With the Fraser Institute’s release of Elementary School rankings, there are the usual rumblings in the media about which schools made the grade. I have talked before about the limitations of this academic measure, and I won’t repeat myself this year. But I am concerned that what makes education great isn’t getting the attention it deserves.
While there is much more involved in building a great school, education policy plays a big part in providing the conditions for good education to thrive. Changes in the curriculum, which affect a child’s learning far more than a single test result, are being implemented in all schools across the province. The bigger story isn’t about what is taught though, but about how it’s being implemented, who is involved and why the province is doing it at all.
All parents want their kids to succeed and to learn the basics, and that isn’t changing. The difference now will be that students will be getting the basics through a greater emphasis on hands-on, real world learning. The skills needed to become a fully participating citizen today – whether you use them on the job, in college or at university – include collaboration, critical thinking and communications. That’s why the changes announced this past year include connecting students to the world through curiosity. The focus will be more learner-centred – or ‘personalized’ – than ever before. New assessment practices – one of the key areas of concern for many – will still measure a child’s progress. The difference is that students, parents and schools will have more information about how a child is doing, not less.
Plenty of research was done at the provincial level before the new curriculum was formalized, but the province also worked with classroom teachers, post-secondary institutions, industry, parents and other education stakeholders to spark ideas and develop the plan, which is being implemented in three phases. We are working with every teacher in the district to ensure that we are ready, with the appropriate tools in place, for each phase of the transition.
Phase 1, which affects students in grades k-9, is already underway. This phase is a transition school year, and the province has directed all schools to fully implement the curriculum in Phase 2, which begins in the 2016/2017 school year. This fall, schools will also transition to the new curriculum for grades 10-12, with Phase 3 (full implementation) expected across all grades in the 2017/2018 school year. The draft curriculum for grades 10-12 is currently available online, and they are accepting public feedback.
In our schools, there is still some work to do before the current year closes, so that we are ready for September. Readers that follow my blog and parents who are already acquainted with how well West Vancouver performs will not find much that is new for students learning in our district. Inquiry is very much a part of how we teach in our schools, and personalized learning has a long history across the district.
We are pleased that our schools are regularly recognized as the finest in the province. We also know that the work we are doing — leading the way with the new curriculum and evolving practices in our classrooms — will ensure that our reputation for fine education will continue.