BCTF Conference on Accountability: parent workshop details, II

The parent workshop was an interactive event that drew upon the expert knowledge of participants to explore the theme “what do parents want” and then to identify mechanisms to assess how these expectations are being met.
In each workshop the participants were broken into discussion groups of 3-5 people. Each group member was asked to write down two statements that describe what parents want from public education for their children. These statements were shared amongst the group. From these initial statements a series of common expectations were recorded on flip chart paper. The next step was a brainstorming session to identify the most effective methods, techniques, and/or processes for assessing whether or not the identified parental expectations have been met in the context of public education.

Two key themes were identified by all participants: education should focus on the whole child, and; dialogue and communications are central to the parent/school partnership.

The morning session was comprised of fairly equal numbers of parent representatives, teacher representatives, and trustees. The afternoon session was about 60% parents with three trustees and a couple student teachers. Both workshops identified fairly similar expectations and methods to assess whether these expectations are being met with the afternoon session tending to emphasize the importance of communication and partnerships with parents.

Blogging on teaching

How do teachers work through the issues of teaching, conflicts with conflicting demands, meeting the expectations of parents, administrators, other teachers, and of themselves? With the rise of blogging some teachers have moved their personal reflections online. As noted on Education Policy Blog there are a profusion of ‘secret blogs’ in which teachers reflect on their teaching practices and other matters. I should add that these are just some blogs that were clipped from the Education Policy Blog and that they represent a small sample of what is out there. The first two, in particular, reflect the anguish and difficulty of teaching in America’s No Child Left Behind/under-resourced high stakes testing environment.

“Super Secret” Teacher Blogs
From a former colleague, Krista Simons, whom we all HATED to lose, now at New Mexico State:

Greetings from New Mexico! I’ve been thinking about an idea that needs researching, and might be of interest to you. I’ve kept up with your blog ever since leaving Purdue since I find the ideas you post rather interesting, and it helps me feel connected to my former institution.

Anyway, one of my students mentioned to me not too long ago that she kept a “super-secret blog” during her first (and only) year of teaching. She sounded so embittered that I couldn’t resist doing a little investigation, and I turned up with her blog here: http://sagacious-teacher.blogspot.com/. You can almost see the desperation and helplessness she feels as she navigates her year that involves teaching with few resources, unexpected politics with administration, difficult kids, etc. (incidentally, she taught in a rural town that is one town over from the one where I grew up; the similarities are uncanny). In her blog, she references another similar blog: http://hategrade.blogspot.com/2006/05/respite.html.Anyway, it strikes me that through these “Super Secret” blogs, we are gaining a window in the successes, failures, strategies, theories, and coping mechanisms of teachers (drinking, smoking, and cursing included). I would love to scour the web for more of these teacher blogs – it’s rich data!

Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit in my “Research Scheme.” But it might fit in yours (or perhaps one of your students…?). If nothing else, it might make for some rich classroom discussion!

Hope you are well. It’s seventy degrees here, and I now live in a swing state, so I have little to complain about. 😉

These blogs are the contemporary equivalent of teachers’ journals from the 19th century, journals that have been the basis for some wonderful social history. I agree that someone needs to look at it, perhaps in an interdisciplinary way with an historian together with others.
# posted by Sherman Dorn : 10:18 AM

Some teacher blogs I follow:
Miss B. is a special ed teacher in California
Your Mama’s Mad Tedious: Diary of a Bronx special ed teacher
Amy Loves Books is the blog of an English teacher in Atlanta
# posted by Penny L. Richards : 3:06 PM

one that I like is:
The Trenches Blogspot
he’s in his second year of teaching now, and I knew him when we was an undergrad at UCHICAGO.
# posted by SR : 10:32 PM

BCTF Conference on Accountability: parent workshop details, I

This BCTF sponsored conference examined the accountability mandate placed on BC’s public schools and its impact on learning, teaching, and the principles of public education. As part of this conference Anita Parhar and I developed a workshop on “what do parents want” with a particualr focus on minority and First Nations parents.

‘What parents want.’

This workshop explores the diverse expectations of parents as they advocate for their children within our public education system. Led by Charles Menzies (parent activist and UBC faculty member) and Anita Parhar (UBC doctoral candidate in Educational Studies) the workshop will emphasize the diversity of parent interests and experiences while paying particular attention to the concerns of First Nations and minority parents. Drawing upon the professional and personal experiences of the workshop facilitators and participants the goal of this session is to identify key parental expectations for BC’s public education system.

Workshop outline and agenda. Download file
Guided group discussion script.Download file

At the conference two workshops were scheduled:

Overview Bibliography

Additional Resources

Papers by workshop organizers related to theme.

Review of School Board Business Ventures

Following complaints and concerns raised in the wake of New Westminster School Board’s busines adventures, the provincial government commissioned a report on school board business. Read the report by downloading the file here.

School board capitalism was part of the 2001 Liberal government plan to liberalize education. This report documents some of the difficulties with a business minded set of solutions.

Alfie Kohn and Standardized Testing

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.

Alfie Kohn will also be on the CBC radio show the Early Edition with host Rick Cluff Thursday morning, October 19th.

Ministry of Education’s ‘Clarification’ of the School Fees Court Decision

On October 5, 2006, the Deputy Minister of Education sent a ‘clarification’ on the school fees court decision. Read the letter here.

Additional information can be found on the BCSTA web site. School_fees_V3_Oct03-06.pdf

FROM: BCTF web page.
The Supreme Court of BC has released a decision re-affirming that the BC School Act, Section 82, prohibits schools from the charging of fees for materials that are required in courses leading to graduation. Greater Victoria school trustee John Young filed a petition to stop all school fees in BC’s public schools. The BCTF calls on the government to adequately fund the system so that students and their families do not face user fees. “All students should have access to the education experiences that help them grow and learn, regardless of their parents’ ability to pay,” says BCTF President Jinny Sims.

Research Reports on BC Education

Over the past several years graduate and undergraduate students enrolling in research methods course have been engaged in conducting real time research on issues that matter to the wider community. These projects have dealt primarily with education issues (though some have focused on issues of natural resource policy). Full details and background can be found on my UBC faculty member web page www.charlesmenzies.ca.

Applied Anthropology, ANTH 409 / RMES 500Q (2006)

  • Evaluation of Grade Ten Provincial Exams
  • Globalization and Education

Ethnographic Methods Course, ANTH 516 (2003)

  • EXTRA! EXTRA! Public Education Chokes on Cup of Campbell’s Soup (a report on media representation of educational issues)
  • Keeping it Together: Challenges for Inner City Education in Vancouver
  • An Ethnographic Analysis of Aboriginal Alternative Programs
  • Death by a Thousand Cuts: B.C. Parent Ad-Hoc Organizations Concerned with Education

Ethnographic Methods Course, ANTH 516 (2002)

  • Clark and Campbell Sitting in a Tree, C-U-T-T-I-N-G
  • Effects of the Wrecking Crew: Maintaining the House of Education in Vancouver’s Inner-City
  • Cents and Sensibility: The State of Special Education in Vancouver

BCTF Conference on Accountability

October 27, 28, 2006
Delta Vancouver Airport Hotel and Conference Centre

The BCTF is pleased to sponsor the public education conference, “What really counts! Rethinking accountability.”

This conference will examine the bureaucratic accountability mandate imposed on BC’s public schools and its impact on learning, teaching, and the principles of public education. The conference will feature keynote speaker, Paul Shaker, Dean of Education at Simon Fraser University, and a wide range of workshop presentations providing delegates with a choice of topics to pursue in detail.

The delegates invited to this conference include parents, teachers, school support staff union reps, trustees, superintendents, MLAs, and representatives from organizations and groups. The BCTF is looking forward to this opportunity to discuss the issues, strategies, and positive alternatives. It’s certainly time to rethink accountability and talk about what really counts in BC’s public schools.

Conference Program.
Workshop descriptions.

More on the Enrollment Mysteries

A VSB report on the impact of school choice legislation, dated October 24, 2005, indicates that there is a modest increase in applicants for alternative programs. However, the data contains some serious flaws (which are all noted in the report). Primarily they have not made any attempt to filter out multiple applications by a single student. In terms of the overall number of cross boundary enrollments they tend to be clustered where one would expect them: Montessori, French Immersion, and Fine arts. The report also notes that the majority of elementary school applications (please note that applications do not equal actual enrollments) were received at the kindergarten level (878 for the 2005-2006 school year).

The number of applications for cross boundary enrollment equals about 2.5% of the overall VSB student population (not a very large number). The actual number of cross boundary enrollments for the 2005-2006 school year were about 1200 students (about one and a half percent of the total VSB enrollment).

Elementary schools with the greatest number of applications (which ranged from 44 -Carr, to 63 -Shaughnessy) were: Carr, Gordon Jamieson, Laurier, Shaughnessy, Osler, Queen Mary. Significantly fewer students where accepted than applied. Accepted to enroll ranged from a low of 4 (Shaughnessy) to a high of 20 (Gordon).

For secondary schools the largest category of cross boundary application where from nearby schools. Fore example, Templeton will typically receive cross boundary applications from students in the Van Tech and Brittania catchment. Point grey will receive applicants from Kitsilano and Magee. The other significant point here is that most applications for cross boundary occur at the grade 7 to 8 transition. The next point is for special programs like City School or IB which have grade ten intakes.

While the data is a year old there is no clear evidence for the missing students being caused by a flight to west side schools. The majority of students, about 98% choose their neighbourhood school over other schools. In addition, the report notes that a number of cross boundary students are there due to overcrowding in their neighbourhood schools.

One further point is that the VSB has decided, as of a Standing Committee I meeting of October 24, 2005, to only collect and analyze cross boundary enrollments every second year. That means that, unless they change their minds, the VSB will not analyze cross boundary enrollments this year.