Enrollment down. But are the students really missing?

Vancouver School Boards concern with missing children seems to ignore one possibility – maybe the projections were wrong. In other areas of predictive ‘science’ we have seen similar problems with estimates and projections. The case of the 1 million missing sockeye salmon in the early 1990s is a good example of when the ‘scientists’ just got it wrong. In 1992, 1994 and again in 2004 salmon turned up ‘missing’ on the Fraser. After the fact reviews of the situation found that the ‘real’ number of missing salmon was significant less that what had originally hit the headlines. More to our point here is the fact that the underlying cause of the ‘missing’ salmon was not the fact there where missing, but the that the models had predicted that they would be there and then didn’t turn up. The problem, to put it bluntly, was an imagined problem and was ultimately used as fodder in an anti-aboriginal rights political movement.

Students aren’t salmon, but I would suggest there are important parallels. The most important being that these aren’t really ‘real’ students’ that have suddenly disappeared. What are missing are ‘predicted’ enrolments. That is quite different than a misplaced child . . . While it is always dangerous to make predications, I am willing to suggest that after clearer minds review the available information we will find that what we have is a combination of predication errors, economic factors (i.e. out migration) and demographic changes.

For additional information read the Vancouver Sun story on the ‘missing students’ here.
To read previous post on subject click here.

VSB Enrolment drops 2%

As the September 30th cutoff date approaches the Vancouver School Board is anticipating a drop in overall enrolment beyond the initially projected 250 students. The most recent enrolment counts indicates that the overall student population could be down by an additional 900 students to 1,160 fewer students overall. VSB staff state that this number is preliminary and there may be some changes before the Sept 30th official count is sent to the Ministry. ,Nonetheless they note the magnitude of the decrease and have been contacting education partners to keep them informed.

The key information:

  • Enrolment across the district will be approximately 900 less than projected (that is, about 1,200 studnets or approx 2% of total district student population);
  • 500 students fewer at the elementary level;
  • 660 students fewer at the secondary level;
  • 300 of the elementary students are “full day Ks” (i.e. 300 fewer full day Kindergarten children enrolled than expected);
  • Staffing allocations in schools with decreased enrolment will take place next week (approx 70 full time equivalent (FTE) teaching positions across the district);
  • Every effort will be made to minimize disruption in schools. No child will have to transfer to another school;
  • Principals and staff committees in affected schools will work together to make the staffing adjustments;
  • There will be no teacher layoffs. Teachers affected by the enrolment decrease will become “permanent teachers-on-call” and assigned to replace teachers away ill or on leave. (In other words, we will use current teaching staff as TOCs and spend less money on hiring new TOCs);
  • The net financial cost to the district of the decreased enrolment/reduced funding will be in the $1.5 million range, but that number cannot be confirmed for some time yet;
  • All numbers are approximate and will be fine-tuned as additional information is received.

Update: Tuesday Sept. 27, 2006
Story Hits Monday’s news:
read the CBC story;
read the CKNW story;
read the News 1130 story; North Shore News story on situation on the north shore. West Van up, North Van down.

Robson Valley Times story on declining enrolments.

The education ministry projects an overall drop of 7,095 students from last school year, with only a handful of school districts — including Surrey and West Vancouver — expecting higher enrolment. Source, The Province, Setpember 5, 2006.

VSB update posted September 22, 2006

Deputy Minister’s Newsletter

The September 22, 2006 newsletter features a ‘good news’ story about a school that set an “unbelievable goal for their students.” The fact that the school has all of the socio-economic indicators that research shows is the underlying factor for high performance is briefly mentioned and then skipped over. The Dm identify’s the real reason that studnets do well: “failure is not allowed.” If only education was that simple. Read the DM’s report yourself here.

In his Sept. 15th newsletter, the DM commend’s BCTF President Jinny Sims for comments following the ratification of a five year contract. Download newsletter here.

Past newsletters can be found by clicking hee.

Homework is a waste of time!

As reported on “Where the blog has no name:

More homework is being assigned by teachers and demanded by parents, but has Harris Cooper, professor at Duke University, points out in a Washington Post article elementary school students get no real academic benefit from homework. Read education professor Wayne Ross’s full comment and background materials here.

Most of what I have seen my children brining home since the early days of their elementary school experience has struck me as make work programmes for parents. Yet, many of my fellow parents would complain bitterly if homework wasn’t assigned. Perhaps the research results being produced by Harris Cooper can help to shift the balance toward more engaged forms of learning.

As Wayne Ross points out in his comment we

need to transform the typical school assignments from individually completed, convergent thinking tasks into what Elizabeth Cohen, in her book Designing Groupwork: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom has labeled as “multi-task activities,” which foster the development of complex or higher order thinking and equal access to instruction through cooperative group work.

To do this, however, will require smaller classrooms, better resources, and a sincere commitment to real learning. Our education systems remain to heavily linked to industrial widget production models –despite all the rhetoric of education ministers and their advisors- in which the mastery of a core set of skills is the be all and end all of education.

On a related matter noted author and educator, Alfie Kohn, has been invited by the Vancouver District Parent’s Advisory Council in cooperation with the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers Association and the Vancouver School Board to speak with parents on October 19th, 7:00 – 9:00 pm, Macgee Secondary School Auditorium. There is no charge for this event. Alfie Kohn will speak on the pitfalls of standardized testing.

Class Size Regulation amendments clarify definitions and roles

As of Friday, September 8, the Lieutenant Governor of BC approved amendments to the Class Size Regulation, as authorized by Section 76.1 of the School Act. This is the regulation governing calculation of average class sizes.

All of the amendments are administrative in nature, clarifying definitions and roles. Changes include:

Clarification of the definition of “class” and cohorts.

    Clarifies that “determining” average class size is the responsibility of the superintendent, not the school board.
    This involves a calculation, not a decision on policy.
    The addition of a new section on reporting, clarifying the requirement to report class size data necessary for annual class size reports.

Bill 33, the Education (Learning Enhancement) Statutes Amendment Act, 2006 entrenches the responsibility of school boards to ensure that the stipulated class size limits and class size averages are met. The amended School Act requires school boards to take an active and significant role in reviewing, approving, and reporting on class sizes, and stresses the importance of school board compliance with provincial class size requirements. As outlined in Section 75, mandatory appointment of a special administrator shall occur if, “in the opinion of the minister, the board is not in compliance with the class size provisions.”

Click here for links to the amended regulation.

See also the Deputy Minister’s Report on Education in which he talks about Bill 33 and it’s implementation: Download the Sept. 8, 2006 issue. For past messages from the DM click here.

Teachers Take Five Year Contract

Did they sign away the power? Will we enter a new age of depoliticized teachers? Hard to say. What can be said is that of the 25,000 teachers who made it to union voting stations nearly 95% of them voted to accepted the government’s five year plan for teachers.

Nearly 85% of 32,000 teachers who voted voted to strike last September.
About 30,000 teachers voted 77% in favour of going back to work on October 23rd, 2005. And while nearly 95% of those who voted last Friday voted to accepted, the actual number of teachers voting declined to 25,000 of the more than 40,000 eligible teachers.

While many will sigh with relief, the declining numbers of teachers who actually voted suggests (though it doesn’t prove) that there is a large number of teachers who are not particularly happy with the way things turned out.