Wednesday, April 15, 2009

SIF vs. the school boards

So People for Education isn't the only group out there opposed to the Ontario Ministry of Education's School Information Finder site. School boards across the province are starting to join the chain-letter writing gang regarding the SIF site and the easy, one-page shot at the information it provides. Lambton-Kent voted Tuesday to have its chair write a letter. Education Reporter knows the Thames Valley District School Board (to the immediate northeast of Lambton-Kent) had its chairs' committee examine the issue on April 8 and its chair will also now write a letter to Kathleen Wynne on the board's concern with the SIF website.
First a few errors-- the Daily News piece refers to the site's previous "school bag" feature that has been disabled since the initial PFE letter and online petition. The quotes also indicate trustees seemed unaware the site had been modified.

Chatham Trustee David Goldsmith raised the issue, stating: “I see potential havoc coming.”

He is worried what impact this could have on transportation and school boundaries if parents decide to try to shop around for a school.

Sarnia Trustee Paul Millman said the website has “stigmatized our students . . . it’s not right."

Gayle Stucke, LKDSB director of education, said the website “was deliberately set up to shop” for schools.

She said there was an indication the site was being created, but “there was never any understanding that it would be to this degree.”

It wouldn't surprise me if an Ontario Public School Boards' Association or other e-bulletin went out since the beginning of the month encouraging boards to oppose the SIF.
Here's the odd part though-- every school board in Ontario already has access to this very same data (and more, read a post from a few days ago) on every school in its own system. Some boards release this information through reports -- either to trustees and the public for background behind staff members' recommendations or in reports sent to the MinEd for tracking purposes. I return to the point expressed in commentary here and elsewhere-- if any trustee thinks some parents aren't already shopping for schools then they're completely ignorant of what is happening in their system. Why not see the SIF for what it is-- a data portal providing convenient access to basic information on a school.
Further, they already label and define schools as it is, by deciding and assigning additional resources and programming to schools. By selecting where things such as congregated special education -- be it developmentally challenged, Section 20 or gifted programs -- will find a home. By providing transportation outside of a student's usual attendance area for programs such as French immersion. They're part of the system that creates schools parents would rather send their kids to. The SIF doesn't change that in any substantive way.
There's also a faulty premise a parent would go the SIF, make their comparisons and then pick up and move their home so their child(ren) could attend the "chosen" school. Is it possible there exist out there parents who would do that? No doubt it is. However, it's doubtful most families have the ability to pick up and move to a 'better' part of town so they could live in an area where SIF shows a 'better' school.
Further, particularly since they already had this information, doesn't anyone stop and think maybe the ministry set up SIF to provide this information because school boards weren't?