No more zeros?
NL Federation of School Councils wants re-assessment of evaluation policy
Let’s put that ‘no zeros’ policy to the test.
That was one of the resolutions passed by school council representatives from across the province at the annual meeting of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School Councils (NLSFC) in Grand Falls-Windsor.
The resolution tabled by Booth Memorial High School Apr. 12 spurred much discussion around the province’s Assessment and Evaluation policy.
The policy, which has been implemented in schools across the province, means teachers are unable to give zeros, or fail students for incomplete work.
The resolution asks government to further examine the policy and provide qualitative and quantitate evidence to show whether or not the policy has had a positive, negative, or neutral overall impact on students.
Dereck Drodge is the chair of the school council that brought forth the resolution. He said he feels the non-zero policy, especially in high schools, does not adequately prepare students for post secondary or the real world where there are hard deadlines and rules individuals must follow to succeed.
“(Our school council) has actually done surveys with people who are out of school we’ve done surveys with people who are in school, and I want the school board itself to do the exact same thing, to put it out there and get a discussion going.
“Now there is a new (provincial) school board, there is a time for getting new policies in place. This is a perfect time to go back and look and say did we do the right thing when we did this the first time.”
In all, the members of the NLSFC voted on over a dozen resolutions during the weekend convention April 4-6.
Among the major resolutions passed by delegates was one proposing a change in provincial legislation to make the current Board of Trustees for the newly-created, province-wide English School District more representative of people living in the school communities by deriving trustees from alreadyelected school councils.
NLSFC president Nathan Whalen indicated, “Right now there are 15 appointed Board of Trustee members. They are appointed by the minister (of education) and they have to make decisions regarding school closures and policies, and they’re not accountable to the general public.
“We’ve provided a potential solution to that, which would be to empower school councils ... at the district level. We want to work with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to develop that system ... to change such that it would be more representative of school communities, parents, teachers, students and community members.”
Another resolution focused on the mental health and personal issues that plague youth today, ranging from depression and other metal disorders to things like bullying and substance abuse.
A resolution was passed recommending government to implement a change in the allocation formula for guidance counselors to see one counselor per 333 students, instead of the one counselor per 500 students that exists today.
In order to further increase access to guidance services, a second resolution calls for an increase in the number of educational psychologists, counselors and other resources in to address the needs of students in all grades.
Mr. Whelan explained, “Other Atlantic Canadian provinces have a large number of educational psychologists to help deal with the counseling needs of students. We actually do have some educational psychologists (in Newfoundland and Labrador), however; there are so few that it doesn’t adequately meet the needs whatsoever.
“What we have realized is that the guidance counselors have to complete something called a comprehensive assessment of students with exceptionalities. That guidance councilor spends 20 hours of their time trying to assess one student. That means that’s 20 hours less time then they have to counsel students. It’s really important that we remove that and give that responsibility to an educational psychologist like they’re doing in other jurisdictions.”
Other resolutions passed by the NLFSC dealt with cuts to resources, both monetary and human, by government in recent years.
“We’re really concerned about making sure our students today as the system stands can be supported, and they’re not being supported,” Mr. Whalen said.
“In last year’s budget, (the government) cut 160 teachers out of our school system and we reduced the number of principals and assistant principals. Today we’ve reiterated the increased needs in our school system that (government) has not addressed with the necessary teachers that are required to support our students to achieve.”
Mr. Whalen, who is in the second year of his two-year term as president of the NLFSC, said he was pleased with the way the AGM progressed.
“I think there was a lot of enthusiasm here, and I think people are excited to go back to their schools, share what they’ve learned and create more public discourse sur- rounding public education.”
The resolutions passed at the convention will be presented to the Department of Education.
Mr. Whalen said the NLFSC will continue to lobby for these changes over the next year.
A report on this weekend’s meetings, including a list of resolutions will be published on the NLFSC website at ‘www.schoolcouncilsnl.ca’ in the coming days.
Grand Falls-Windsor Advertiser
From left, Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School Councils (NLFSC) executive director Denise Pike, Jeanne Stapleton, representing Holy Trinity Elementary School in Torbay, and Siobhan Foley-Lambert, representing Bishop’s College in St. John’s,...