Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Will the bcedplan actually listen?

I was pleasantly surprised to read through the summary of commentary provided to the bcedplan web site set up by the Ministry of Education last year. In fact, many of the suggestions and proposals are in very clear "alignment" (to use one of the Ministry's favourite words) with bargaining proposals and policy statements made by teachers and rejected by government.

Of course this form of "consultation" should be looked at with caution. An open web site is not a representative sample of the population. Nor does it reflect democratically developed policy from experts, professionals or interested parties, such as teachers unions, faculties of education, or parent groups. In fact, the use of only an open web site is just one of the many ways in which this government has alienated interested groups of teachers, parents and students, university professors, and so forth, who would typically be invited to make organizational input in a more comprehensive and meaningful consultation process, such as a Royal Commission.

Nevertheless, the results are interesting. Here are some bits that I consider highlights:
  • Less prescriptive curriculum. This is something teachers have advocated for over many years to allow teachers the flexibility to engage student interests and meet student needs according to the particular student make up of a particular class. This has been continuously frustrated by the introduction of standardized examinations - both the Foundation Skills Assessment and the Grade 10, 11 and 12 provincial exams. These exams are so specific that curriculum and teaching has adapted according to the areas tested on these exams.
  • School choices should be available to all students. This is in contrast with the explosion over the last decade of choice programs and schools with limited enrollment, such as French Immersion, Sports Academies and IB programs. Rather, respondants commented on the need for choices to be available to all students: "Recongnize that some schools are unable to support flexibility and choice to the same degree as others (i.e., unequal access to facilities, experts in tcommunity to help teach, etc). Provide additional resources to those schools so the teachers and students have the same opportunities as teachers and students in other schools."
  • Provide release time for teachers to collaborate and learn from each other. This was expressed as "Provide more release time for staff (especially whole departments) to work together to plan and develop lesson materials....Provide teachers with paid time away from the classroom to observe teachers in other classrooms (perhaps even other schools) in order to learn new teaching techniques and styles." This was a bargaining objective of the BCTF during last year's teacher bargaining.
  • Increase support for special needs students by reducing class size and reducing the number of special needs students per class. This is exactly what the Liberals illegally removed from teacher contracts in 2002 and have not corrected despite a court ruling from the BC Supreme Court that their actions were unconstitutional. Bill 22 does nothing to address this concern and in fact will lead to larger classes and more segregation of special needs students into particular classes.
  • Class size. This is worth reproducing directly from the report: "Reduce class sizes so: teachers can better personalize learning for every student. students get the attention they need and deserve. teachers' workloads remain manageable. students aren't overwhelmed by noise and other distractions." This has been a primary objective of the BCTF and BC's teachers for over three decades.
  • Evaluate teachers on a regular basis. This in fact happens in most Districts but parents are not necessarily aware as a teacher evaluation is a personnel matter and not public. While this is not an objective of teachers, I suspect many would agreed with the idea that teachers should be evaluated by other teachers - their peers. Most evaluation systems in BC require Administrators to evaluate teachers, and yet sometimes Administrators have very little teaching experience themselves.
The full summary report is available at: http://bcedplan.ca/assets/pdf/what_youve_said.pdf

1 comment:

  1. I also saw some positive things in the report. However, the cynic in me thinks the report is a PR exercise and the neo-liberal policies of the Minister and this government will not reflect these ideas.