No more ze­ros?

NL Fed­er­a­tion of School Coun­cils wants re-as­sess­ment of eval­u­a­tion pol­icy

The Southern Gazette - - SPORTS - BY AN­DREA GUNN TC COM­MU­NITY NEWS­PA­PERS An­drea Gunn Photo/The Ad­ver­tiser

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,...

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