Let Us Boldly Go!…………….. where every school should go.

A.  Overview:  (This is a draft document for the purposes of starting a discussion only.)

My thinking has been guided by the following questions:

  • Why are Reimer Middle and Hansen Secondary schools declining in enrolment?
  • Where do the students within the Hansen family catchment go?
  • What are the key findings of the Hansen Family of Schools consultation?
  • What is the district vision for the Hansen Family?
  • Which of the recommendations will lead to highest results in building/stabilizing the Hansen Family of Schools?
  • What changes would revitalize teaching and learning in these schools and give them passion and an identity.
  • How can the entire family of schools personalize learning for all students?
  • What changes will be necessary at the school, district, union levels to manage changes contemplated in the recommendations?
  • What resources will have to be committed by the district to create the vision?

B.  Introduction: 

One of our district’s greatest challenges has been to assess and align the Rick Hansen family of schools.  Composed of 9 schools, the outer ring of rural elementaries (Ross, Aberdeen, Bradner, Mt Lehman) retains a blend of rural caucasian families that have popluated these schools over time, along with an increasing mix of South Asian families.  The inner core of schools in this family (Blue Jay, Sayers, Kandal, Reimer and Hansen) reflects the influx of South Asian families, primarily of Indian descent.  The dicotomy within this family of schools is palpable and while no overt racism exists, clearly families migrate their children to schools along ethnic lines.  Within the South Asian community familes self-sort as an ever increasing number of South Asian families select the traditional stream of schools for their children.  Both ATMS and ATSS have seen a net migration of Caucasian families out of the traditional system.  Fewer children from the Auguston Traditional catchment to the east fill seats in ATMS.  As these seats have become available, they have been claimed by families who would normally have attended Eugene Reimer Middle School and ultimately Rick Hansen Secondary School.  Here is the crux of the problem:  many Caucasian families from the rural elemenaries have and continue to skirt ERMS and RHSS for traditional schools, independent schools (MEI, SJB), or other non-catchment schools.  Many South Asian families have and continue to skirt ERMS and RHSS for traditional schools, independent schools (Dasmesh), or other non-catchment schools.  The irony, of course, is that both ethnic groups bypass these schools for the same reasons – perceptions of safety issues, perceptions of racial stereotyping, perceptions of declining programs.  Consequently, both Reimer and Hansen have seen their student enrolments drop over time to the point where the long time viabilty of both schools is in question.  While it is unlikely that these facilities would close, the district is left to wonder what the best course of action would maitain Reimer and Hansen as vibrant educational entities.

C.  The Consultation Process: 

The school district responded to the challenges faced in the west end with an extensive consultation in 2010/11 as part of the the Strategic Plan.  The consultation confirmed that the wants and needs of the outer circle of elementary schools are quite different from the the wants and needs of the inner core schools.  Predictably, the smaller, rural schools are concerned with their long term viability rather than programming or safety issues.  Meanwhile, the inner core schools are concerned with larger more pressing issues such as student safety, programming and declining enrolment. 

Some general themes and observations include:  30% of parents surveyed indicated that they would not send their children to either Reimer or Hansen;  the rural elementary parents do not like sending children from grade 7 to middle school for one year in grade 8 and then to secondary school – three schools in three years; many parents and teachers are interested in a balanced school calendar.  Parents at middle and secondary expressed a desire for increased engagement and enjoyment for their child with school (22%); a desire for more trades/career opportunites (25%); increased safety (14%); more programs such as a sports academy and performing arts/ music (24%); increased community programming to support youth predominantly within the inner core of schools; the possibility of school uniforms; and more access to technology to support learning (25%). 

The district must now consider how to respond to the recommendations brought about by the consultation process.  At this point there are lots of things to consider, but no compelling or coherent framework upon which to bind the recommendations.  Clearly what is needed is a powerful vision statement with underpinning values and beliefs upon which to rebuild the west end.  The vision should be robust enough to embrace powerful learning and best practices to deeply engage all students in all classrooms, broad enough to include the educational programs best suited to the needs of the students and community, realistic enough to maximize facility useage, and nimble enough to accommodate cultural nuances within the family of schools.

My encompassing idea would be to ground the pedagogy in the family of schools on an Inquiry-based model.  I would suggest that the common vision for schools could be captured in the phrase ‘Discover Hansen – a family of inspired learners!’  Rough admittedly, but a start??

D.   Considerations:

1.  A Sample Vision Statement:  K-12 schools in the Hansen family of schools will offer powerful learning opportunities with engaging classrooms, relevant programs and integrated technology designed to challenge, motivate and inspire students for the 21st century.  Our teachers are highly trained experts who work collaboratively to ensure student success.  Our schools will be safe for all.  They will encourage and reward social responsibility, and will reflect our community with pride.  In our schools, students are at the centre of everything we do!

2.  Beliefs:

  • Inspired Teaching and Powerful Learning is the focus of our school.
  • Our schools will be personalized to create relationships and community.
  • Innovation, design, discovery and creativity are important. 
  • We learn through our Critical thinking skills.
  • Our teachers and students work in a collaborative school setting.
  • Our students will practice the skills of a 21st Century learner.
  • In our schools, everyone learns.
  • Student learning must be relevant, connected to their lives and inspiring.
  • Student needs are at the centre of our decisions.
  • School will be safe and orderly for all.
  • We are all peaceful, respectful members of a learning community.
  • Parents are our partners.
  • We will have the community in our school and our schools in the community.

3.  Creating Sustained and Coherent Facilities’ Usage. 

  • Consider a K-5 alignment for all elementary schools.  This would add more grade 6 and 7 students to Reimer. Approx 1 divison at grade 6 and 7.
  • Realign rural facilities K-5.  Contemplate further consultations for closure if necessay.
  • Consider realigning a portion of Ten Broeck Elementary (south of Old Yale Rd) to feed Reimer.  This would add about 1 division per year at grade 6.

4.  Safe Orderly Schools / Culture:  Schools of Character. Social support for grade 9’s.

  • Create a comprehensive response in all schools based on character education.  (see Mouat)
  • Declare a war on drugs.
  • Create programs and structures to nurture and support grade 9’s upon transition. (Pod them?)
  • Community Hub support with APD and SACRO on site in middle and secondary.
  • Personal Electronic Learning Plans for all students

5.  Personalizing Learning and Deeply Engaging Students: 

  • Programs – Academies to engage.  Consider semestered interdisciplinary academy structures for grade 12 cohorts.  Aviation.  Rocketry.  Robotics.  Broadcasting.  Entrpreneurial Studies.  Or consider the 2 year academy model for a sport – wrestling.
  • Programs – Music to engage.  Consider music instruction within the family.  Consider culturally responsive music options as well as traditional forms of band and choir.
  • Careers – Work-based training to engage.  Bring a career program to Hansen.  Make it a career that would be supported by the community.  Expand involvement of Hansen kids in career programs across the district.
  • Instruction – Engage all students in all schools through Inquiry-based / Project-based curriculum design for robust, relevant learning experiences for all.  Make this the default curriculum.  Build the culture of Discovery into all curricular areas.  Reduce the number of electives and realign all electives into the Discovery model.  Add choice.  Create options to learn beyond the 4 walls.  Develop a pod of IDS learners on the journey of Discovery.
  • Engaging, Relevant Curriculum at all levels – Develop integrated Humanities and SciMatics courses for grades 6-10.  Develop each year on the theme of Discovery.  (ie.  Gr. 6 ‘Discover Man’, Gr. 7 ‘Discover Environments’ etc.)
  • Enhance online options.  Combine low enrolled courses into a blended learning environment.  ie  combine Chem 11/12 and enroll all in an online course.  Teacher serves as facilitator.
  • Assessment – Engage students through assessment.  Create a student-involved ‘for’ and ‘of’ learning model. Retrain all teachers in the art of assessment and move to more relevant, authentic models of assessment. 
  • Technology – Engage students through technology.  Provide access to all relevant technologies for students in the classroom.  Integrate all available technologies into the classroom including the devices carried in backpacks and purses.  Create a learning commons instead of a library.
  • Time – Be flexible and creative with the school schedule and the School Calendar. Allow late starts and early starts.   Allow for collaboration time for teachers each week.  Allow for catch-up or consolidation time for students each term.   A balance calendar should be rooted in a pedagogical rationale as well as cultural.

E.  Implications:

  • Staffing / HR:  Working with HR and the Union, teachers could be given the choice to opt out of the school(s) if they felt at odds with the changes proposed for the teaching and learning models.
  • Curriculum and Staff Development Support:  Hire a staff developer for the westend schools who will support teachers will curriculum design (Inquiry), instructional practices (coopertive learning, project/challenge-based learning, Marzano – engagement et al.  Align all classroom assessment and common assessments with best assessment practices.  Train existing helping teachers to be resources for these schools.
  • Music Education:  Hire a teacher to work between the middle and secondary school to rebuild the music education program. Provide elementary band support until elementary schools realign K-5.
  • Community Connections:  Space for new programs in our schools. 
  • Other things.  There will be lots more to add!

F.  References:

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