And we are back at it. Education Committee meeting going up this Tuesday at 7:30 pm at McBride.

We start off with a Richard McBride School-Wide Charter & Student Performance, and I must admit I’m not sure what that actually means, so I am looking forward to the surprise.

We are also going to be receiving an update on the McBride Seismic upgrade Capital Project. Chairperson Gifford has penned a great letter to the Minister of Education urging Education Minister Fleming to move this project forward as quickly as possible.

We are also confirming our District Foundational Statements. I am hoping that we can actually send these out for consultation and review by the public. I have said before that I believe that we need to change the ways that we consult and work with our public. Most of this process of developing our new Mission, Vision and Values statements has been done in open Board meetings, with almost no public in attendance. We need to change what we are doing and find ways to include the public more, even if they don’t want to come out and attend our Board meetings. In November 2016 I  proposed that the Board establish a board based education partner and community Task Force to review the current School Board public engagement and make recommendations to the Board on how to improve our engagement with the public.” Unfortunately that motion has not been brought forward yet, but I am hoping it will make it to an agenda in the next month or so.

Other then the McBride presentation the most exciting part of this agenda is the Student Achievement/Accountability Report. New Westminster Schools are doing great jobs in so many areas. We have outstanding programs in Music and Performing Arts, Alternate learning environments, French Immersion, IB, Trades and Apprenticeships, Montessori and in every classroom in this district we have teachers creating miraculous and delightful learning situations that are helping our students, our children grow and develop.

We have an interesting district,

Student Statistics
Factor New Westminster All Public Schools
Non Residents 4.8% 2.8%
English Language Learners 13.8% 11.3%
Aboriginal 4.9% 11.5%
French Immersion 13% 9.5%
Top 3 languages English (64%)  Mandarin (5.1%)   Tagalog (4%)  English (64%)     Punjabi (5.1%)         Mandarin (5.1%)    

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EDI is a measurement process to help us understand the levels ofvulnerability amongst our students entering our school system.  The EDI is a 103-item questionnaire completed by kindergarten teachers in the second half of the school year that measures children’s ability to meet age-appropriate developmental expectations in five general domains:

Physical Health and Well-Being
Social Competence
Emotional Maturity
Language and Cognitive Development
Communication Skills and General Knowledge

Objective of the EDI

Reliably assess the developmental health (skills and behaviour) of children at the age of developmental transition from early development to school age in a holistic manner. The EDI is a holistic assessment because it encompasses five major areas of child development.

The EDI is a reliable and valid measurement tool of developmental status completed on individual children between 3.5 and 6.5 years of age. After teachers complete the EDI on each individual child in their class, the results are grouped together to give a snap shot of how children are doing across schools, neighbourhoods, cities, or even provinces and countries.

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The EDI gives educators a look in to the levels of vulnerability in our youngest school age children and helps us to look for ways that we can provide support for them in these critical early developmental years. While we have seen some improvement over the past few years there is always more that we can do. I will report more after the meeting on the specifics of what the district does with the information and what sorts of programs we have developed to help our vulnerable children.

We also have the academic achievement information for Reading, Writing and Numeracy. Unfortunately we are still using the FSA (Provincial Foundation Skills Assessments) as the sole source of data. In the past we used our locally developed Reading and Writing Assessments, but that has stopped due to the cost of assessment and giving teachers time out of the classroom to complete and assess the results.  The FSAs have become so politically tainted over the years, particularly with the great variation in the participation rates, with students being excluded for a variety of reasons, including parental requests, that they have questionable value. That being said in both grades (4 and 7) in all 3 categories (Reading, Writing & Numeracy) New Westminster is above provincial averages with the exception of Grade 7 Numeracy where we are slightly below the provincial average. 

I believe that we need to go back to a locally developed assessment tool that can include all of our students.

Our 6 year high school completion rates (meaning the number of students who complete high school within 6 years of starting) of 83.4% is also at or close to the provincial average of 83.6% for 2015/2016.

Where we have some challenges is in the Special Education completion Rate in 2015/2016 in was 60.9% for New Westminster and 67% for the provincial average.

We also have some significant challenges in serving our Aboriginal students where our FSA scores for Numeracy are disturbing. In Grade 4 our Aboriginal students had a success rate of slightly over 40% compared with a Provincial average of about 55%, and for Grade 7 Numeracy our Aboriginal students had a success rate of slightly over 20% compared with a Provincial average of about 48%.  As well our 6 year high school completion rates for Aboriginal students was of 52.6% compared to the provincial average of 63.8% for 2015/2016. While the rate shows an improvement for 2016/17, an increase to about 58%, it is still far below the provincial average and over the 4 years we have seen uneven results.

We have excellent staff dedicated to working with our Aboriginal students, but clearly we need to do more, the School Board needs  to come to the table with financial support in this next budget for some new and different ideas on how we can support our Aboriginal students.

Finally we are expecting an administrative response to the concerns raised by the Canadian Parents for French of their perception of the lack of bilingual Resource Teachers and bilingual Education Assistants at NWSS.

Author: Michael Ewen

Husband, Parent, Grandparent, Dog Owner, Public School Teacher, Public School Trustee

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