April 9/18: Education Policy and Directions: French Immersion Futures In SD61

Voting Day Local Elections October 20, 2018. New rules and info here.  Yes, I will run again for Trustee in SD61 Greater Victoria. SD61 is in the midst of many  changes and will need progressive vision and commitment to clear, understandable and accountable process and attention to consistent provision of clear backup for statements. My voting record and my motions and rationales here: Sticky post: Motions and Trustee Voting Records  January 2012 –March 2018.   

And here we [will] go again in early fall with all those vinyl signs – it’s hard to believe we’re not past simple name recognition  as an election  strategy.  In the 2014 election  I had 3 Coroplast signs  and moved them around SD61’s considerable area. CRD recycling doesn’t  list vinyl election signs, when 1000s of them are going to be disposed of – somehow – at least every 4 years. 

P1: Education Policy and Directions  Standing Committee Meeting notes

Lined Paper is  my personal record of and commentary on SD61 Board and  Standing Committee meetings. Official, approved  minutes are on the SD61 website, one  month after the meeting. Board meetings are video’d and audio recorded; Committee meetings are not.

SD61 Greater Victoria School District includes students in Esquimalt, Oak Bay, Victoria, View Royal, parts of Saanich and the Highlands, and the Traditional Territories of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations.

District Strategic Plan here.

October 17/16:  That the Board amend Bylaw 9130 Standing Committees to remove the words “with voting rights” from Item #4 and Item #5. / Carried. Unanimous.  This had the effect of allowing only members of the Standing Committee to vote on motions, though other Trustees, if they attend,  can participate in  the debate. The Chair of the Board  ex officio member both Committees, with voting rights. Quorum is a majority of Trustee members on the committee.

Territory Acknowledgement900

Dialogue with the Public is welcome during Standing Committee Meetings.
Only appointed members of the Committee can vote.

Ed Policy  & Directions Standing Committee
April 9 /18
Members: Ferris, Nohr (Chair,), Orcherton, Whiteaker;  Loring-Kuhanga ex officio (vote but not counted for quorum)

Present:  Ferris (1999) McNally ( 2011), Nohr (2011),  Orcherton (1999), Paynter  (2014), Watters (2014), Whiteaker (2014)
Regrets: Loring-Kuhanga (2011)
Not present: Leonard (elected 1996)

A. Agenda approved; Minutes of March 5/18 approved in appropriate meeting. Official minutes here; Lined Paper report here. No Business Arising.
B. No Presentations to the Committee.
C.1 Student Rep
Carmen Ho, Spectrum Community School

Next: Compelling discussion on future of French Immersion configuration in SD61.  Little (no) discussion of late immersion but even Canadian parents for French, a strong immersion advocacy group, say ” ‘Fluency’ and ‘bilingualism’ are difficult terms to define, as there is a range of fluency and bilingualism. However, students completing the Late French Immersion program should be comfortable speaking French and be able to understand native French speakers with ease. Their French accents will probably not be as authentic as that of Early French Immersion graduates. Late French Immersion graduates should be capable of working and living in a French environment and studying at a French-language university.” 

Same outcomes as early immersion. International figures often speak English with an accent and that doesn’t stop communication.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the language and as  public school student took every course I could from grade 7 onward, which was the first year I could access it at the time in Alberta public schools. (“J’entre dans la salle de classe; je regarde autors de moi”. I still remember that set piece we must have repeated hundreds of times over the school year. That was language instruction then.) I followed up with every class I could take in high school. (Thank you Mrs. Simpson at Ross Sheppard Composite High School; you were brilliant. ) I did the same at University of Alberta and UVic – grabbed every French course I could cram into the timetable for  a 5 year Education degree, and was fortunate to live with a French speaking family for a couple of years. I completed the 5 year UVic FLDP in two years, and then didn’t speak French for decades. (You know what happened. I recently tried to get some vocabulary and verb tenses back with Duolingo (used in a SD61 BAA course “Travel Languages”), which was fun but only goes so far. ) The point of all this is, late immersion can work really well. You just have opportunities – early or late immersion – to keep speaking French.

What-is-Late-French-Immersion 1

What-is-Late-French-Immersion 2

C.2 French Language Review : Deputy Superintendent Green’s presentation of French Immersion Committee review: Will inform next steps in boundary review; big domino effect.

F I 1

1970’s, dual track was “balanced”. SD61 had higher %age of students enrolled than most Districts in BC.

F I 2

F I 3

Little difference between Kindergarten and Grade 1 entry points.

F I 4

About 3880 students enrolled now. Reasons: dual track setting is a Choice program. If no spaces at entry point school, have to go to a different school or choose English track and wait until Grade 6. This has slowed down enrolment.

F I 4 a

This is higher than most School Districts in BC.

F I 5

  • McNally: 8.5 left because of behavioural concerns? I imagine this means the students were removed from the program. We don’t remove students from the English track classrooms because of “behavioural concerns“, we work with them to ensure success. Would like a more full report on this aspect of the program as soon as practicable. And this is only anecdotal – what are the actual numbers? What if we take onto account actual records at all the schools  that offer French Immersion? [Elementary school list here.]

F I 6

  • McNally: No one broaches the possibility of late immersion only. So here it is. New Brunswick changed entry point to Grade 3, but recently went back to Grace 1 entry. The original plan was for Grade 5 and middle school entry points but public pressure worked  against that . Late immersion, which could solve a lot of staffing and scheduling problems,  as the only offering is  not going to happen, as parents overwhelmingly want early immersion entry points. Not sure why when the outcomes are virtually the same for early and late. (Some have observed that French Immersion classrooms self-sort into well behaved high achievers, creating more homogeneous and less diverse classrooms. )  Early entry points are favoured for second language learning  in Europe as well.

F I 7

In high school the content – heavy classes like Sciences are in English.

F I 8

F I 9

F I 10

Above – would have to drop a cohort in one high school and take French Immersion  out of one high school.

F I 11

Above – consideration for adding one or more dual tracks on the West side. Probably would have to add another dual track in a few years. Or, could create 4-5 single track French Immersion only schools across SD61 with their own catchment boundaries.

F I 12

16 C2-French-Language-Review-Committee-Info-for-Ed-Policy

F I 13

Would probably require opening additional schools.

F I 18

F I 19

F I 20

F I 21

F I 22

F I 23

F I 24

F I 25

  • Paynter: Noting a levelling off of demand – demand or space?  / Deputy Super: Both. / Perception that French Immersion is a “better education” and that classless have fewer behaviour issues, fewer students with learning challenges , learning liabilities , all more homogeneous and successful  group. What supports were available before /  when  students left French Immersion?
  • Deputy Superintendent: Attrition rate for struggling students has gone down.Single track hasn’t lost any students – it’s just their school. [No single track in SD61 at this time. “Empirical research in the area of single versus dual-track language programs is sparse...”   ] No research says there is any learning disability that impacts learning in French Immersion.
  • Simon Burgers, District Principal – Languages and Multiculturalism : 80-120 entries in Grade 6 every year. Retention very high for late French Immersion students – almost none leave the program.
  • Whiteaker: Focus on delivery of a quality program. Many problems with opening more seats, staffing being one. Don’t want to close a high school cohort. Not in favour of single track. Victor Brodeur is single track. [Brodeur is not part of SD61, and is a French as a First  Language school for members of the local and military Francophone community]. The school is operated by the Conseil Scolaire Francophone (CSF), SD93.]
  • Ferris: Favour balanced dual track.Single track would have to be a new school. How to accommodate neighbourhood English track choice? Would be a good idea to close one cohort in a high school – would allow students to be exposed to more than one teacher, which is not the case at this time.
  • Nohr: Importance of balance and dual track for diversity. Any comment from any of the 9 committee members present?
  • McNally: The Committee’s thoughts are presented to us in this PPT.
  • Orcherton: Want dual track and balance.Sir James Douglas was imbalanced for a long time.Do not want single track. Staffing issues. What is realistic? What will the process be? How will this go to the full Board?
  • Deputy Superintendent: Here initially, could narrow down here and then take to full Board.
  • Whiteaker: Draw  boundaries first and then identify remaining problems.
  • Deputy Superintendent: The number of variables makes that not possible. Here and now, could take some options off the table based on our values.
  • McNally: Single track exclusionary; not in favour.

We all wish for the magic formula or test that would provide us with an objective answer to the question of potential success in the French Immersion program.  The fact remains that each and every case has to be evaluated individually.  Although this evaluation can be quite subjective, there is a systematic way to look at available information and make an informed decision on the subject. It is important to remember when making a decision that in many cases, a transfer out of the immersion program will not lead to elimination of the learning frustrations.  Furthermore, it may have negative effects on an already fragile self-image.  Our objective is to strive to serve all students in the second language.  We must, however, remember that in some cases, however few, a transfer to the English program would be beneficial and would reduce some of the debilitating frustrations felt by some learners.  The question here is who do we transfer, why and when?

Notes from Alberta: https://ab.cpf.ca/resources/for-parents/learning-difficulties-in-french-immersion/

C.3 McNally: Trustee Elections 2018: McNally request to move to May agenda as related BCSTA document is unavailable  at present./ Moved to May Ed Policy agenda.

C.4 BAA Courses at Vic High: Associate Superintendent Kitchen and Vic High Principal Aaron Parker:  Introduction to Electronics / Electrical 10, Introduction to Autobody 10, Junior Art Metal. These courses have been ongoing at Vic High but the provincial reorganization of curriculum puts them outside any course as they don’t fit. Hence the request for BAA status./ Carried. Unanimous [unanimous vote of assigned members of Ed Policy.]

[As of  2013, SD61 Trustees had over several years approved 155 BAA courses, scattered around the secondary schools.]

  • Associate Superintendence Kitchen: Have been concerns with numerous BAA courses. New curriculum allows ore flexibility , and some BAAs are now captured within the new Ministry curriculum. This year  tidying up Grade 10 BAAs, next year Grade 11 and 12 BAA reviews.

C.5 Watters: That the Board endorse the priority areas of focus identified by the Advocacy Ad Hoc Committee and task that committee with developing action plans on each item to be brought back to a future Education Policy and Directions meeting. / Carried. Unanimous.

Advocacy Report

  • Whiteaker: Not sure the Board wants to advocate for #1 – don’t  think it’s a priority. What else discussed besides these 3?

Letter going to ministry from SD61 Board: “We understand that “Group 2” independent schools are typically the “elite” private schools that fund their students in excess of the average per student cost in the public system. We feel that eliminating this funding is appropriate given the resources available to these schools while ensuring that this would not have an impact on other types of more modest private schools. While the Board ultimately believes that all students should be in the public system, this short term step should be taken while the broader issue is addressed.” 

And at E.2 c: c) McNally: That the Board direct the Chair to write a letter to the Minister of Education urging development of a strategy for ending public funding of all private schools by September 2021. /    Watters: Motion to refer to Advocacy Ad Hoc Committee./ Carried. Unanimous. Abstain: Leonard

  • Watters: Have reviewed all the advocacy letters, considering funding formula,.
  • Orcherton: These are top areas the Board has looked at before. 
  • Ferris: Private school funding doesn’t tug at our heartstrings. [It does at mine.] Would rather address funding formula for the schools.
  • Watters: What are the recommendations of the Ed Policy Committee? Sensing little enthusiasm here.
  • Whiteaeker: Add a mental health piece. New Ministry of Mental Health – could put Children in Care under that. Where do we fit in the bigger picture of children in care? / Watters: Funding, communication issues, perhaps targeted funding…/ What more are we going to do for children in care? 
  • McNally, Agree, mental health is a major concern of students expressed in surveys.

D. Notices of Motion: None
E. General Announcements: None
F: Adjournment: 9:15 pm

About Diane McNally