Student Centered leadership (or site-based management)

May 14, 2007 VIA EMAIL
Ref: 120350
Dear Superintendents:

I am writing to let you know that the Ministry of Education is looking for as many as six more school districts to join the . . . We are planning an information session (at Ministry expense) on June 7, 2007, for six new districts interested in signing on. The districts implementing SCL for the 2007/08 school year (No. 23, 47, 48, 60, 75 and 93) will share their results and answer questions about their experiences. The new districts will use the information session to decide whether to participate. The districts implementing SCL this fall will work with the new cohort of districts to help them plan for their implementation in the 2008/09 school year.

Each district selected to attend the June information session will need to bring a team that includes the Superintendent, the Secretary-Treasurer, a teacher, a trustee, a CUPE member, and a principal. For more information about the application process, please contact Tom Hierck, Project Director, by email ( or by telephone (250-812-2760).

The Ministry launched the SCL project pilot in 2006, inviting six districts to consider how they
might better align their decisions with the needs of supporting student achievement. In particular, they have been looking at ways to work collaboratively on allocating their education resources such as funds for buying books and supplies or hiring staff to better meet the specific local needs of their students, schools and local community.

The SCL model builds and draws on local leadership capacity and empowers school communities to collaborate on decision making. It will allow schools to reflect and focus on their unique local challenges, connect their resource allocations to educational goals, and increase local commitment to and ownership of the solutions. I hope you will consider joining us on June 7.

Sincerely yours,

Emery Dosdall, EdD
Deputy Minister

pc: Scott MacDonald, Executive Director, Learning Management Division
Tom Hierck, Project Director, Student Centred Leadership

CEP and the BCTF returning to the bargaining table -whoops, picketline lengthens

May 17 -update: mediation rejected by BCTF executive. It’s time to sit down to the table and find a just resolution.

CEP and the BCTF will return to the bargaining table May 14th. The move came after the CEP applied to the Labour Relations Board for mediation, although the BCTF has not yet offered an official response to the CEP’s proposal for mediation.

It’s the second time the CEP has turned to the LRB for help. The first attempt for mediation, in March, was unsuccessful in resolving the contract dispute. However, the situation has changed significantly in the past two months after the CEP went on strike and then was locked out by the BCTF on the eve of the CEP’s suspension of picket action.

Background and Resources:

BCCPAC Says Saftey First

In their end of AGM press release the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils issued a statement saying that parents put safety first. Good idea -at least at first blush. But safety, according to the BCCPAC, sounds more like surveillance and discipline than about care and concern.

As noted in their press release the delegates at the annual convention voted to support the provincial governments new registry of teachers. In their resolution attending BCCPAC delegates voted that “the registry include the names of the educators, date of their criminal record checks, status of their teaching certificates, practicing status, education (including any specialty training) as well as their discipline histories, including a link to each history.” Why not insist that disciplined teachers wear a red letter ‘D.’

Safety at school is an important issue. Having public dissing-boards isn’t about safety -it’s about shaming and voyeurism.

On a related matter it would appear that the overwhelming support of the resolution implied in the press release is a big spin. One BCCPAC delegate who was at the annual convention has this to say on the matter:

I am concerned about . . . [the] resolutions and the news release that followed the AGM. Having spent my working life as a professional communicator/public relations practitioner, I note with surprise the emphasis put on the resolution regarding the teacher registry. Those at the conference will recall that this was a very close vote, which I believe (and please correct me if I’m wrong) passed with about 51.5% of votes cast in favour and 48.5% opposed. Given the low a representation of parents we had at the meeting (approx 327 proxies), I think it verges on misleading to make the statements included in the news release without some reference to how divided members are on the issue. In my own work, making a statement like this based on these kind of close numbers would raise a lot of ethical flags despite the technical validity of the vote, exposing the client for whom I was writing to potential criticism (and bad PR). I suggest some follow-up clarification is made to those to whom the release was distributed. Barring that, members may feel compelled to write their own letters of “clarification” along the lines of “While BCCPAC members, by a thin margin, voted in favor of a resolution supporting a public teacher registry, members were clearly divided on this issue, with some members raising concerns about…”

After being present at three BCCPAC AGMs I am continually struck by how often votes are so close that a hand count is required. What this indicates to me is that our membership is diverse and that on many issues, we don’t have a consensus or anything remotely resembling one. There is nothing wrong with that (and it’s a healthy sign of a democratic organization) but there is, in my opinion, something wrong with presenting a different “united” picture to the public, particularly in something so politically charged with legislation now at committee stage on this issue.

Prince Rupert School District Considering School Closures

SD #52 Public Notice:
On May 8, 2007, the Board of Trustees of School District No. 52 (Prince Rupert) adopted a motion to consider the closure of the following schools, effective September 2007:

Kanata Elementary School

Seal Cove Elementary School

Public meetings will be held in each of these schools to discuss the proposed closures:

• Kanata Elementary School – Monday, June 4, 2007, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

• Seal Cove Elementary School – Tuesday, June 5, 2007, 7:00 – 9:00 pm

Written submissions regarding these proposed closures may be sent to:

Board of School Trustees
School District No. 52 (Prince Rupert)
634 6th Ave E
Prince Rupert BC V8J 1X3

Prince Rupert Daily News article, May 11, 2007

Foundation Skills Assessment Week

It’s FSA week. Starting last Monday schools have been instructed to take attendance and report absences to the Ministry of Education. What’s the issue? The government is worried that parents might actually decide to pull their children from the writing of FSA’s. Apparently lacking the confidence to convince parents to participate it would seem that the tack being taken is to invoke the force of the school act. That’s to bad. One would think that the deputy minister and his government would rather convince people of the value of these narrow -scope exams rather than opt to ramp up the rhetoric.

Previous Blog Postings and Web Resources
Commentary by a parent concerned about the FSA’s
Foundation Skills Assessment
Testing, Accountability, and Standards
Making Money off of Testing
Deputy Minister’s Newsletter warning to parents
CEP President Anita Chapman on FAS
BCTF Executive officers statement on FSA’s.
Here’s the BC-PSEA intervention into the FSA debate. Their letter lays out ‘reasons’ to discipline teachers, among other things. Download file

Pressure put on schools to report students who do not take controversial assessment
Janet Steffenhagen, Vancouver Sun
Published: Monday, May 07, 2007

B.C. – The battle between the Ministry of Education and B.C.’s teachers’ unions over the annual Foundation Skills Assessment is likely to heat up today, with the ministry putting pressure on schools to report students who don’t take the controversial test.

Teachers’ unions are urging parents to pull their children from the tests, which are administered provincewide in Grades 4 and 7 to assess basic skills. They say the tests, the 2007 version of which are administered beginning today, don’t promote learning and are abused by the Fraser Institute to rank schools.

But the Education Ministry is fighting back, saying teachers are misleading parents by telling them they have the right to remove their children from the reading, writing and numeracy tests known as the FSA.

Students may be excused by the school principal only when they have learning disabilities, are new ESL students, are ill or are in the midst of a family emergency, the ministry says.

This year, for the first time, principals will have to report all excluded students to the district superintendent, and it’s clear long lists won’t win praise.

Ken Denike, Vancouver school board chairman, said the two sides are headed for a showdown.

“My reading of it is that the union has rolled up and put a line in the sand and the government is rolling up on the other side and they’re going to roll right over them,” he said in an interview.

The ministry has an advantage in that the lead union — the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) — has been all but paralyzed by a contract feud with its employees. That put the brakes on a plan that could have seen teachers refuse to administer the tests this year in every school.

Still, a Vancouver union local says it has had such success with an ad campaign directed at parents that it expects the tests won’t even be handed out in a dozen elementary schools.

“I know for a fact there will be fewer students writing the tests this year,” said Glen Hansman, president of the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association, which has been campaigning against the FSA since 2002.

The goal, Hansman said Friday, “is to stop the dividing of schools between winner schools and loser schools.”

He was referring to the Fraser Institute report card on B.C. elementary schools, to be released later this month, which ranks schools according to FSA results.

Penny Tees, president of the B.C. School Trustees’ Association, says she doesn’t like the rankings either, but the tests are helpful and must be administered.

“Used properly, the assessments can help to further the dialogue on how the achievement in our districts, and in the education system as a whole, can be advanced,” she says in a letter to trustees last week.

The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, which represents school boards in labour issues, also got involved by sending an e-mail to boards advising them of their rights and responsibilities with respect to the FSA.

“Any inaccurate information provided to parents by a teacher or the BCTF . . . should be corrected,” the association said in an alert to members.Teachers were told they have no right to send information opposing the FSA home with students, but Hansman said his union disputes that.

“We’ll resolve that through the grievance process,” he added.

Hansman said some teachers are opposed to the tests because of the rankings but others have broader concerns about the “accountability agenda” of the Liberal government.

“We’re being held to higher and higher account but we still don’t get the resources to do that work.”

Hansman said he doesn’t want to see teachers, parents and principals butting heads over the issue.. “I don’t foresee that happening in Vancouver. My sense is that principals and school communities have been respectful of the choices that parents have made.”

The tests are to be written over a two week period, with results available next fall. [By Janet Steffenhagen]

VSB to Open Model Autism School

Unconfirmed reports say that a model school for 10 – 20 kids with autism — funded by the Canucks is scheduled to open in Vancouver at Kerrisdale Annex this September.

VSB Trustees questioned at a public meeting Monday evening appeared not to be aware of any such plans. However, senior management responsible for learning services are reported to have said that “nothing is guaranteed at this stage. It’s still a proposal.”

A parent at that meeting stated that this was not the impression they had from a Kerrisdale Elementary parent. Apparently they had been informed that while charity funding has not been finalized, but the family who runs the Canuck Place charity is keen to hand some money over.The model school will be run under the auspices and governance of the VSB. The program is designed for intermediate grade students, grades 5 – 7. It’s designed to complement the elementary autism program that’s run out of Nelson. There will be no fees assigned to parents.
The number of students hasn’t been decided on as of yet.

Update: May 9, 2007
According to a VSB District Manager there is indeed a plan for a district program for autism much like the ones currently operating at Churchill and Nelson. It is to be a three tiered program:

Autism Resource Centre

  • Partial inclusion
  • full time inclusion
  • The goal would be to support students towards full inclusion where appropriate.

The Autism Pilot Plan is to involve Vancouver Teachers Association members and CUPE members, and would be run by the district.

The Canucks Foundation is interested in contributing start up grant funding, but that so far there is no finalized commitment from them, and that VSB would be responsible for finding ongoing sustainable operating funding for the program, if it were to go ahead. Given the funding uncertainty, it is very unlikely that the project would be ready to go ahead by September.

With resepct to public consultation the District manager said the Education Special Advisory Committee has input, and that it reports to Committee III, which reports to the Board.

So at this point it is not a segregated school, or a provincial school but an unfunded district program proposal.

Does the Fraser Institute Report Card Pass the Ethics Test?

Ethical research is an important aspect of most university-based research. As a researcher one has to pay close attention to a series of critical guiding principles designed by the Interagency Advisory Panel on Research Ethics’ Tri-Council Policy Statement on ethics. The guiding principles lay out a clear set of directives. These three principles are of particular interest in the question: “Does the Fraser Institutes’s report Card pass the ethics test?”:

  • Respect for Human Dignity
  • Respect for Free and Informed Consent
  • Respect for Vulnerable Persons

Let’s consider each of these three principles in turn.

According to the Tri-Council policy respect for human dignity is the “cardinal principle of modern research ethics.” This is the fundamental principle that should govern research. Ethical research must place the dignity of the person first and foremost. This necessarily means insuring that any potential harm to a research subject is minimized or non-existent. It should also mean that any benefit to the research subject out way the potential harm. And that through the research process the dignity of the research subject is maintained.

Free and informed consent is a critical extension of respecting human dignity. It means that any subject of research, or in the event of a child or person incapable of giving informed consent, their caregiver/guardian, has reasonable time to provide informed prior consent to being a subject of a research project. This is an important point. Research that draws upon data collected for one purpose and then used for another does not pass the ethical review test.

Finally, respecting human dignity “entails high ethical obligations toward vulnerable persons—to those whose diminished competence and/or decision making capacity make them vulnerable.” This would include children under legal age. According to the Tri-Council Policies: “ethical obligations to vulnerable individuals in the research enterprise will often translate into special procedures to protect their interests.”

The Fraser Institute report card uses data that was gathered specifically for the purpose of the Ministry of Education to evaluate the effectiveness of learning. Drawing upon the Tri-Council Policy the use of this data beyond it’s initial purpose raises series ethical concerns.

(1) There is no informed consent on the part of parents. In fact, the Deputy Minister of Education has remained school administrators that the School Act specific mandates that all students take this exam. There is a very limit possibility of opt out. But, the basic approach is that everyone is involved unless special permission is granted to an individual. This violates standard ethics review procedures.

(2)This leads to a further concern regarding whether or not those participating as research subjects (i.e. students writing the FSA’s and/or their parents) felt that they could in fact refuse to participate. Or, perhaps their felt unable to refuse given the structural power and authority of school administrators and teachers administering the exam. From an ethical standpoint a potential research subject how is placed in a position in which they do not feel they can say no is seen as an undue abuse of power and thus unethical.

(3) Given the way the data is coded and stored and then made available to external agencies there is ultimately very little control over the privacy and confidentiality of the research subjects.

Of course the government can set aside ethical guidelines and act in an unethical fashion if it wants to -that’s part of the price of our form of government. Lobby-groups can also take up the date that has been collected without informed consent and then use it to advance their own political agendas.

Ethical Research Report Card:

  • Fraser institute D-
  • Ministry of Education F

VSB Educational Facilities Review

Vancouver School Board is in the processes of reviewing school facilities and programs with the possible outcome of closing schools. Vancouver CBC Radio carried coverage of this story this morning on the 5:30, 6;30, and 7:30 local news casts. You can listen to the two versions they played.

CBC Local News

According to the Vancouver School Board they are:

faced with some difficult decisions. Declining enrolment is having an impact on the programs and services the district can provide. In addition, operating and maintaining a large inventory of facilities requires significant financial resources.

In order to deliver a range of learning opportunities to the 56,000 students in Kindergarten to Grade 12 and adult education programs, the school board must ensure that education dollars are spent wisely.

Students, parents, staff and the public are invited to open houses hosted by the Vancouver School Board and District Parent Advisory Council as part of an Educational Facilities Review. The school board is seeking assistance in making decisions that best reflect the educational needs and values of Vancouver students and families.

Translated materials will be available in Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese, Spanish and Punjabi. Interpreters knowledgeable in each of these languages will be assisting at the open houses.

VSB Educational Facilities Review background materials

Open houses will be held on:
Tuesday, May 8, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Vancouver Technical Secondary School cafeteria
2600 E. Broadway

Wednesday, May 9, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Tupper Secondary School cafeteria
419 E. 24th Ave.

Thursday, May 10, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Magee Secondary School atrium
6360 Maple St.

Making Money off of Testing Anxiety

TheLock.jpgTest prepping is big business. The linkages between advocates of expanded testing and corporations profiting are at times hidden behind multiple layers of faux-academic research and policy institutions -like the Society for the Advancement for Excellence in Education, the Fraser Institute, or the Technology Assisted Student Assessment Institute or the test-prep western success story -Castle Rock Research.

The alleged origins of Castle Rock Research have the aura of mythic entrepreneurial get-up-and-go. Allegedly its origins lie in the actions of an enterprising Alberta undergrad who would wait outside examinations and solicit copies of the exams from exiting students. He is then alleged to have bundled these exams and resold them to other students. Combine this with tactical alliances with prominent education ministry bureaucrats and you have corporate success story writ large.

Today Castle Rock is making a profit off of the drive toward standardized testing. Somehow it’s sales reps are getting direct access to students and their parents through BC Public Schools. One Vancouver Secondary School, fro example, used it’s direct email system to contact parents and students on Sunday May 6:

Hello [ . . .]! This is a message for our students in Grades 9, 10, 11 and 12! (Not this time Grade 8’s) On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week, the representative from The Key book sales will be in our Cafeteria offering study materials for sale. These study guides cover many course areas, mostly at the Grade 12 level, but representation is at the Grade 9, 10 and 11 levels as well. So remember, come to the Cafeteria on May 8, 9, or 10 with your money, $17.00 or $20.00. See you all tomorrow!

Castle Rock Research has managed to get hold of the test prep market in BC by gaining access to students and their parents with the seeming endorsement of school-based administrators and the Ministry of Education. Their Key Guide series is explicitly “designed to help students prepare for school tests, final exams, and standardized assessments.” Once has to complement them on their ability to gain access to captive markets of hundreds of students and to have gained the endorsement and support of school officials.

One wonders what was offered to the school to gain access to their students? If corporations want to make money off of the anxiety of a grade hungry education system -so be it. However there are serious questions to be asked about the ways in which certain corporation’s seem able to capitalize on their social connections. Sometimes this activity leads to criminal charges (see the BC Liberal Influence Peddling Case). Sometimes its just bad taste.

If we were to remove the mania around testing and achievement we wouldn’t have to worry about corporations preying upon our fears and anxieties.

BCTF Staff Locked Out

Bargaining between the BCTF as employer and one of its two union staffs, CEP 464, began approximately 6 1/2 months ago. The BCTF executive appears intent on seeking major concessions from the staff whose labour power facilitate the BCTF’s own struggles against contract stripping and anti-union attacks. No one in the labour movement or allied communities can take any pleasure from what is happening. We can only hope that a fair and equitable resolution can be found.

News Feed on the BCTF Staff Lockout.
BCTF News Releases on their labour conflict.
CEP 464 (BCTF Staff Union) website.