New Curriculum not meant for BC public schools

dilapadated classrooms

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out how the new curriculum could be implemented in all the classrooms I know.  I could not fathom how a teacher could personalize learning for all 30 of her students when half of them who needed support of one kind or another were not getting it. Education assistants were considered a salary benefit outside of the “affordability zone” during the labour dispute last year, remember?  

Each time I tried to imagine what personalized learning would look like in overcrowded classrooms with outdated technology, my mind sent me 404 error messages. Nothing computed.

But, after reading all the commentary about the new curriculum, it hit me!  The new curriculum is not meant for the kinds of classrooms I know. It’s not meant for underfunded public schools.

The new curriculum is meant for private schools where there are only 15 students and unlimited resources in each classroom. It’s in private school classrooms that personalized learning would fit seamlessly.

The more I thought about it, the less confused I became. The BC Liberal government has been doing the private school industry many favours lately. We taxpayers provided private schools with $311 million this year. The BC Liberal government has also decided, on our behalf, that private schools should get a break from municipal taxes because government revenue didn’t really need the $5million in taxes that would have been due.  And to ensure that the BC Liberal government  doesn’t miss any more opportunities to help the private school industry, they’ve appointed a new advocate who will keep the Premier up to date with what private schools need.

The needs of public schools fall on deaf ears. I am astounded that Premier Clark is unashamed of the fact that a newspaper runs a charity that provides funds for schools. A charity started after a teacher’s letter pleading for shoes for her students went viral.  I suppose that’s one way we public school teachers can personalize what happens in our classrooms: we can continue to personally provide food and shoes for our students.

It’s certainly personal when we teachers spend an average of $1200 of our after-tax income each year on supplies for our classrooms.

Inviting teachers to collaborate on a new curriculum was a particularly disingenuous move by the Ministry.  Insisting that it was teachers who created the curriculum is like saying that the interior designers created Hotel Vancouver. The parameters and budget were already pre-set.

It’s also quite cruel to invite teachers to design the curriculum of their dreams while removing $250 million each year from public school budgets. It’s the kind of move that the Mr Hyde version of the Ministry would make, the equivalent of telling students that they can go on a trip to Disneyland while not providing funding for transportation or accommodation or food or entrance tickets.

If the government sincerely intended for curriculum change to be driven by teachers, it would have involved all teachers in the process. Remember the accreditation process that took up almost 2 years of professional development time in the 1990s? What happened as a result? We have school plans that are aspirational documents because there is no funding to accomplish the goals.

We teachers know exactly what our students need. The skill-sets that teachers who collaborated on the curriculum took to the Ministry exist in thousands of classrooms in BC which is why we have a “world-renowned” education system as the Ministry loves to boast about.

But all our knowledge and skill cannot provide for our classrooms what adequate funding can.

When the Vancouver Sun newspaper shuts down its Adopt-A-School charity because it’s not needed anymore, then I’ll celebrate the new curriculum.

16 thoughts on “New Curriculum not meant for BC public schools”

  1. My BC Public High School has been pilotting the new curriculum for 3 years with great success. It has been fantastic for our kids. We are a small rural school that had to innovate to survive. However, we are blessed (for many of the courses) to be able to arrange small class sizes through creative timetabling. Many of our courses are cross-grade and cross-curricular. We believe in passion-based education, and our teachers teach their passions. Half our staff has graduate degrees in education (or is in process). We believe in this.

    I know teachers who have been on the committees working on this curriculum. They report that they’re following the research and proven best practice. This is an amazing opportunity for BC. I agree that I hope the government re-thinks funding, but to be honest, stodgy private schools are just as set in their ways as some public schools. Dewey advocated for this method a hundred years ago. It’s not new. It’s proven. We have public Montessori schools, right? My daughter, who just finished BEd last week, hears about what we’re doing and says, “But it’s JUST GOOD TEACHING!” Ah. Yes.

    Our kids should have shoes and food. That’s not about education, that’s about poverty. Clark bears the responsibility to alleviate child poverty. If teachers take it upon themselves to do that charitable work, that is separate from education and unrelated to curriculum.

    Yes, the Ministry of Education needs to actually fund schools properly. We had to close 4 rooms to save cleaning money, but when the school was built for 3X the kids in it, it’s hard to fault their logic. Our budget for this year was cut in half, so that will definitely be problematic, but we are enthused about the curriculum which is separate from the operating budget. We’ll continue to apply for grants and partnerships with universities and local businesses (which provide us with free food for our hungry kids). Yes, I’d prefer if we offered healthy free lunches every day like I enjoyed as a student in Finland. But that isn’t about this curriculum, either. (Although, we do seem to take our classes into the Foods room to cook while in French or Socials or Social Justice classes, so even that’s arguable).

    If we get our minds out of the industrial model, this will be less stressful for teachers and better for kids. Our staff and students love coming to school each day. There is power in giving kids the gift of freedom to learn in ways that capture them. Money needs to be behind it, sure, because resources (busing for field trips and guest speakers, special supplies, etc) are different this way, but we are making it happen. We LOVE what we’re doing. Fewer behaviour issues. More connectedness. More real-life learning in context. Fewer complaints of “Why are we learning this?” Report cards take less time. Assessment takes less time. Planning and class preparation takes no more time. It’s just different. It works Lizanne. For public school kids. Really.

    But I’d like to see the Ministry of Education committed to fully-funding the system. One uneducated cabinet minister’s salary would be great.

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  2. Your school is the exception that proves my point Sanna. You’ve got less than 400 students, isn’t that right? The new curriculum is perfect for schools with small classes which is not what 99% of public schools have.

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    1. I’m not sure that does prove your point, but the shift needs to be a school culture shift (including admin) for it to gain momentum. Just like any shift, if you do it alone it is usually unsustainable. Instead it should be done with a group, which allows and grows from mistakes along the way (It sounds like what Shawna’s school has done).

      If you believe it can’t happen, it never will. If you believe it can happen and it doesn’t you have still learned something valuable, so if that’s the worst that can happen sign me up. I want to know what is happening for my students so I can better meet their individual needs (with a few bumps along the road).

      ‘But all our knowledge and skill cannot provide for our classrooms what adequate funding can.’ Funding is important and we are on the short end, but I believe that our knowledge and skills are much more important to students.

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  3. I agree that we can do amazing things with our knowledge and skill but nothing I knew could have helped a severely autistic student who needed to pace outside while I had to teach the rest of the 28 students in the room at the time. No skill I had could have provided what a student with learning disabilities needed when he’d been waiting for years to be designated. There is just so much I can do with my knowledge and skills.

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  4. You seem a bit unenlightened on the reality of private schools. You speak of tax breaks for private schools? Well, let’s look at it this way: private schools are funded at a MAXIMUM of 50% of what each public school child is funded. (Some get less, and I won’t go into why). So, let’s take some easy numbers to show how it is a SAVING for tax payers to have private schools:
    Let’s say that each student attending public school “costs” taxpayers $10,000. (I don’t have the figure at-hand, but let’s just use this for ease of calculation, and, yes, “cost” is not the best term).
    If that same child were to attend private school, then the “cost” to the taxpayers is only $5,000 per year; parents pay the remainder. That means that, despite getting LESS government money, private schools are able to maintain smaller class sizes and have better resources.

    Maybe instead of accusing private schools of stealing public money, you should rather thank them, because if those kids weren’t going to private school, then they’d be costing tax payers a whole lot more than they presently do.

    Maybe we should rather take a look at why private schools are able to do more with the same amount of money (or less!) than public schools manage to do.

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    1. From a research study in Australia on the topic:

      “But don’t private schools save public money? We all pay taxes!

      The private school lobby often makes this spurious claim alongside the claim that those who choose private schools already pay taxes so should receive at least a contribution from their taxes to pay for that education choice.

      Independent Schools Victoria claims that sending a child to a private school is actually a saving to the taxpayer of A$5000 per student.

      This is akin to the Automobile Chamber of Commerce suggesting the use of private cars not only saves public money on public transport but actually wanting their members to receive a subsidy on the purchase of their new Mercedes or BMW.

      Similarly, no one believes that those choosing to use private toll roads should receive a subsidy for the use of the toll instead of driving on the public and free road system that their taxes have funded.

      The massive ongoing disparity in funding increases for public and private schools is a national disgrace and scandal. The learning needs of disadvantaged students are being ignored by the priority given to funding more privileged sections of the community. ”

      http://theconversation.com/australia-should-follow-chiles-lead-and-stop-funding-private-schools-33310

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    2. Hi Bee,

      I think I’ll follow your lead: You seem a bit unenlightened on the reality of private schools.

      Tax breaks for private schools feed inequalities. By subsidizing private schools we nurture deficits in public schools.

      Your example makes this point: If parents are asked to make up the $5k difference, how many (w/c)ould? How is inequality in BC doing these days? How about poverty rates? What % of children in BC live in poverty? How about single mothers? What % of single mothers in BC live in poverty? Think they’ve got $5k to spare?

      If the point is to structurally induce inequity, then subsidizing private schools makes sense. If the point is to structurally induce equity, then subsidizing private schools makes no sense.

      As for the relative expense of educating kids at private vs. public schools, you realize that public schools consistently out-preform private schools, right? Private schools get more + better resources, and they are not as cost effective as public schools. To put it simply: private schools reflect and reproduce privilege. When adjusted for demographics, public schools reliably produce better results than private schools. That’s an empirical fact. Not opinion. For e.g., => Are private schools better than public schools? – http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/11/05/are-private-schools-better-than-public-schools-new-book-says-no/

      Hope that helps clarify.

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      1. Yeah, public schools DO continually out-perform private schools. I’m not going to make excuses for that. That’s one of the things parents and students have to take into consideration when choosing, right? Private schools have a higher percentage of school completion rate, and higher school satisfaction rates. Academically, there are advantages and disadvantages to both public and private.

        Bear in mind that private schools have higher percentages of special needs students. Do the research; these figures are available, and you’ll see there’s a notable difference, and that special needs kids are over-represented in private schools.

        I’ve taught in several private schools, mostly rural. We don’t turn kids away, contrary to popular belief. We have funds for parents who can’t afford private tuition. Did you know that? IN ADDITION, many schools provide volunteer opportunities to compensate for reduced tuition. (Often useful for parents on disability). Were you aware of this option? Did you know that average income for families who put their kids into private school vs. public school is, on the provincial average, IDENTICAL? Interesting. Sure, there are some extremely elite private schools, but these are by FAR a minority of all independent schools in this province. Similarly, there are some public schools located in affluent neighbourhoods, where most of the students are financially secure, whereas there are public schools in poorer neighbourhoods. In Vancouver, there’s additional funding allocated to some of the schools in the poorer neighbourhoods to provide lunches, school supplies, etc.

        Clearly, in some cases, there’s a division between rich and poor in the public system. Surprisingly, there are some private schools that have a diverse mixture of students of wealthy dual-income families and welfare-recipient single moms. (The latter is the typical situation in a Christian school in a rural setting).

        Another reason that public schools out-perform private schools in BC is that all private schools are lumped together, including those that receive no government funding at all (e.g. those that don’t require BC-qualified teachers). There are numerous special-interest independent schools (Christian schools, Muslim schools, sport-focused schools, etc.), all of which are classed together, and some of which have focuses decidedly outside of academics.

        I’m not saying that ALL private schools are good, because not all of them are. I’m not saying that ALL private schools manage money well, because not all of them do. I am, however, saying that most independent schools are able to provide more to most students for less money than the majority of public schools can. Those stereotypes that SO many people hold about private schools are mostly inaccurate, because very few private schools operate in the way that people expect.

        If you compare public and private schools strictly from a tax-payer perspective, and consider that kids attending accredited public AND private schools in BC are receiving good world-class education, then private schools represent better value to the tax-payer, because when comparing dollars alone, it costs the public less for a child to attend private school.

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    3. Agreed. Private schools are a clever way for the government to tax the wealthy without them complaining about it. However, don’t expect public schools which are funded at well under $10,000 per student per year to be able to provide the same level of service as a private school which may be spending between $15,000 to $50,000 per student per year. That is where the smaller classes come from, and it is the reason why the new curriculum won’t be successful in public schools with large classes.

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  5. A two-tier education system increases and perpetuates poverty and increases and perpetuates crime. No education costs picked up by parents could ever offset the tax burden of , social welfare, and health damage done by this disparity.

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    1. How does a two-tier system increase and perpetuate poverty and crime?? Again, you’re assuming that ALL private schools are selective, and that they don’t provide financial assistance to needy families. You’re also assuming that all public schools all contain mixed-income families, which isn’t true at all.
      Tax burden of social welfare? Health damage done by this disparity? What disparity? You’re assuming, again, that ALL wealthy families want to put their kids into private school, and that no poor family can afford private school. You’re basing your answers on ideas, rather than on reality. Do yourself a favour, and go and meet some teachers and administrators of a variety of private schools in your city, and you’ll find that your responses are either based on out-dated ideas, or on a VERY small number of elite private schools in this province, or, perhaps, on US stats.

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  6. “You seem a bit unenlightened on the reality of private schools. You speak of tax breaks for private schools? Well, let’s look at it this way: private schools are funded at a MAXIMUM of 50% of what each public school child is funded. (Some get less, and I won’t go into why).”
    Bee you bring up a good point. Your opening derogatory approach weakens your argument which is unfortunate but we will overlook that. Private schools are funded to a maximum of 50% and on the surface it is simple to think that the costs are a clear 50% saving for the taxpayer. But as you point out that is an unenlightened view of the situation (I caught your sarcasm). Of course only simplistic minds would think this way. It costs the same to heat and provide light to the building regardless of whether or not that private school child attends the public school or not. Unless there are 30 students (25 if one is allowing a course to run as fewer numbers) there is not any saving on teacher costs). There still needs to be administration whether or not that private school child attends, as well as senior administration, board members, school board offices, crossing guards, supplies, snow removal services, maintenance. Of course, as you point out, the simple 50% dollar amount amounts to far less of a saving to taxpayers and therefore is not a competent argument to forward in defense of private schools.
    In fact there are many studies that show, when all is said and done the private school child does not save any money for the public schools. Of course you, as being enlightened, have read the studies from Wisconsin, New York, LA, New Zealand, Australia and a plethora of them from Finland (where the number one K-12 education system exists and they have no choice – funny that eh). In fact the system with the most choice is the USA where many of the Charter systems are currently being investigated for corruption and fraud – and Chile where they have shut their Charter System down.
    More on the costs side. In your response to this article you forgot to mention the effects that the private school child attending private school has on course selection options, variety of courses available, funding for extras in the district that are provided on a per pupil basis and the other “costs” that the private system throws at the taxpayer. These costs, of course, are not all monetary – you forgot to mention that as well – and of course any enlightened person such as yourself would understand this – but also social.
    “That means that, despite getting LESS government money, private schools are able to maintain smaller class sizes and have better resources.”
    I get your sarcasm here as well. Of course private schools do not maintain smaller classes and have better resources based just on the same amount of money that is provided public schools students. First, private schools do not have to deal with students that they do not want – especially students with needs that are not funded. Most public school districts put out 2 to three times the amount of money provided for students in need that private schools do not have to because they just do not let them in. Most private school parents can afford fundraising and donations that far outstrip those of public schools and thousands or tens of thousands of dollars raised certainly helps. Those who can send their children to private school are not usually the ones who also cannot put food on the table or not afford rent every month. Most private schools charge far and above the $8600.00 provided to public school children and therefore, while they operate with less government funding they work with far more funding.
    But you have a good idea Bee. What should happen is that private schools are forced to operate with the same amount of money that public schools do. So if a private school receives $4300.00 from the government they can charge a yearly tuition of $4300.00. That is a monthly bill of 359.00 for tuition. I am betting that many more people would sign their children up to get everything a private school provides (smaller class sizes and better resources included) for that tuition. I agree with you private schools should have to operate under the same $ figure as public schools. Then if they charge more than the $4300.00 per year tuition then the government amount of funding be decreased. Great idea Bee. Why should private school children cost society more than that?
    “Maybe we should rather take a look at why private schools are able to do more with the same amount of money (or less!) than public schools manage to do.” Good question Bee – private schools should have to operate and give everything they currently give on the same amount of money that public schools are provided. Every penny (actually nickel now as we don’t have pennies any more) over that $4300.00 that the government pays that is paid in tuition over the total $8600.00 should be given back to the public purse – and therefore could be given to public school children. Great idea Bee.
    Finally, I agree Bee that every child should be treated the same and have the same opportunities. I don’t agree that children are a cost to our taxpayers like you do – I actually like my children – and see them as a blessing rather than as a cost. Too bad you see yours as a cost – I wonder if they know that? You could have saved a whole lot of money not having them – how that happened – that is a lesson for another day 
    Thank you for pointing out that private school children have far more than public school children. Possibly if we looked at Finland closer we could treat all children equitably. But I bet there are some people out there that don’t see this as fair – they see that they are more special than others.

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    1. I am a teacher in a private school in BC. I used “cost” for lack of better word, from a taxpayer perspective, rather than as a parent/teacher perspective.
      We have six classes at our school. We do NOT get to select our students, and we do NOT turn anyone away. We interview families before enrolling, just to inform the students with their parents what the expectations and consequences are for non-compliance, not to “approve” them. In my eight years with the school, we have only ever expelled one student. Those selective private schools you’re referencing definitely exist, but they are BY FAR the minority of private schools.

      Our tuition fees per student per year are set at $4,000 for the first student, and less for each student thereafter in the same family. In addition, we have a fund for four families per year who cannot afford tuition fees.
      We have a high ratio of special needs in our school: some classes are up to 40% special needs, though admittedly we have smaller classes than public schools, and we do have more teaching assistants.

      So you can tell that we are running on a lower budget than public schools are. I agree with you that no private school student should be allocated any more public funds than a public school student receives.

      Our administrator explained funding of regular (not special needs students) in the following way: the government matches parents’ contributions to a maximum of half of what a public school student would get.

      So, IF the public school student is allocated $10,000 per year, then a private school student will be allocated a maximum of $5,000 per year. (Full disclosure: I’m not too sure what the actual current amount is!!) In our case, tuition is only $4,000 per year (highest paying student). So in our case, the maximum that the government would be contributing per student is $4,000.00

      Schools are allowed to charge more for tuition, so if they charge $8,000 per student, then tax payers still only contribute $5,000. And we get ZERO dollars for those who aren’t paying tuition at all, and ZERO dollars for anyone who registers after October 1.

      I’m interested in knowing people’s views on what it would be like to provide parents with the “differential,” to enable them to put their children into a school they choose.

      As to fundraising, what difference does it make how much kids’ parents make for when they do bottle drives? Our annual school carnival is open to the entire city, not just the kids and parents from our school, and is well attended by outsiders, too! So I’m not really seeing your argument there. The bulk of our fundraising is from our annual carnival, annual garage sale, and Christmas tree sale in early December (which is our only corporate donor!) We make a tiny bit from selling pre-made school supply packs in September, which is also a discount to parents.

      So smaller classes, more special ed assistants, tuition includes ALL trips and educational excursions throughout the year (so no surprise hot lunch money required ever).

      As to course selection (we’re elementary and middle school only), but I have seen schools get creative with course selection, and incorporate video-conferenced classes. That enables excellent selection when collaborating with other schools. The Koinonia schools in Alberta are reportedly good at creating matching schedules for participating schools, which enables V/C classes to work seemlessly. The same can be done in BC. So I’m not entirely buying into the course selection argument someone mentioned above.

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      1. Bee,
        Why would you not want for all students to have what students in private schools get? Why not advocate for all children to have access to good education? To have small classes so that teachers can give them the attention they need?

        The students in public schools are the future citizens who will be contributing to the province in many ways, not just as taxpayers. They are the future paramedics, firefighters, doctors, nurses, engineers. Why should they have to struggle harder to get a good education when their work in the future will benefit ALL of BC?

        This is a rich province. It can afford to give to all students what private schools have. Imagine what our education system would be like if the $7 Billion spent on the Olympics was spent on education instead.

        Your arguments seem to support the complete privatization of our education system. Have you read the research on what happened in places where they tried that? Much of it was quoted in the responses to your comments above. I hope you read the research.

        There is no valid argument to support the perpetuation of private schools in a democracy.

        There are many reasons to fully fund a public school system if what we want to sustain a healthy democratic society.

        However, I can see that the fact that you are a teacher in a private school explains your passionate defence of them.

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      2. Of course I want excellent education for ALL kids in BC! I would LOVE to see the public system provide small class sizes that the private schools have. My point is that the public system CAN provide the services that the private system does, and the money is there; it’s just poorly distributed. I’m not necessarily advocating for a privatized system, but ONLY having public schools takes away religious freedoms, for one thing.

        If public schools did a better job of finances, then they’d be able to serve kids better. The public schools have failed to serve some kids, which is why they’ve gone the private route. It’s not to be snobby or to gain privilege that most private school families have taken that route to education, but because the public system was not working for their kids.

        Then there’s also the large group of Christian kids whose families feel under-served in our current secular system. Do you have a suggestion of how to maintain a secular system, and properly represent the current faiths represented by most religious schools? Completely banning religious teaching in schools would infringe on freedom of religion. So, how about funding ALL schools equally, and allowing some to be “special interest” schools? (We do, afterall, have public schools with arts focuses, business focuses, etc…. Would a religious focus be too far of a stretch? There’s enough “demand” for many mainstream religious schools).

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  7. Some thoughts on the topic from a professor at UBC

    ” Public funding for private schools is at odds with creating a more equitable, just, and democratic society.

    It is a policy that almost always privileges families with more disposable income over the less wealthy and poor and often privileges religious education over secular education.

    Moreover, public funding of private schools supports a two-tiered system of education that allows some schools to cherry pick who attends and undermines the concepts of the public good and community in favor of individual gain.

    Public school budget cuts result in closed libraries, reduced special education services, and increased class size, while private schools are publicly subsidized to provide the advantaged with more benefits. These include such as smaller class sizes, which allow teachers to be more responsive to student needs and customize learning activities and to provide private school students with enriched curricula in art, sports, and music programs.

    For the first one hundred years of its history there was no public funding of private or religious schools in British Columbia. The Social Credit government introduced public funding of private education in 1977 and only then did enrolment in private schools begin to increase, taking a larger share of the provincial education budget. ”

    http://blogs.ubc.ca/ross/2014/06/public-funding-of-private-schools-is-at-odds-with-democracy/

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