post sec without the necessary writing skills. Is there a risk that if we make written exams less important that this crucial academic skill will further erode? Or is it really a problem in the first place? Curious to know what you and others think,

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          • JT says:

            Although I understand where Brianne is coming from in regards to papers and exams to write, having attended university, and am currently pursuing a Master’s degree, I do not agree that writing exams and/or papers is strictly a university focus.

            Solid writing skills are needed in all walks of life, even after educational degrees are completed. We all write daily with our jobs, whether those are proposals, memos, reports to supervisors, etc., etc. Therefore, it is essential to have future generations be able to write in a coherent manner.

            That said, I do not think that making written exams less important would have an effect on the skill, because exam writing is not where writing begins. Learning to write begins in a classroom, from simple sentence writing, to paragraph writing, and ultimately essays (which may or may not lead to exam writing). Exam writing is a skill on its own, but it is also an application of general writing skills when writing essay-based exams.

            In general, I think there needs to be a greater focus on the steps of writing (process, grammar, spelling and punctuation) along with proper sourcing/bibliography etc. in the school system.

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          • Steve says:

            I don’t know what the answer is Mike. What I do know is that Grades 11 and 12 is not the time to begin trying to instill the “files” of proper writing. These skills need to be introduced in the home right from the “get go” when the children are young. It starts with parents giving “face time” to the kids, reading, drawing and all of the other things that instill the early building blocks that make (or not) the foundation that the rest of the childs life will be built upon. The early teachers (K-3 ish) can help install some of these building blocks and patch some of the already apparent holes in the childs education but all of these efforts are a waste if the child does not get the re-enforcements at home. TV etc., does not educate!! the studies are conclusive. If we want them to read and write we have to practice it. That means turning off the tube and games etc. and making learning a valued thing and an important part af their day. We have to stop pushing through and worrying about how they will feel if they get a bad mark. Success takes work … EVERYWHERE! If more kids failed due to the reality of their true marks, they would learn to apply themselves more in order to get the job done. If there is no consequence for producing a lousy product, why would anyone be bothered to make the changes needed.

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            • Moderator Rebekah says:

              Thanks Steve,

              I am a parent of two young children myself and your comment brings up other important questions. How can the education system cultivate better parental engagement? How do we ensure parents have the tools and supports they need to work with their children at home? From what I have seen, often it isn’t a lack of interest on the part of some parents, it’s a lack of know-how: it’s hard to model what they may never have experienced themselves. Often too, there are many other barriers they need to overcome – language, cultural, economical etc. We can’t expect different results unless we make some changes. I recognize this is a complicated and multi-faceted issue, but do you have any suggestions?

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              • Stephanie says:

                Hi Rebeka, I agree, parents do not get the support they need to help their children succeed. We have a program in our SD called PARTNERS. I think it stands for Parents are ready to nurcher early reading success. I am not sure as my youngest was in grade 5 when it was introduced. From what I have read it is a great support to help parents help their children learn to read. In my house our children all get the prizes from the reading at home programs, as we read to them every night. BUT, no one taught us how to read WITH them.How my kids school lives would have been so much different if we could have known more about helping children learn to engage in reading at young ages.

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      • Heide says:

        Steve, I agree with your ideas. Many students are not necessarily headed to university. Yes, basic literacy and the ability to be articulate is essential, as are basic math skills. Some schools do offer alternative courses which are less demanding than those geared to university entrance. But, much of the curriculum seems geared to university level skill. I myself am a university graduate who thrived in the rigour of that environment and was very successful. This is not the case for many students who have a different path to follow. Here is my question: Why, oh, why does this province and country not look to the successful education model of countries in Europe? For many decades, children there have been streamed into schools, often separate, that are geared to their abilities. Those headed to university attend “Gymnasiums” in Germany, Austria, etc., or Liceums in France, Poland and many others. Children whose potential lies more in the area of practical, work-related skills requiring less academic rigour, attend “Realschule” in Germany and similar schools elsewhere, where they graduate with trade-ready skills and an employability factor far beyond that which the average 18-year old in Canada could demonstrate. Those in the trades in Europe are not considered “less than” by the society at large. Somehow in North America, the attitude is that the trades are for those who “can’t make it” to University. What nonsense! If high schools, at least in urban centres were to be redesigned, reconfigured and staffed with well-trained teachers for both streams, I believe we would have a far better trained work force and less frustration and stress for students, teachers and parents, knowing that a system exists which well best accomodate the particular traits in each student. Please see the article written by Geoff Johnson in the Jan. 2 edition of the Vancouver Sun for a similar perspective.

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        • frank says:

          I could not agree more Heide. We (North America in general)spend far too much time in stretching basic learning requirements to accomodate all rather than recognizing earlier students abilities and providing the path of success.
          We need to utilize technology to support the change, but not at the cost of basics learnings skills. Math, language, comprehension, problem solving, are essential for success. At the early stages of development these must be emphasized. To replace this with fluffy concepts like collaboration, teamwork and innovation are flawed. These come with learning, memorization, analysis, problem solving and so on.
          I am quite concernd about some of the direction I have heard that sound a lot like a lot of public service hiring process. Soon we will have all these people who will be great team players that collaborate well, however, none of them will know what to collaborate on because they have not learned the technical skills to have a common understanding.
          The last time I checked you still need to show up to work on time. You still need to have a strong technical understanding of your profession…Only then will you be able to effectively apply teamwork and collaboration.

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        • Sheila says:

          My concern with this that how many teens have a clear, definite idea of what they want to do when they’re older? I know I didn’t even when I went to college. How do we ensure that when they’re “herded” off into specialized schools, they are not losing opportunities? And if there is a way to ensure that they aren’t losing opportunities, why only high schools in urban areas? Then you are really setting up a system for “less than’s”. Opportunities have to be presented to all students, regardless of where they live.

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          • Heide says:

            Just to clarify, I want to assure you that my many friends in Europe were very happy with their “stream” and choice of life path. Growing up in Canada, I was not sure at all of who I was, or what I could do when I graduated high school and I was, frankly, terrified. It took me much longer to figure out my path than it did for my friends abroad. Those in the “gymnasium” stream became successful professionals in various fields, my friends who studied in the “commerce” schools became accountants, business people and so on. I also remember that they were very grateful for the involvement of their parents in making these choices. Some did indeed change tracks and needed only upgrading and training at adult educational facilities to realize their plans. This is not as limiting a model as you would think. Secondly, my comment about urban centres was not intended to leave out rural areas, but simply to acknowledge the logistics of setting up schools of this type where there may be a lack of sufficient population. I still think it could be done, with separate areas of existing high schools repurposed etc. Even here in the city we have “haves and have nots”, just look to the disparity of schools in affluent neighbourhoods and inner city schools. I leave it to the Ministry to figure out how to make it fair for all.

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          • Stephanie says:

            “less thans” Really? I don’t think choosing a trade or other avenue can be considered less than anything. Our district has been working with the local college and have ramped up our trades training for years now.
            Can we really be surprised that when the people that are ‘teaching’ and leading our students are highly educated, that they want to lead them to university?
            We had a fellow speak to our board and admin about what a ‘trades’ career could mean in the way of income and all the masters degrees in the room were shocked. It was a lack of their education outside the system that was causing the problem.
            The next problem is finding a trades person who is willing to take a decrease in wages to teach their trade. That needs to be addressed as I have found at our secondary school finding and keeping good trades teachers is a bit of a trick! But our partnership with the local college has vastly improved the success of trades students.
            Some of my children’s time was clearly wasted in the ‘higher learning’ requirements for math and english in grade 11 and 12. They hated it and they will never use it. Keep in mind we can all go back and learn what ever we want if we change our career choices. Pounding higer math into a person who is going to be a chef is a waste of everyones time! and makes the student HATE school, possibly even drop out because they see no need and are just not cut out for it.

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            • Dave says:

              “Pounding higer math into a person who is going to be a chef is a waste of everyones time! and makes the student HATE school, possibly even drop out because they see no need and are just not cut out for it.”

              Well, sure, it could be a waste of time. That’s why we don’t require students to take what you call “higher math”. BC high schools offer different streams of math right from the grade 10 level – and trust me, Math 9 is not what you’d call “higher math” since the latest round of curriculum revisions. The student who wants to be a chef already has the choice to take a “basic useful math skills” course in grade 10 and 11 (even chefs have to use math! Think about calculating nutritional information, measurement, etc).

              Of course, I would also argue that having a broad education – even when it doesn’t seem to “fit” into a particular job – is of tremendous value. I’m glad that I’m somewhat conversant in history, geography, English literature, computer science, and, yes, math – even though I don’t necessarily use those on a day-to-day basis. Some, like the computer science I took in high school, have turned into nice hobbies (and even some extra income). Others, like the math, have proved useful in strange places – like when I needed to appeal an at-fault decision that ICBC made. I used my high school physics and math skills to demonstrate that their adjuster had gotten something wrong, and they reversed the decision.

              Education is not “job skills training” – and even for those students who struggle with school or don’t like a particular subject, there’s a great deal of merit in educating rather than simply training.

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    22. Steve says:

      I find that while there is this real desire to “appear” to be providing all this “choice” to students and parents, it is not a reality. While I do have a number of young people who do have a clear understanding of the role that education is/and will play in their future, the majority of students DO NOT have a clear understanding of this concept. This means that asking them what they want as related to educational options is a fruitless exercise and leaves us with inferior information. This goes for their parents as well. I teach grades 11 and 12 and can say with complete certainty that many (bordering on most) parents are completely disengaged from their highschooler school experience. I realize that this influenced by location and demographic but the reality is there. I know what is needed for my young people to be successful, for most part, they do not! Before I start laying allowing to many players to be involved in the re and re of our system (which I believe is in dire need of redesign) I would want to provide ample opportunity to encourage parent engagement and bring them up to speed as to the very real challenges that we face. I say this not only as an educator but also a parent, I had all four of my children sitting in my classes (kind of wierd) and I am very passionate about what they needed to know to move forward in life. Lastly; their is a HUGE disconnect between the reality of classrooms and kids ….. and ….. board offices and admin. We have got to get everybody into the same game.

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      • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

        What you speak of, Steve, is the ongoing critical role of the teacher in the process. In order for students to better be prepared to make more independent choices and decisions about their education teachers will need to guide them carefully along the way. Same goes for the relationship with many parents.

        No one is suggesting these skills are innate in learners and their families; like many aspects of our education system, they need to be carefully taught, nurtured, and reassessed at frequent intervals.

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    23. Kim Morton says:

      Several things need changing in the way school districts operate. We have far too many high paid administrators that do nothing to advance learning. EG: Every school district has its own payroll department which is a huge duplication of services. Not every district needs its own director(s) of curriculum development either.
      There has to be a better method of screening out people that will never make good teachers. Far too many have zero skills or experience outside of a classroom, they simply spent a bunch of years sitting in various classrooms and eventually earned a chair facing the opposite direction.
      Thinking back to my own school days in the 60s and 70s I can recall only 5 good teachers and at least double that that were spectacularly bad. My son can’t claim even that many in the 90s.

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      • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

        I’m sorry to hear about your experiences with the system, Kim. Do you have any specific concerns about teacher training or suggestions for what you think needs to change to make things better?

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      • Steve says:

        Sad, but I have to agree

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    24. Janine says:

      I think the community should be more immersed in education. More exposure to the people who actually work in the community. When I finally went to university i had no idea what i wanted to be or do as I had no idea what everyone out there in the workplace actually did. More mentoring and work place interaction. More working people coming into the schools to explain, in detail, what their jobs entail. University originated as a luxury and in many cases it remains so. Yes, it is fun to learn but is it useful? How many of us know young people who have a B.A. and cannot find a job. The people making money at university are the text book manufacturers. The focus is not on making useful citizens.

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    25. Mrs. S. says:

      I am a University professor and teach first year University courses. I feel strongly that the public school system needs to change so that students entering University are better prepared. We need more rigourous focused education in mathematics where students do not go onto to advanced concepts before learning the basics (without using a calculator). About half of the students entering my University courses do not know how to construct a simply mathematical formula, do percentage or use exponents. Another weaknesses is grammar and spelling. Again, many students entering University cannot write a business letter or simple paper using good grammar and perfect spelling e.g. they don’t know the difference between “their” and “there”. If the spellchecker doesn’t pick it up, they assume that their grammar/spelling is correct.

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      • Doug Smith says:

        Yes, it is very strange that students can get high enough marks to enter university yet cannot do some basic math. There is a disparity here.

        As well, there is a disparity between what a secondary school mark represents and what this means for post-secondary education. For example, I am using a standards based grading system. My students’ mark represents what they know. For some students, it takes them a long time to learn. This mark may cause conflict with universities, in that a student that learns 90% of the material in 2 months could possibly excel at university whereas a student that takes 7 months to learn 90% of the material may not. But I consider this to be a problem for universities and their admissions protocols to sort out.

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    26. TW says:

      Also redefine the role of the PAC. Many schools only seem to want PAC as a fundraising body where it should be operating as more of a parental advisory/oversight committee for the flexibility and choice in schools.

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    27. TW says:

      1) They need to get with the digital age right now. I.e. Trustee meetings should be on-line. New subjects can can be offered by video streaming (then my child at least wouldn’t be subject to a screaming teacher who bullies and shames in her classroom).
      2) Stop the grade split classes – my child is too far behind on basic math skills for his grade because he is in a split class and this gives them no flexibility at all.
      3) Let my kids work in advance and graduate ahead if they can.
      4) Make schools positive places by opening up the gyms as active community space in the evenings, on weekends and in the summer – this happened at my school thirty years ago (!!!) and it provided an excellent connection to the school for the youth in the community and utilized some of the taxpayer owned capital investment when it wouldn’t otherwise be used.

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    28. Liz says:

      1. Make sure principals/administrators have management skills to get schools to move from the antiquated model of classroom domains to seeing the entire school as the student’s classroom. Note that I do NOT support multi-age classroom groupings. Let’s remember that the Year 2000 program FAILED. I do support an additional elementary classroom in every school to which students can go if they are not at “grade level” in any subject AND they cannot behave in the classroom. In this classroom, students could get the extra help they need from a teacher who has taken additional training AND who works in partnership with the student’s classroom teacher. It is NOT a room where students are SENT by a classroom teacher who would rather not do the additional curriculum prep required.
      2. How do classroom teachers get fired? Let’s face it: there is a very small percentage who really need to find an alternate way to make money, but they are reluctant to leave a job with such a great salary and benefits.
      3. School District Trustees need to be supported–not threatened–to make difficult political decisions, like closing small schools, to better redirect funding that creates flexibility and choice for students.
      4. Stop wasting money on surveys such as this that yield very little but motherhood statements that are unattainable because the surveys suck money away from real education.

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    29. Eva Hope says:

      I would like to see core subjects taught in the morning. In the afternoon children could choose their course of studies in the arts, music, business, sports. These courses should be taught by professionals in each field. Example: Piano by a pianist, hockey by a hockey coach. Rec centers and arenas would be used as needed. In this way all students have a chance to explore their interests and talents. By graduation students could be truly skilled and trained in their areas of choice.

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      • Kevin says:

        Eva,
        Interesting idea Eva about using mornings for core focus and afternoons for other activities. What do you think of the spiral curriculum where important concepts are retaught throughout the day/week at different times and with different slants / tools? This has proven very effective at our school.

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    30. Diana says:

      I think it will be clearer for us, parents, to give you a more substantial answer once we know what “flexibility” is. I do agree, however, that there needs to be more methods available to teach our kids.

      Right now, my daughter is more advanced than her other peers when it comes to reading and writing, but is not being given a chance by that teacher to try harder things because she is not required to do so. If more choices and flexibilities will help a child like mine, then we need to first start changing how teachers feel about their own teaching methods.

      There are many teachers out there who are teaching that should not be, or at least who really need to be trained further on how to treat children or teens emotionally. Just like any other job where there is interaction with the public and an emphasis is on how that public is treated, so should it be so in schools. How many times has one heard how a child is failing because the teacher was not willing to help out or was teaching straight out of the textbook? Too many times.

      Parents really need to be involved with their own child’s needs, but there are cases where there is a single parent who may not have as much time as a stay at home mom to supervise. If that is the case, the schools should have an after school program for such children to make sure their homework is done. Or better yet, have them work on those assignments while at school so there is not as much homework, and therefore, not fall behind.

      I completely agree with other comments that basic learning skills need to be kept and taught well. It is ridiculous how a teenager cannot even do cursive or has even a hard time spelling. Yes, technology is nice to have like spellcheck, but it is so important to have grammar skills. Why is there such a trend now for teachers to not care and for kids not to learn such a valuable skill? Life skills are important too, like learning to cook and drive. And please, keep funding for arts available instead of cutting it. Not all students are inclined to the arts or sciences, but rather more inclined to the fine arts, graphic design.

      It is exciting to see this open communication between the gov’t, teachers and parents. Hopefully something more concrete will come out of this soon so we can have more people willing to comment and get involved.

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    31. I think first I would like to see a shift in attitude of educators. A shift from power over, judgements, labels,reward & punishment… to power with, listening with empathy, teaching skills while staying with the passions of children.

      Treating each child like they matter, they have gifts to share, mistakes are wonderful because it means they are trying new things….

      This is non-violent communication (Dr.Rosenberg) which fosters flexibility and change to meet everyone’s needs!

      How can you have flexibility and choice if educators are stuck in playing the old roles?

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      • Penny Barner says:

        Becoming a mentor, teaching children to teach themselves, not just being the talking head at the front of the class — these are important ways for educators to change.

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    32. Heide says:

      I have read many of the comments with great interest. Maybe I have missed the ones that address the need for greater support specialists in schools. As a trained ELL specialist, I have watched the erosion of specialized support for immigrant students for the 20 years I have been teaching. As an ELL teacher I went from teaching beginner to advanced students, to no advanced, now no intermediate and now not even some of our beginners. The last blow came when many school districts implemented an “integrated“ model where specialists are no longer specialists but are required to be support teachers to all and sundry, whether learning disabled, immigrant, weak learners, behaviourally disordered or whatever comes along. Bean counters in district offices regularly reduce, reduce, and reduce levels of teachers who have these qualifications, and in addition, too many young, inexperienced teachers with little or no specialized training, particularly in second language acquisition areas, are being put in positions which require knowledge additional to that of a classroom-curriculum teacher. When the universities and governments succeed in training all teachers on these issues prior to their entering the classroom, perhaps things will improve with regard to the reality of one young man or woman handling 28 to 32 diverse learners. Until then, greater attention to the specialized knowledge a specialty teacher has needs to be recognized. Teachers in the classroom need to communicate and collaborate much more than is now permitted in a system which at present still puts a single teacher in charge of the way 28 children learn, with little or no input from the specialist teachers that have the knowledge to build those adapted and modified programs that will lead to success for our students. As I see our economy worsen, I see students worsen, stressed parents, immigrants struggling to establish themselves, broken families, poverty and more, I wonder why our government doesn`t see this as well and yet expects that, even without the needed help to do so, these struggling students will succeed. The supports are crumbling from year to year, but the number of compromised students is steadily increasing. Arguments about how immigrants should already know English, unmotivated students should get a swift kick…, and children with cognitive impairments shouldn`t be in regular schools, are all non-starters because they are here and they are all welcome. That said, I would love to see a forum question here on the issue of support specialists. Thank you for this opportunity.

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    33. Tracy says:

      I think allowing there to be some flexibility in early admission to school would be beneficial. As it stands right now, in our school district if the child is not born before midnight on Dec 31, they need to wait an additional year to begin school. I have met many children who are not ready to enter school when they should, and I have also met children who are ready early. I really beleive that there should be an avenue that parents can take if they feel there child is ready early, or later, to best suit the needs of the child, not some arbitrary cut off date.

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      • Penny Barner says:

        If the government properly funded early childhood education, we would see much better prepared learners heading into elementary programs around the province.

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        • Stephanie says:

          Perhaps the government needs to educate the parents of those young children more than they need to educate those young children.
          More opportunities like Strong start are needed. I would like to see a graduated Strong start program, one that if the parents attend on a regular basis with their children at some point they can drop them off.
          This would help the parents learn and truly prepare the children for kindy. (as well as reward the parents with a bit of time by investing in the classes in the first place).
          Strong start does not help those parents who do not know about it (and really need it) or those parents who need to work.
          I feel those early years are really mine, as a parent to prepare my child for school. I wish I knew then, what I know now. All of my children would have done better in school, if I had known how to prepare them more than I did.

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    34. In an earlier comment I argued that the question needs to be broadened to something like, “How do you think our government needs to change to support more flexibility and choice?”
      (see http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/12/question-9/comment-page-1/#comment-1166 ). While thinking about this more broadly, one question I asked myself was, “Would things be the same for children if children themselves could vote, or if a proportional number of children’s advocates were assigned to represent them in elected governments?”

      I just took a quick look at the Stats Canada website, at the population by age table here…
      http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/110928/t110928a4-eng.htm
      …and it indicates that a significant percentage of Canadians are under the legal voting age; almost 1/4 of Canadians are too young to vote! That is a significant proportion of the Canadian population without a democratic voice in government.

      I can’t help but have noticed the significant work that is being accomplished by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond as the BC Representative for Children and Youth, and I wonder how much more could be accomplished for Canadian children if they were represented proportionally in all levels of our government (Municipal, Provincial and Federal).

      One complaint I have often heard about elected politicians is that they focus mostly on shorter term goals like winning the next election, and longer term goals fall off their radar. It seems to me that if a proportional number of seats in government (almost 1/4!) were reserved solely for advocating for children then longer-term goals that more significantly impact children during their lifetime would receive more attention from the government.

      So then, why don’t we reserve a proportional number of the total elected seats in our government for advocates for children?

      And if we are completely convinced that is not reasonable or feasible, then why don’t we at least have more people like Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond advocating for children?

      I can imagine class student representatives being elected for every classroom, school student representatives being elected for every school, district student representatives being elected for every district and provincial student representatives informing a group of adult advocates for children. I imagine that group of adult advocates for children also being informed by parents via PAC/DPAC/BCCPAC and by other voices for children.

      What do you think?

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    35. Jeff says:

      If what we mean by flexibility is the ability to develop and staff innovative programs then what we are really talking about are three core things which are pivotal to supporting this shift: funding, calendar and labour contracts.

      Funding needs to be provided on an equal basis for all students whether they are brick and mortar based, blended or distributed learners. Districts will not seriously support innovation for flexibility if they face a net loss of funding for DL learners or blended programs. The funding should also promote flexibility so that students and parents can access blended formats that suit lifestyle and learning preferences. Per course funding should be extended down to grade 6 and there should be consideration of “segment” funding to K (i.e. a parent wants to have their child enrolled in a partial program in a different school or district in a specific curriculum area). This will promote innovation and competition in a system that has been starved of it for far too long.

      The school calendar regulations and policies need to allow schools to set the academic year accordance with the programming needs centered on the learner and family. This could mean that different schools in a district could offer various choices, but also programs within a school. All year round schooling is one option, but also different hours, weekend schools etc. Students need to be able to schedule, accelerate or pace their learning in ways that support their learning.

      No shift is more critical to supporting flexibility in schools and districts than labour contracts. To date this factor alone has shackled most attempts to innovate and promote flexibility in the educational system. All teachers are not alike – the same – or interchangeable. While seniority is important in supporting stability and commitment to the system, it can no longer be the prime driver of staffing programs as it will choke all innovation before it begins. Teachers need to demonstrate that they have acquired and used skills appropriate to the instructional demands of a program or course at a high level before they are considered qualified to apply. The need to document and maintain the requisite skills of a course or program should trump seniority at every turn. Principals, Vice-Principals and district staff need to be empowered to determine when a teacher’s experience and qualifications meet the threshold needs of a posting. In the very same vein, support staff need to demonstrate the same dynamic of professional upgrading and skill maintenance in order to stay or be qualified for positions. If we continue to treat the public education as the job trough of the two big unions then we are destined to the same mediocrity that has plagued the current system.

      A few sound bites to consider.

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      • Stephanie says:

        Jeff, I could not agree more with what you have said here. I wish I could give you more thumbs up!
        Thank you so much for saying it so well!

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      • Doug Smith says:

        To date I have not heard of any actual unbiased methods of evaluating teachers. This is a major concern for labour contracts. I know that you didn’t specifically mention merit pay, but it is one example aspect of labour contracts and evaluation. Even people like Peter Cowley from the Fraser Institute have admitted on-air (you can find interviews with him on CBC) that there are problems with how to actually evaluate teachers. While I agree on principle that teachers should be rewarded for their aptitude, I think that in reality this would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. Outliers could be easy to identify (ie the very best and worst) but for others it will be shades of gray.

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      • L. Tooker says:

        This is a specious argument. You state, “Principals, Vice-Principals and district staff need to be empowered to determine when a teacher’s experience and qualifications meet the threshold needs of a posting.” This is what happens presently in all except the smallest or most quickly shrinking districts. One might also demand that principals should have to “demonstrate that they have acquired and used skills appropriate” (your words to describe teachers) in order to be permitted to make such determinations? Many teachers are at least as highly educated as their supervisors, and in many cases have specialized training not shared by their supervisors.

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        • Mark says:

          …it may be difficult but all staff, teachers, administrators, support staff need to under go meaningful performance reviews. Most other professional workers do. As far as I can tell this just isn’t done in the teaching profession. There is little point on spending more time and money on new resources , programs and technology if staff are not evaluated on whether they are adopting these new approaches. Performance reviews would identify those who have fully adopted the new methods, and can help others, those that would like to buy in but need more help, training or whatever and those who might have dug their heels in and are not going to change.

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    36. mom says:

      I really do not understand all this concern OVER flexibility! I looks like that is ALL it is – wayyy tooo flexible! Especially for students that do not want to do the REQUIRED work to get the DESIRED results! Once the door is closed – EVERY classroom does it’s OWN thing! There is NO continuity in any class/school/district/province/counrty! Everything is flexed to accomplish WHAT exactly! How does a fine arts school fit in the actual ‘BC required?’ ciriculumn? I cannot see how it can all fit into the super short school day! More flexibility? How about more guidelines and basic requirements! We need to get back to basics. We send these KIDS into the real world and they cannot understand why EVERYONE is NOT accomodating their NEEDS! Geesh!!

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      • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

        As we’ve said in the BC Education Plan, flexibility and choice are important but will NOT come at the expense of basic skills and competencies. The core elements of each curriculum will remain intact but will be supplemented with new material that allows students to learn how, when and where it may work best for them as individual learners. This will require careful consideration and planning by all groups concerned – including teachers, parents, and students.

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      • Penny Barner says:

        In my mind, it’s not about getting back to “basics” — which hasn’t been successful so far — but about teaching children to meet their own needs! In Montessori, three year olds are teaching themselves! We have to create independence and a love of learning. The existing system — especially the “basics” — doesn’t do this.

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        • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

          What we’re envisioning, Penny, is a balance between the basics and new competencies. Core content knowledge is still, and always will be, important but how it’s taught and learned is changing to reflect a changing world. Giving students more ownership of their learning and more flexibility and choice in how, where, etc they do it will teach them valuable skill such as self reliance, collaboration with peers, critical thinking, problem solving, etc. These are skills that will serve them well in the 21st century.

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    37. Louise says:

      Continue to support DL opportunities. I have greatly appreciated my daughter’s opportunity to have support blocks in school and still get full courses (not having to give up anything to get help). She had learning assistance, and then took a couple of courses from her area of strength online.

      I have heard that those blocks will no longer be funded by the ministry and she won’t be allowed to take both Learning Assistance and online courses (or that isn’t going to be funded or something), so that is what I think the Ministry will need to change to support flexibility and choice within the schools.

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      • Moderator Chrysstena says:

        Hi Louise – as we gather information through this blog, and work with experts in the field and in the Ministry to develop the BC Education Plan, we will definitely be looking at ways of changing the current funding formula to provide the best funding options for the Education system in BC. No decisions on what the funding formula will be have been made as of yet.

        Depending on the grade level, students are continued to allow to take courses both through DL and in a neighbourhood school and we will certainly be continuing to look at all of these options. The Ministry strongly believes in supporting change, flexibility and choice through the BC Education Plan and as we move forward, we will do our best to provide open options to all of our learners to be educated in a way that works for individual students.

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    38. I think that our schools have always changed to reflect the needs of the community, and I would like to see evidence that this isn’t the case. This is why it is important to have small schools as they are then accountable to the community it services. However, the smaller schools are continually being closed as School District’s struggle to find money to fund their operation.

      For example, the high school in Chemainus used the provide many more programs and choice for students until the funding was cut (I mean changed, didn’t a previous Education Minister say “Highest Funding Ever” when she changed the funding model to a per student formula?). Now they cannot offer the courses that they used to. This causes more of the kids to go to bigger high schools so they can attend the courses they want to attend, which means fewer students at Chemainus, so their funding is lower.

      Conversely, at the larger high school, this means more overcrowded classrooms and fewer one on one time with a teacher for the students.

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    39. Jason McMain says:

      Perhaps the most important change is the ability to give real feedback to the government; right now our board of education is merely an extension of the mandate of those in power. Also, if school districts are to have real sources of income, as they can’t rely on government funding, the school act should be changed, giving school boards direct access to sold properties and the ability to spend that income/revenue how they would.

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    40. Tina says:

      Teaching students the ability to be flexible and make choices should be at the heart of a strong curriculum. In the constantly changing world in which students will be working and living, these two abilities will give them the edge in life.

      However, having a curriculum that is flexible and provides students choice has several flaws.

      Where is teacher accountability?
      Where are the standards? Who will decide if a student has the ability to be successful in their adult lives (eg. reading skills, writing skills, math skills)?
      Yes, some students in schools do require Individual Education Plans (IEP’s) because they are unable to meet the curriculum standards because of a variety of physical, emotional, genetic or intellectual differences.
      Every student in every class should not have an Individual Education Plan.

      To best meet the needs of students and ensure they are prepared to succeed in their adult lives the government needs to provide more one on one meaningful interactions with highly trained and skilled classroom teachers, resource teachers, educational assistants, speech and language therapists, and school counselors.

      Students must develop a strong set of core skills (reading, writing, math) if they are to compete in today’s every changing world.

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    41. Gordon says:

      As you can infer by the diversity of responses and perspectives to these BC Education Plan questions,likely premised on implicit differences in views on the purpose of schooling, one size rarely fits all. So beyond a reduced core curriculum around big ideas impacting humanity, our democratic values and uniting the human experience, flexibility and choice in emphasizing certain areas of the curriculum in certain schools is possible. There are many ways to do it, from changing traditional ways of delivering education in a classroom, to offering schools that have divergent curriculum emphases or teaching methodologies. We already have such schools such as French immersion, Montessori and so on. Imagine a high school that offers the core academic courses, but has the flexibility to specialize and offer more courses in dance, drama, music and the visual arts for students who choose such an area to practice in an area of expertise. A large department of instructional specialized expertise in such a school would enhance curriculum delivery for students and energize kindred spirit teachers. Schools that emphasize business and entrepreneurship or science and technology and so on after the middle school years would likely encourage more enthusiastic and engaged participation by interested students. Choosing an elective specialty area to finish schooling on might make schooling a more transformative experience for students. By Grade 9, and certainly by Gr. 10, our young people are ready to put their minds and hearts into something beyond “receiving, retaining and returning” content that they do not find meaningful at that moment in their lives. Schools and their districts (and has been pointed out the provincial jurisdiction) would need to support and provide opportunities for such change.

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    42. Bev says:

      As Richard said earlier, it’s not only schools and school districts that need to change to support more flexibility and choice in the school system.

      The political leaders/Ministry of Education also needs to change. Right now our system is too adversarial. The Ministry and the teachers have issues. The teachers and parents have issues. Parents and teachers have issues with administration. And on it goes. The ones who suffer in the end are the children.

      The “system” needs to come up with province wide, long range goals and all the stakeholders need to come up with collaborative and creative ways to make it happen. Could it include changing school hours or calendars? Possibly. Could it include online/distance learning? Maybe. Is funding going to be an issue? Most likely.

      The focus should be on the students and how to educate them so that they become independent, self-supporting adults who contribute to our society. We need to make sure that the money that is allocated to education is used effectively and not wasted on one or two year “experiments” that end up serving no useful purpose or on oversized administration or red tape. Not everyone is going to go to university or college so we need to make sure there are other opportunities for these students.

      Also, we need to have more effective communication between the adults in the system. This forum is going on and to be honest the only reason I know about it is because I had sent an e-mail to the Ministry about an issue last school year and they sent me a link. I was not informed about it by my school and it was only briefly mentioned on our school board website. I have mentioned this forum to other parents in my school district and to date, not one other parent knew about it either. If we want to have flexibility and options for the students, we need to make sure that everyone knows what’s going on. Someone earlier mentioned schools that cater to things like fine arts, or sports, or academics, or trades. We have schools in my district that do offer these types of programs, even some at the elementary school level, but I have not met one parent who knew about them when they signed their children up for kindergarten. How can the students take part in these types of programs if no one hears about them?

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      • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

        Hi Bev. We want to hear from as many people as possible on this site, so we’re continually working on new ways to spread the word about it. Over the next few days we’ll be sending an email notification and invitation to a lot of different organizations and community groups that so far we haven’t reached. We also encourage everyone who knows about the site to share the word with their friends, relatives, and networks. It may be that we need to start advertising, too. Time will tell.

        We also hear your and Richard’s comments about the scope of the question. Indeed, the ministry needs to be part of this discussion – i.e., what changes do we need to make to support and facilitate the move to more flexibility and choice?

        By all means, you and others should share your ideas with us.

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        • I have had the same experience as Bev; few people I contact seem to know about this website.

          Consider putting a link to this website on the front page of every school district website. The bright green “Have Your Say” and BC Education Plan” graphic links that are near the top right-hand corner of the Ministry of Education website could easily be copied to the front page of every school district website, school website, DPAC website, PAC website, public post-secondary instituion website, etc.

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          • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

            Thanks for your suggestions, RIchard. Some districts, such as Qualicum, already have the banner and link on their district sites. Most don’t, though. We will certainly invite them to add it but whether they do is obviously their choice not ours.

            Your other suggestions are also very helpful, and in fact, are part of our next communication rollout. Fingers crossed we’ll see the BC Ed Plan link on lots more websites and on bulletin boards in libraries, rec centres, community hockey rinks, etc over the province very soon! We have a very large list of places and groups we’ll be sharing our message with over the next few weeks.

            if anyone else has other ideas around getting the word out please let us know. It’s kind of off topic for this question so a private email to us at bceducationplan@gov.bc.ca is probably the best way to contact us with your marketing ideas.

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          • I used this convenient Ministry of Education webpage to navigate to each of the 60 BC school district websites to visually scan their homepage for any reference to the BC Education Plan.

            As of just now (4:55pm Saturday January 7, 2012) only 10 out of the 60 school districts had a link on their homepage regarding the BC Education plan (SD6, SD28, SD45, SD50, SD51, SD59, SD60, SD63, SD69 and SD70). Ten out of 60 (17%) is not a very good grade.

            Only 2 of those 10 school districts used the highly visible and recognizable graphic logo links also used on the BC Ministry of Education homepage and on the BC Education Plan website (SD69 and SD70); the remaining 8 school districts just used plain text links that are nowhere near as noticable as the highly visible and recognizable graphic logos that were no doubt designed (at some expense) to deliberately be highly visible and recognizable. Two out of 60 is not a very good grade.

            Of the 14 school districts in the lower mainland, only SD45 mentions the BC Education Plan on their homepage.

            I haven’t looked at BC post-secondary website homepages, but I suspect that the situation is similar.

            If we want the BC Education Plan to be successful, I think we need to do better than this.

            Another thing that is very apparent after looking at all 60 school district websites is the huge technology gap between the “have” and the “have-not” school districts and schools. Here are some related comments I made elsewhere on this website:
            http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/10/question-3/comment-page-3/#comment-516
            http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/12/question-wrap-up/comment-page-1/#comment-1332
            http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/12/question-wrap-up/comment-page-2/#comment-1411

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            • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

              Wow, that’s some impressive detective work, Richard. We certainly would like more uptake than that. We’ve asked, but maybe it’s time to ask again!

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            • A couple of months later I took a second look at all 60 school district homepages. See the results in this related posting on the BC Education Plan website.

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      • Regarding your comment, “…we need to have more effective communication between the adults in the system…”, I completely agree. We need an permanent online venue for communication, collaboration and constructive debate regarding education issues. If you are interested, I wrote more about this topic in the following comments:

        http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/10/question-3/comment-page-3/#comment-493
        http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/10/question-3/comment-page-1/#comment-496
        http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/11/question-5/comment-page-1/#comment-871

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    43. The question posed, “How do you think our schools and school districts need to change to support more flexibility and choice?”, is missing at least one other critical partner required to support more flexibility and choice: the provincial government.

      Every school district is co-governed by the Ministry of Education and the local Board of Education and so the provincial government necessarily has a significant responsibility in supporting any increase in flexibility and choice. After all, it is the provincial government that specifies the learning outcomes and many other requirements that parents, students, teachers, schools and districts must address. It is also the provincial government that decides how much money will be alloted to each school district to achieve those outcomes. Since the provincial government ultimately sets specifications of the job and funding for the job, obviously the provincial government must play a significant role in supporting any increase in flexibility and choice.

      I wrote more regarding the necessary relationship between goals chosen and funds available over in the Question Wrap-Up forum here:
      http://engage.bcedplan.ca/2011/12/question-wrap-up/comment-page-1/#comment-1040

      Also, now that the provincial government is taking over the function of the teacher’s professional association, The BC College of Teachers, the government is assuming direct responsibilities regarding teacher education programs as well. Preparations to support any increase in flexibility and choice will need to be addressed in teacher education programs as well.

      So it is just as relevant, if not more so, to also ask the question, “How do you think our government needs to change to support more flexibility and choice?”

      Perhaps a more comprehensive and realistic question to ask is, “How do you think our education system needs to change to support more flexibility and choice?”

      Parents also play a significant role in support of the education of their children. Any increase to flexibility and choice will impact parents too, so they need to be considered as well.

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    44. First, more flexibility and choice must include schools and school districts backing away from imposing political or moral views. Banning books (or making them required reading) because of some implied value they convey is a relic of a time when information was not available at one’s fingertips.

      Second, core subjects and their learning outcomes should be few but well-learned. For example, only fools and academics would consider advanced trigonometry or Salish history a core life skill. However, business writing and basic math are.

      Third, the Internet is here and it isn’t going away. Embrace it. As much as possible, examinations should accept the fact that in real life “Google is your friend.” I know this amplifies the question of Instant Chat and cheating, but that’s also real life.

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    45. Wendy Jessen says:

      I am a former teacher in addition to being a stay-at-home mom.

      I believe more memorization of : facts, poetry, classic works of western culture , and mathematics should be taught in schools.

      Lip service to critical thinking is given but our children graduate quoting the leftist party line which they have swallowed hook, and line. Seldom do they question, but they do defend using cliches and factoids. Few source materials are used but in text books snippets of quotes or long quotes from source material is given rather than have the student read a long book and form an opinion from a source. The danger from learning from a text of snippets is the spin that is put on concepts.

      Additionally far too much emphasis in school is put on trending movements ie. the green movement. In fact the student knows little else but the tenets of this movement ….why the agenda. It is good to clean up after ones self and it is good to waste not—but the continual mantra of this movement tells us there is an agenda—no one is asking the questions of why? and where it is taking us? Educators need to lead the way in questions –not indoctrination. Why the fear to freely think? Why the constant bombardment of immorality disguised as sex ed–how about more math ed. Lets stick to the very basics in our schools, and do them well. This will give the students more choices and it will be their choices as our students will be able to think and move about as a free people.

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      • Stephanie says:

        Hi Wendy, I find you comments to be a bit contradictory. You say they should do more memorizing and yet they should be taught to question. At what point does the teaching shift from pumping facts in to questioning? Do you feel there is a good age for that?
        I feel the best way is to teach them how to learn. Engage them in the idea of learning, teach them the basics thru exploration, not repetition. I fear your thoughts are to unteach the creativity born in children then try to bring it back a some time. If schools ‘stick to basics’ where will the children learn to question?
        Some things like times table (everyone favourite) does not need to be taught by boring methods. Songs and rhymes and games are much better ways to learn these basics. (how did you learn the alphabet? repitituion or a song)Card games and board games, even computer games, are all “flexible” tools that can be used to learn the basics.

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    46. Donna says:

      I think it comes down to choice… do we want a public system, a private system or both??? That seems to be the root of the problem. The government is obviously leaning towards a private system. Do we want that??

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    47. Donna says:

      I think we need updated technology at our school. Our computers are so old and rarely work. We have one computer hooked up to the internet in each classroom, and no access to a working computer lab? What century is this?? Our kids deserve the best! They are the future!

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      • Moderator Virginia says:

        Technology has been a common theme in many of the questions. “Learning Empowered by Technology” is one of the five main elements of BC’s Education Plan. Check out the planned actions in the plan. We agree that in the 21st Century technology is an essential tool, and the ability to use it well an essential skill!

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    48. Elly says:

      Schools should remain open all year. Students and teachers should have vacation time, but certainly not the ~16 weeks that they get now.
      It must cost a lot just to keep the heat and/or air conditioning on.
      Students would also retain a lot more if they didn’t have long breaks. It seems to me the first month after summer vacation is “review” and the last month before summer vacation not too much is learned.

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      • Donna says:

        I wish we had air conditioning…

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      • Donna says:

        I agree with changing the school calendar and making the summer break shorter. Note… teachers do not get paid for their summer break and personally, I would choose to work through the summer if I could.

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    49. lora bruncke says:

      Allow input on what to teach our children from a broader base of society other than for profit corporations.
      Subjects to consider:

      1) anatomy
      2) relationships – it is obvious when you watch the news we need this.
      3) marketing – see below why
      4) street smarts/driver ed – it is more important to know how to drive well than higher math.
      5) nutrition and cooking
      6) motivation – a lot of money is made selling adults motivation and self help. Why not start teaching it in schools.
      7) politics

      Have a wonderful end of 2011.
      Thanks to all who endeavor to make sure our children have the skills to succeed in our ever faster stressful world

      Why marketing?
      Energy drinks are very dangerous because of the high amount of sugars, calories, caffeine, ginsing, ginko and other ingredients in a taurine liquid. It was marketed to children and teens. Many grocery stores gave it out free at events. Athletes use them to perform better but it puts too much strain on the still growing hearts of our children. High powered teenage athletes in the States are dropping dead from enlarged hearts. Remember the heart is a muscle so will grow with exercise.

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      • Stephanie says:

        HI Lora, if I could give this thought 10 thumbs up I would. There is so much for them to learn that is so more important then Math 11.
        Nutrition should not be an option. It needs to be learned every year and in depth.
        A lot of the learning that you speak of (not all of it) is taught in AVID classes, that start at grade 8 in our district. It needs to start earlier.
        Such a great comment on how much money is spent on adult self improvement.
        Thanks for bringing it up!

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    50. Stephanie says:

      Schools need to offer more flexible hours. Expecially Secondary!
      Seconday schools should start at 8am and continue until 5 or 6 pm. With the key courses being offered from 10 to 4. Electives and other courses before and after those hours.
      Elementry schools and middle schools that are near each other should have different start times to help accomodate different students and family needs. Just like jobs do in the real world.
      SD need to support and encourage Principals to be bold with thier requests to be flexible and different than the usual.
      SD should also look into offering balanced calendars and 4 day weeks along with those flexible school hours for teens.

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      • Tanya says:

        I agree, as a working parent, I find school hours, particularly start times, very difficult. How many parents can start their job after 8:46am drop off in the morning (add a commute and I roll into work around 9:35am)? It’s not practical for me, so the option is then to have before school care at an additional cost and then someone else drops my child off every day, and I am a parent who never enters the school (and would suggest not engaged).

        As for school choice, this is specific, but I don’t understand why the Victoria School district does not introduce languages in early grades. Why does it have to be French immersion or nothing? Choice and flexibility as a provincial policy is one thing, but how does that roll out in districts to meet the needs of parents and students?

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        • Moderator Mike Moderator Mike says:

          What do others think of the earlier start times for school to allow parents to drop their kids off and get to work at a decent time? And how about later ends to the day, as Stephanie suggests? There are lots of factors to consider here besides just better alignment with parent and guardian work schedules. For example, there has been a lot of literature suggesting that kids (particularly teens) learn best later in the day, as a lot of them stay up late. Does that in itself justify a later start times for middle schools and high schools?

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          • Joan says:

            I would like to know the statistics regarding how many parents are needing childcare before and after school. I know many parents who work their schedules around the school schedule. And definitely, teenagers do better with later schedules. The other part of this that bothers me is that there does not seem to be any emphasis from anyone for parents to look after their own children. No one seems to consider the impact of two working parents and latchkey children on our society.

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            • Tanya says:

              Joan, not everyone has the luxury of flexible schedules, and I think the data would show a lot of uptake and/or patchwork to make school hours mesh for working families. I am sure that most parents wouldn’t choose latchkey.

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