A Bold Vision – Imagine Hansen!
(For Discussion Purposes Only)
Guiding Question: How can the Hansen family of schools be re-created to prepare students for the 21st century?
- A. Introduction:
What is the current situation?
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 K-7 rural elementary schools (Ross, Aberdeen, Bradner, Mt. Lehman) retains a blend of rural families that have populated these schools over time. The inner core of K-5 elementary schools in this family (Blue Jay, Sayers, Kandal, Reimer and Hansen) reflects an increasing ethnic mix of families.
The existing K-7 configuration of the rural elementary schools holds students in grades 6 and 7 and creates a three school transition for students from grade 7 to grade 9 at Hansen.
Over time, both Eugene Reimer Middle and Rick Hansen Secondary Schools have seen enrolments decline. At the same time, both Abbotsford Traditional Middle and Abbotsford Traditional Secondary Schools have seen enrolments increase. An analysis of school enrolments indicates that the traditional schools are populated with a significant number of students whose home schools are Reimer and Hansen.
Consequently, both Reimer and Hansen have seen their student enrolments drop over time to the point where the long time viability 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 maintain Reimer and Hansen as vibrant educational entities.
B. The Consultation Process:
What has been done in response to the current situation?
The school district responded to the challenges faced in the west end with an extensive consultation in 2010-2011 as part of the review of 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 opportunities (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%).
C. First Steps:
The district must now consider how to respond to the recommendations brought about by the consultation process.
Up to this point there have been 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 usage, and nimble enough to accommodate cultural nuances within the family of schools.
An encompassing strategy is to ground a common pedagogy in the family of schools on an Inquiry-based model and create a common vision for schools could be captured in the statement: Imagine Hansen – A Family of Inspired Learners!
Imagine a family of schools built on teaching that emphasizes active, student-directed learning where relevance and a real world context for learning forms the heart of the learning experience. Imagine technology-rich classrooms where students engage in inquiry on a regular basis, where project-based learning replaces rote memorization. Imagine classrooms where students are offered choice and voice to personalize the learning experience. Imagine students who work in collaborative teams, solving problems engaged in higher order thinking skills. Imagine!
D. A Bold Vision:
‘Imagine Hansen – a Family of Inspired Learners!’
How can we meet the expectations of the consultation process, the District Strategic Plan and the BC Ed Plan for Schools?
Interestingly, the question posed above describes the perfect learning storm with the Hansen family of schools at the confluence! This is the perfect time to combine the leading expectations of each directive into a bold, new family of schools for the 21st century. Leading recommendations from each document compel schools to engage, inspire, and challenge students at all levels. The mandate for change is spelled out loudly and clearly by the Ministry in the new BC Ed Plan (www.bcedplan.ca) to prepare students for their places in the 21st century. This is the opportunity to create a family of schools where students want to be and where parents want their kids to stay!
21st Century Skills.
Schools are realigning to prepare students for the future. Students must be:
- Problem solvers
- Critical thinkers
- Team players
Students will learn in classrooms that are:
The Ministry of Education has reaffirmed its commitment to align curriculum and assessment in the BC Ed Plan.
BC Education Plan
ü Personalized learning for every student
ü Quality teaching and learning
ü Flexibility and choice
ü High Standards
ü Learning empowered by technology
Vision Statement for the Hansen Family of Schools:
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 and are consistently challenging the status quo to ensure student success. Our students will think globally and act locally. Our schools will be safe for all and will reflect our community with pride.
We believe that:
- Students must be at the centre of their learning.
- Student learning must be relevant, be connected to real life and inspire.
- Innovation, inquiry, critical thinking and creativity are as fundamental as the –
- Everyone is a learner and performs at a high standard of excellence.
- Our schools will be personalized to create relationships and build community.
E. Bold Actions:
What must change in order to bring our vision to life?
Principals and Vice-Principals must have the time to be the educational leaders in their building. They must be working everyday with their staff to build their capacity to meet the needs of every student and to ensure that high standards of achievement and performance are realized. They must use this time to build teacher leaders throughout the school who are skilled in working with their peers to improve student achievement and engagement.
- Every principal and vice-principal in the Hansen Family of Schools will be allocated appropriate time to function as an educational leader.
Regular and on-going collaboration structures need to be established to provide educators with the time to engage in systematic, professional learning imbedded in the context of their work. Educators need the time to actively plan and refine and evaluate curriculum and pedagogy to ensure that students are actively engaged in authentic learning activities. Educators need the time to capitalize on and respond to the information from balanced assessment processes.
- School Bell schedules will be aligned to optimize the opportunities for cross and in-school collaboration.
- Educators will either participate in regularly scheduled collaboration/ professional learning sessions.
Creating Sustained and Coherent Facilities’ Usage
Minimizing transition frequency for students as well as aligning the developmental needs (Middle School Philosophy) with school configuration will allow all students to have equitable access to expanded opportunities provided in the Middle School environment.
- K-5 alignment for all elementary schools
- Review facilities usage in rural elementary schools.
Creating Responsive School Calendars to address learning and community needs:
Recognizing that long breaks (holiday sessions) can have a significant impact on learning, especially for vulnerable learners, balanced school calendars can provide more flexibility to respond to learning needs and enable students to demonstrate essential competencies before move forward in their learning.
- Consider a balanced school calendar for all of the Hansen Family schools, with no holiday break longer than four weeks and with holiday breaks scheduled to accommodate attendance patterns.
Personalizing Learning and Deeply Engaging Students:
The Hansen family of Schools will become the professional crucible for the implementation of the BC Education Plan. Personalized learning for every student is the mandate and the driver for change. It will require educators, parents, students and community partners working together to make sure that students’ needs are met, passions are explored and goals are achieved.
Using a Bold Action Innovation Grant structure to provide the resource dollars, each school will develop, in their School Growth Plans, action plans to capture the following:
- Instruction – Engage all students in all schools through Inquiry Driven 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 explorations and realign all electives into the Discovery model.
- Create options to learn beyond the 4 walls. Develop a pod of IDS learners on the journey of Discovery.
- Reinvent grade 9 to personalize and support entry into secondary school.
- 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.)
- Learning through 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.
- 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.
- Make Hansen Secondary the home school for Distance Learning in the school district.
- 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.
- Programs – Academies to engage. Consider one semester, interdisciplinary academy structures for grade cohorts. Aviation, Rocketry, Robotics, STEM, Broadcasting, Entrepreneurial Studies.
- 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.
F. Implications for District Staff:
What systemic changes will need to be managed in order to allow changes to occur?
Staffing / HR: Working with HR and the APVPA, unions, school staff 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.
Dedicated Curriculum and Staff Development Support:
- Hire a staff developer for the west-end schools who will support principal and vice-principals and teacher leaders with curriculum design, instructional practices (Inquiry-Based Instruction) that enhance student engagement and balanced assessment.
- Train district resource staff to support classroom teachers with instruction and assessment.