Friday, May 8, 2009

Bluewater update #6

Some information now coming out as to the origins of the loss of public confidence in the Bluewater District School Board. According to this article, part of the issue was a refusal to return to 'rotary' teaching for intermediate grades at several schools. Rotary teaching is where the staff teaching Grade 7 and 8 students stick to their teachable subjects and rotate through a school's intermediate panel. It offers the benefits of having subjects be taught by curriculum experts -- IE: math taught by a teacher whose university degree is in math, science taught by a science grad, etc.
Senior administrators made the decision to end rotary and go back to a single-classroom teacher style without any public consultation or vetting by trustees. Parents' issue is this decision was significant enough that it would have required this consultation and approval under the Ontario Education Act.
For the true benefits of rotary instruction, especially for all students in a board with a geography like BDSB's, there would have to be more than two or three Grade 7 and 8 classes in a single school. With few classes, teachers can still split and share classes by subject (not including any specialist teachers who may come in to teach music, French, etc.) but that's not really rotary. To have true rotary with so few classes, teachers would be in their cars travelling from one school to the next-- and they're far too valuable to spend that much time outside the classroom.
Of course, I'm a little biased here. I attended at Grade 7-OAC school and we were able to take full advantage of a rotary style program. My English teacher was an English major who taught nothing but English, and so on, because between Grades 7 and 8 there were between 250-300 students and approximately 10-15 classes.
Curiously, I wonder how these same parents who want to return to rotary would feel about a 7-12 school.
In a related issue, the Sun Times published an opinion piece on the Governance Review Committee's report, hoping its recommendations would lead to the improvements needed within the BDSB.


Anonymous said...

7-12 schools are popping up with more throughout the province. The board in my district is preparing to move the 7s & 8s into the high-school for the next school year. The 7/8s are coming in from two elementary schools. Not sure about the staffing but I do know that in other areas of the province like the Upper Canada DSB the ETFO fought the move of 7&8s to secondary big-time - I suppose because of the alleged fear that the ETFO might loose their members to OSSTF?

My kids had the benefit of specialty teachers in grades 7 & 8 and especially in math it made a HUGE difference to how prepared they were for Gr. 9

I attended a Senior Public School in Peel for Grades 7 & 8 on a full timetable...just like high school.

Education Reporter said...

I would safely back up your assumption that the move from 7-12 in Upper Canada was opposed by ETFO because of fear their members would be tempted by OSSTF-- which hasn't been the irritant union since the days of Mike Harris and Earl Manners.
However, interestingly, ETFO did not oppose the idea when Avon Maitland moved the Stratford schools to a 7-12 model several years ago.
I know only what I experienced, so I can speak to the benefits of 7-12. However, I also know K-8 / 9-12 is the dominant model in Ontario and has produced students who fare just as well.

Anonymous said...

"ETFO did not oppose the idea when Avon Maitland moved the Stratford schools to a 7-12 model several years ago."

Nor has ETFO run a campaign against moving 7 & 8 kids to secondary in my neighbour, but there's a reason for that. It's because the local board and local ETFO made a deal that even though the 7 & 8 kids are in the high school the teachers remain ETFO.

In Toronto as they are closing up their Junior High Schools, they're moving their 7 & 8s into the elementary schools and into the K-8 configuration.

Different strokes I guess

Education Reporter said...

Which reinforces my point (see earlier blog post from March). School organization is always a hot-button issue. Many parents need to be convinced that the way they went to school can change and their kids will still do OK.
My understanding of labour issues is that if ETFO is opposed, any Grade 7-8 teachers moving to OSSTF would have to vote in a decertification-replacement vote before it could happen.
The campaigns are simply ETFO blowing smoke over fears their members might see the "gap" between elementary and secondary is semantics.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's a matter of convincing parents. I'm betting that the Toronto parents had plenty of input as to whether their 7 & 8 students would attend.

I think it's more about providing proof that any move will maintain quality education.

When it comes right down to it, it's that person in front of the classroom who has the most influence over quality. The facility, or classroom size...not so much. Good teachers can teach 10 kids in a bus shelter, or 25 kids in a classroom.

If you look back over the last 40 years the system including different flavours of the decade have been tried....all in an effort to deliver education.

The flavour of the decade in Ontario is the Balanced School Day.

Education Reporter said...

I have to disagree-- it's been parents who have been some of the most vocal opponents of changes to school organization. Witness what happened in London when one board suggested a change. Parents were absolutely dead-set against the idea-- mostly for fears their 11-year-olds would be terrorized by 19-year-olds and trivial matters like a lack of leadership opportunities for Grade 8s and the disappearance of the Grade 8 grad.
The parents in Stratford, from what I understand, were also initially opposed-- now they've become among 7-12's biggest fans since implementation. Parents in the former Ottawa separate board were also against it when the amalgamated board brought the former Carleton separate 7-12 schools into the former Ottawa boundaries. They too have changed their tune.
Look at multi-generational schools under threat of closure. Parents want their kids to go to the school *they* did, without realizing 30 years have passed and their kids don't learn the same way they did and need a better physical space to do so.
I've heard this straight from parents at public input meetings who, in a blunter fashion, tell review committees and trustees they don't care that their gym is too small for 13-year-olds and that the library has a pitiful collection and no space for computers or reading spots because it's in a converted classroom-- because, dammit "if it was good enough for me..."
Most people don't like change and when confronted with it they vehemently oppose it.

Anonymous said...

But aren't school boards and by extension government there to be reflections of their communities of which parents are a part?

Moving 7&8's into secondary isn't standard across the province. Nor should it be. It's also possible for schools within boards to be different with some buying into the Balanced School Day, and others not.

Count me as a "not" because the configuration of scheduling doesn't add or distract from what a student achieves. It's those teachers that make the mountain of difference.

I've heard parents concerns about 7&8 in secondaries. Just because you view them as unfounded doesn't diminish them in any way...or at least it shouldn't

I also don't buy your sweeping statement that all parents want the same schools they had because the school system that parents have had and come from are as varied were as experimental with scheduling and flavours of the month as they are today.

Remember, mandatory subjects, open concept classrooms, New Math, co-ed gym classes, credit system, the strap, detentions, streaming, de-streaming, non-semester systems?

All designed to help students achieve.

Can we now point to those schools in Stratford and say for certain the the achievement levels for students is better?

We we can then that would make the parent concerns unfounded.