Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The School District isn't keen on an Ontario initiative, a relatively calm Christmas for the RCMP and the year in review from the Northern View, some of the items of note for the Tuesday news cycle.

Daily News, Front page, headline story
LESS IS NOT NECESSARILY MORE, SAYS SCHOOL DISTRICT 52 -- Changes in the marking system for educational achievement in Ontario are apparently not something that local educators and administrators are in any hurry to explore. The Ontario plan, set to begin in the fall will see only two measurements of progress taken during the school year, as opposed to the traditional three. With the fall assessment, the first glimpse of the school year apparently destined for the history books. It's a study that local teachers and school officials aren't too interested in, prefering to stay with the three times a year progress reports, so as to better inform parents as to the progress of their children in the school system.

Things were relatively calm on the police ledgers for the holiday period of December 24 to 28, with only 106 calls received by Prince Rupert RCMP requesting assistance. As the reporting period came to an end, there were six locals in the hospitality care of the Crown five for drunk in public charges while one other was in breach of conduct.

And this Christmas was one for the record books, well the recorded history books at any rate. Christmas Day was the warmenst one on record since the Airport first began keeping records back in 1962 with the high on the 25th recorded as 12.4 degrees, besting the previous record of 11.9 degrees from 1999. Our blast of warm air was carried from the sub tropics north of Hawaii, a linger air mass which while not topping the plus ten range will still provide for warmer than usual conditions into the New Year.

The Sports section featured a review of the sports highlights for 2009.

(Archive for Daily News Articles for December 29, 2009)

The Northern View

The Year in Review-- A look back at some of the items of note for 2009
January, 2009
February, 2009
March, 2009
April, 2009
May, 2009
June, 2009
July, 2009
August, 2009
September, 2009
October, 2009
November, 2009
December, 2009

No new items were posted on the Northern View website for December 29.

CBC News Northern British Columbia, Daybreak North
Daybreak is on Christmas break, a notice on their website advises that no new items are to be posted to their Daybreak site until January 4, 2010

Daily News, front page, headline story

Less is not necessarily more, says School District 52
School District 52 isn’t sure whether Ontario’s mantra is the way to go
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Tuesday, December 29, 2009

As the Ontario government looks to reform the way student achievement is reported in the fall, School District 52 board members and members of the Prince Rupert District Parental Advisory Council are not sure if it’s the best way to go for B.C.

It’s a trend happening across the country as school board and education ministries have a hard look at whether or not marks in the fall are really helpful in measuring students academic success.

Ontario will be the first region in Canada to issue two, as opposed to the unofficial standard of three, graded elementary school report cards.

The change, which will make the province the only one in Canada to grade all elementary students just twice a year, is the latest evidence of a growing backlash against marking children early, often and on a rigid scale of letters or numbers.

But Prince Rupert DPAC vice-chair Kim Nicholls, speaking on behalf of the DPAC board, said that their parents would still want some sort of measurement during the fall.
“Communication between families and schools is an important piece of a child’s education,” responded Nicholls in an email.

“Families need to know how their child is doing in relation to the learning outcomes for their grade. How that information is shared is not as important as the fact that it is shared. We know that not every family is able to attend parent teacher interviews.”

Student achievement has been of some focus in the City after it was reported that Kindergarten children are falling behind on basic skills during the fall-half of the school year.

However, students in that grade appeared to be improving over the school year and made substantial improvement by the spring tests.

Local Kindergarten teacher Joanna Larsen said what Ontario is doing is trying to reform the way schools look at measuring students in the first few months of the school year.

“What is interesting to me, is we are doing the complete opposite in B.C.,” said Larsen.

She said when she first moved to the province a decade ago the primary students were receiving qualitative reports, meaning using anecdotal evidence about how each student has improved.
Changing to a standardized reporting format from that qualitative approach has put B.C in the backseat again, according to Larsen.

“Teachers in B.C. find far more value in the qualitative reporting,” said Larsen.

There has also been no talk between DPAC members or the School Board about what Ontario has done.

And SD 52 is not at this time contemplating a change.

But it still gave the board chair food for thought

“Students have lost some of the retention over the summer and they spend a lot of the summer trying to catch up with whatever they haven’t learned or not retained from the spring. Is that the best use of time?

“I think the real smart people, not me, are trying to figure that out,” said School Board chair Tina Last.

Ontario is not the first province to seriously consider how students are measured throughout the school year.

Three schools in Edmonton have replaced their fall report cards with “student-led” parent-teacher conferences; Saskatchewan is releasing an in-depth assessment of its student evaluations in February; and Ontario’s decision to swap the first report card of the year for an informal progress report is part of a wider change to be unveiled formally next month.

But Ontario’s decision to axe the fall reports cards province-wide is the most drastic.

According to the Canadian Press, Ontario’s teachers’ unions have long advocated for eliminating the fall report card, which they argue comes too early in the school year for teachers to make useful judgments of their students. They also say the fall reports place an unnecessary marking burden on teachers.

There was a push in B.C. about ten years ago to change the way students are measured in elementary schools to an anecdotal report, but parents eventually opposed it.

“Even though the children were in Grade 2, the parents wanted to know that their kids were getting an ‘A’ or a ‘B’,” said Prince Rupert District Teacher’s Union president Gabrielle Bureau. “You need almost a generation to change it.”

Nicholls said that the local DPAC does not oppose the move, but there would be some fundamental question that we need answering first if Ontario’s model was to be adopted in B.C.
“How are issues such as language barriers addressed in interviews? Do all families feel comfortable speaking with their child’s teacher?” she and the DPAC wondered. “A written progress report, with or without letter grades, is important for all parents to receive as a starting place for communication with the school.”

Last, who also has a child in secondary school and has put two other children through the Prince Rupert education system, said that she still likes to see progress reports that measure improvement or a step back in student achievement for her child.

“As a parent, I like seeing a report that shows me that this is where they were three months ago and this is where they are today. Have they gone up? Ok what has happened?” she asked. “In High School, I like – and even in elementary schools – I like a letter grade because it told me. But as I reflect back, I recognize that it told me thinking about how it was when I was in school.”
“But it is completely different now.”

And if it’s different could that mean that parents who appreciate the A-E measurement might be wrong? And would the bumper sticker, Honour Roll crowd oppose that kind of change?

“Probably if they are parents of kids that are on top,” said Larsen. “But I attribute it to if parents walked into my classroom everyday and I have my kids names limed up 1-20. The parent of kids one, two and three might be happy. But the other 17 won’t be so happy.”

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