Question: What can the school district do locally to address class size & composition?
It is the experts – the teachers on the “front lines” in our classrooms – that we need to guide us in how to handle these challenges more effectively. Our teachers are best able to determine what situations could be considered “manageable”, and which are not. Teachers are currently in crisis management – they are individually doing the best job possible with the resources available.
However, I believe if we provide a better venue to gather these experts together, create a “task force” to help deal with the most challenging situations, we can come up with some viable solutions. Having these great minds come together, in group brainstorming-type sessions, can lead to some amazing ideas. Re-allocating a relatively small of amount of funding to cover TOC costs, etc. to allow this collaboration and development of ideas to happen is a small price to pay for the potential results that can come out of it.
This is not a local issue. It belongs to the provincial government and BCTF. It will include bargaining, it is budget item, with a very high cost.
While it effects local governing, the solutions vary greatly. The answer to this point is “funding.” Not a simple answer.
Boards, administration and staff will need to work together to support how this can be resolved.
Install computers in the class room that have teaching programs related the subjects being taught.This would assist students needing more one on one time and help the teachers and all the class run effectively .
The district needs to address class size and composition by adhering to the 15 recommendations put forward in the Special Education Review that was presented by Dr. Carter to the Board in early 2013. Policy 607 “Placement of Special Needs Students” and Administrative Regulation 607.1 of the policy manual have been in place since April of 1999. What has the district been doing to adhere to the policy in the School District Manual? If it had been followed, would the district have needed to spend $55,000 on a Special Ed Review? While the review/policy address special needs students, this could aid in alleviating some pressure in the classroom.
Answer to your question: The school district can set class size and composition limits. This is severely hampered by funding, however. Without an increase in per pupil funding, the Learning Improvement Fund or some other instrument the school district has little freedom to significantly lower class sizes and improve composition.
Maximizing education dollars by finding new ways of reducing administration costs so that more dollars can be invested directly in the classroom would be a start. Dealing with the lack of full funding for non-enrolling teachers, such as librarians and learning assistance teachers so students get the resources and assistance they need to achieve their potential is key.
I would work to restore funding but to do that we need a board that is proactive and engages all parties in a democratic, accountable, and open way. We can no longer afford such a passive, silent board, that we have had for the past three years. Working together on solutions would allow teachers and staff, and in turn parents and students, to be supported locally and not feel abandoned. This would go a long way to facilitate lobbying for funding increases to address issues of class size and composition.
Currently the district has class size limits for elementary and strives to keep other classes in a reasonable range considering student choices of school and subjects.
Composition – we strive to keep 3 to 4 special needs students in any one class although this is not always possible. The Learning Improvement Fund assists in additional supports to unique classes.
The school district needs to continue the professional development of learning assistance teachers, resource teachers and education assistants to provide them with the skills and knowledge of special needs in order to more effectively assist the classroom teacher and the students in their learning. Our understanding of brain development and learning has increased the identification of students in a wider range of special needs. The district also needs to provide pro d for staff to continue their skill development in identification so that funds can be accessed to assist students in their category.
I believe consultation with Teachers, Support Staff, Administrators and District Staff around resource allocation and staffing is vital. The school staff would collaboratively develop a plan describing; the enrolment at each grade level, the learning challenges, the individual class size enrolment and classroom composition (students who are gifted, students who are progressing, and students who find learning challenging). The School Staffing Plan would demonstrate creative solutions which would maximize learning opportunities for the students. Some classes, based on composition may be slightly smaller and have EA allocation. Resources would be drawn from the Learning Improvement Fund to address specific needs and challenges, including the composition factors.
The District Office would receive and review the individual school staffing plans. The plans would then be presented to the teachers’ group for review and approval. This process would result in full staff engagement and equity in our School District, as the difficult learning situations would receive additional teacher staffing and resources (EA assistance). One size does not fit all…each classroom is different in composition!
There are definite limitations at the district level. However, if we continue to promote a spirit of inclusion, we can create a classroom composition that is tailored to bring out the best in every student. I promote this attitude in our home. As a parent it is exciting to watch as my special needs daughter interacts with her siblings. Her skills are developed as peer support comes into play. At the same time, their interactions help to develop her siblings skill sets by adopting a greater leadership role within their interactions. As they learn to adapt to each other’s abilities, it becomes a “win, win” for everyone. We need to consider this as we strengthen our approach to class room composition, adapting to an ever changing and diverse world.
Each group of children in particular classrooms is unique, and neither interference by Trustees nor clad in stone formulas are the best way to deal with the composition of students in a classroom.
The school principal, together with representatives from the Union and other helping professionals are best qualified to make decisions for each classroom. Some classes may have enrollment above the average. However in other classrooms, there may be such a significant proportion of challenging students that the class size should be lowered, or additional resources, specialist teachers and learning assistants required.
As a Trustee, I can ensure that the Learning Improvement Fund (LIF) is distributed equitably, according the unique needs of each class room. I can also continue to encourage my board, or support initiatives at the provincial level of all Boards belonging to the BC School Trustees Association to advocate to increase the LIF.