Thursday, June 26, 2014

My Three Questions to Mr. Fassbender (and Ms. Clark) (Or another way of defining "wide gap")

A teacher friend of our family's recently had the untimely task of driving Peter Fassbender (sorry, I just can't call him 'honourable') around in a golf cart while he was at the Golden Eagle Golf Course in Pitt Meadows last week.  We all wondered how THAT conversation went.  Later that evening we watched as members of the BCTF and support staff did their best to hold him accountable. 

My husband and I are both retired educators.  All four of our children hold Education degrees. Three of them are employed in lower mainland school districts.  As we were discussing James' opportunity we all wondered what questions we would have asked in that ten minutes alone with the Minister of Education.  So, after much thought, these are my questions:

#1 - Do you really believe that class size doesn't matter?

I had a quick google of the top 10 schools in the very controversial Fraser Report and examined the top five.  I stopped there as the trend was imminently visible. 
Southridge - Kindergarten classes of 16, Grade 1 and 2 classes of 18, Grade 3 classes of 20.  These are not significantly different than a lot of public schools.  When we get to the higher grades there is a shocking difference!  Grade 4 classes of 22 and grades 8-12 of 18.
St George's - couldn't find any numbers on their web page.
York House - "Little School" (Jr. Kindergarten & Sr. Kindergarten) - 8-10students, Jr. School (assuming Grades 1-6) - 20 students.  Senior School 10 - 17 students.
West Point Grey - stated their average class size as 22 students.  AP (Advanced Placement) classes - max 17 and their Student/Teacher ratio is 8:1
Crofton House - advertises small class sizes (but no numbers)
If class size doesn't matter, why do these schools who consistently rank high, put this information in their school profiles?  Do you believe that the small class sizes have a direct impact on achievement for these particular schools?

#2 - Do you really believe class composition does not impact student success?
Again, using information from these five schools.  Each of these schools has VIGOROUS application processes. 
Southridge - "An applicant's academic record and aptitude are significant, but not the sole factors in seeking admission to a university preparatory school. Our process also considers other significant criteria such as participation in extra-curricular activities, involvement in citizenship, and personal motivation."
St. George's - "Admissions is highly selective and students are expected to meet rigorous entrance standards and demonstrate excellence outside the classroom. The school does not offer English as a Second Language (ESL)."
York House - What kind of student thrives at York House?
"Someone who will succeed in a challenging academic environment, enjoys participating in music, art, drama and/or athletic programs, and shows compassion and interest in the world around her. We aim to enroll students who are enthusiastic learners, keen to actively participate, willing to take risks and who will live our motto Not For Ourselves Alone"
West Point Grey - "We thoroughly assess each applicant's interests and potential. Children of good character, dedication and promise will be invited to join the school, space permitting" "Written entrance tests are required for students applying to grades 3 to 12. Students are tested in reading comprehension, writing and mathematics. Students entering grades 5 to 12 also write a general cognitive test."
Crofton House - "All applicants for junior kindergarten through to grade 5 will be invited to the school for testing. Applicants for grades 6 through 12 are required to take the SSAT and have the score submitted to Crofton House School directly from SSAT. For more information, please visit"
Admission to Crofton House is based on:
•Application Form Responses
•Letters of Reference and Support
•SSAT Results
•School Reports
•School Interviews
Each of these schools report 0%ESL in their Fraser Report documents.  While each of these schools offer counselling and Learning Resource support, none of them report having EA's/SEA's as part of their staffing.  So, Mr. Fassbender, tell me again that class composition is not important to student success.

#3 - Do you really believe that "throwing money at the system will not fix it"?
Again, let's use these "top" five schools as an example.  As it has been widely reported, private schools do receive public funding, so I am making an assumption that they receive some level of public funds.  Now, for the fun part.  On top of the public funding (even if it is a small percentage), parents pay in the ballpark of $17000.00 for each child they send to these schools.  Let's see now $6 000.00/child in the public system, $17 000+/child in these schools (interesting that that's about the same funding as our inmates get). Public schools have had to cut specialist teachers (fine arts, special ed, library, counselling etc.) due to lack of funding.  These schools promote their use of specialists; Outdoor ed, 2-3 extra language classes starting at Kindergarten for some, dance, music, debating, math, pe. and on and on. 
Public schools seriously lack technology, these top 5 schools are technology trend-setters.  Public schools lack space and facilities, these top 5 schools have AMAZING facilities.  Mr. Fassbender, are you seriously going to tell me that increasing funding  to public schools will not address some of the bigger problems related to class size/composition/school funding?

Those are my three questions.  I think the answers are evident and I hope that the teachers walking the lines and the parents and general public that are supporting public education can help to alleviate the "wide gap" (where have I heard this term used before????) between public and private education in this province.  I hope that all children are able to achieve their full potential within a school system that recognizes and values all students, not just the ones from wealthy families.