Sunday, October 30, 2011

The BC Ed Plan...Where are we?

Last Friday's announcement from the BC Ministry of Education (the BCEd Plan and document) has people all around the province talking.  What does this mean?  How is this different from what is going on now?  How is implementation of this change going to happen with teachers in job action?

An important question for those of us in schools is, "What are we already doing that fits within what the government is proposing, and where do we go from here?" (Acknowledgements to Gino Bondi, who has posted a similar thread for John Oliver Secondary School in Vancouver, on his blog, Learning the Now).  While many are frustrated by the lack of clarity and the timing of such an announcement (complicated by the labour unrest in education), I believe there is some good in the proposal from the Ministry, because we are already engaged in several of the practices required.  I have written previously of some of the potential roadblocks to any sweeping change (in blog post Personalized, 21st Century Learning).  But now that there are some specifics to the plan, we all need to look at where we are in order to frame the discussion of where we need to go.

In reviewing the document, the Ministry has pinpointed 5 pillars in their plan:
  • Personalized Learning for every student
  • Quality Teaching and Learning
  • Flexibility and Choice
  • High Standards
  • Learning Empowered by Technology
When I look at our school (J.N. Burnett Secondary in Richmond, B.C.), I see Graduation rates over 96%.  I see highly professional educators constantly reflecting upon and refining their practice, updating assessment strategies to incorporate Assessment for Learning, and working hard to support the diverse needs within our school, specifically the English as a Second Language learners.  I see truancy and misbehaviour rates at remarkably low levels, and a social responsibility/awareness among the students and staff that is exceedingly impressive.  I see technology all around the school, with wireless Internet accessibility, and teachers and students using mobile devices and other technology tools in classrooms.  I see standards of learning and achievement reflected in high provincial exam results and significant numbers of students making the academic honour roll and being recognized for maintaining high scores on report card Work Habits.  I see students able to choose a path for themselves, based on interests and areas of strength, with a wide range of elective courses, on-line learning opportunities, as well as work experience and outside-of-school credit avenues.

All these things tell me we need to stay the course with our professional development projects, expanding the pockets of cutting-edge assessment and instructional practices.  We need to continue promoting cultural and environmental awareness campaigns, and to celebrate the exceptional things our students are doing.  To move forward, areas requiring more attention include continuing to promote creative, critical thinking and supporting students in their pursuits of individual interest, providing greater flexibility and depth within coursework.  We also need to expand our abilities to utilize the available technologies, and incorporate more of them into our classrooms.  We need to continue to "personalize" learning, so that our students become more engaged and less concerned with credentialing.  And we must carefully consider the structures of our school in order to enable greater flexibility and choice.  In all, I am proud of where our school is, and encouraged by our willingness to grow and continue moving forward with 21st century learning.  The Plan put forth by the government does not intimidate, rather it excites because I see our school well on its way.

The B.C. Ministry of Education is looking for feedback from parents, students and educators.  If you have suggestions or thoughts, provide them here.  As stated in a previous blog entry, education in British Columbia is entering an uncertain and tumultuous time, but the discussions being initiated by documents like the B.C. Education Plan provide us an opportunity to reflect, give feedback, and hopefully make the system that much better for the student in its care.  Be sure to share your opinions.

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