January 25 – 29, 2016
Over the last week and a half, we have been able to meet with our community partners Mark Thiessen, superintendent of School District 27, and Mike Franklin, principal of Skyline Alternate. Our initial meeting with Mark gave us a better sense of our research focus. Together, we decided that we would build off of last year’s project by examining the operational changes that are beneficial for addressing the various needs of students at Skyline Alternate School. Mark expressed an interest in developing a data collection tool that would enable the school board to survey the needs of its students over the long term. This could assist the school board in addressing the learning needs of a changing student demographic, as there is a rising influx of students over the past 5 years.
During our meeting with Mike, we discussed our current knowledge of Skyline Alternate School. In the past Skyline has been a school that primarily takes in students that have history of getting in trouble with the law, suspension or expulsion from their previous school(s). However, over the more recent years, there has been an increase in the demographic of students, with more students choosing to attend Skyline out of their own will, due to various factors, such as the accommodating self-paced school schedule and smaller class sizes. However, as Mike mentioned, there is still a strong negative stigma surrounding Skyline as a school for troubled students who have been kicked out of mainstream schooling. One of the main goals Mike would like to address is: how can we change the negative public perception and stigma associated with Skyline into a more positive and accurate depiction of the current demographic of students? One of the ways we suggested is to create a tool using multimedia programming, such as creating an informative video available for public access that addresses the current circumstances of Skyline, in a more positive light.
Another concern that we spoke to Mike about was the application and acceptance process for incoming students that are keen on attending Skyline. Some of the major problems include: with the overwhelming number of students choosing to attend Skyline, in conjunction with the number of students whose only choice is Skyline because they have been forced to leave their former schools due to their troubled background, how can there be a fair decision in choosing which students to prioritize in the intake process? These are some of the issues that we will need to consider in our work with Skyline, their teachers, students, and programs.
Our group is currently working on producing a literature review on areas that are related to our research topic. This will enable us to learn more about similar matters in other communities, as well as expand our knowledge on alternative education systems. We have narrowed this down to a few research topics that we hope to further explore in the next few weeks, this includes:
- Changing community perspectives on alternative education systems
- The challenges pertaining to special needs and vulnerable students
- Methods for improving school operations and educational curriculum
- Approaches for facilitating interviews and focus group discussions with youth
We plan to speak to Leo within the next week to further discuss our research question, so stay tuned for more updates!
I think this is an interesting topic that delves into some deeply rooted social problems that the Williams Lake community is facing. I think this is interesting because our contact at the Cariboo Friendship Society told us that youth gang violence is a problem they struggle with, and the fact that a school like Skyline that exists for those with a troubled background seems to complement this issue. I wonder if we should be focusing on addressing the underlying problem of “troubled” youth and find the causation factors of those. For us, we noticed that Aboriginal children put into foster case can parallel the traumas of children being put into residential schools, and perhaps the echos of these traumas are still seen today in a variety of forms.
As a student who chose to to attend a high school with a similar reputation– because of some of the factors you mentioned, like flexibility– I will be so interested to see where your research ends up. In my own experience, I saw school officials and parents who were not initially supportive of the school structure change their position upon interacting with teachers and students who could describe their positive experiences with the school environment, and in particular how the alternative structure contributed to those positive experiences. Alternative schools often face the double barrier of a negatively-stereotyped student body and a learning system which departs from more traditional institutions, and I think your idea of creating a publicly available video would be an excellent way to break through these barriers.
Hi Mielle, thanks for your comment! Wow, I would love to hear more about your experience perhaps during our group bonding potluck. It will probably be very interesting for you too, to see the comparisons and differences that may play out while we carry out our research. I think while carrying out our research, it would be great to ask who these key players are in shaping the attitudes and perceptions of the school, why they feel this way and how we could use such a video to try and open up that perspective. It makes me think about how these stigmatized perceptions come about, and how they continuously build from our interactions with one another, often in very dangerous and disruptive ways. Definitely, I agree – I think if we also get the students involved in making this video, it will be a learning process for them as well as an initiative they can be proud of producing!
Hey folks! Both the questions that you are focusing on sounds very interesting, especially the the second one. I’ve always wondered how the workings of a selection process goes, how are evaluations made and where does the element of fairness goes into all of these? To make things more complicated, how do we define fairness? I really look forward to the things that you’ll be finding and the updates from your group.
Just to tie in where the group is at right now with our recent lecture, I notice that you mentioned creating a multimedia programming. Considering issues on accessibility, to whom will these be available to and what elements of information would be shown in it to target the appropriate audience? Are there more traditional approaches considered that could perhaps better extend the accurate representation of Skyline and its students?