Last night I attended a meeting for the heads of all the PTAs for all the schools in our district. Our School Board Rep has this meeting every couple of months so she can tell us what’s going on. The Chair of my PTA couldn’t make it, and asked if I would go instead (I am being GROOMED, people!).
I thought it would be very boring, but I was pleasantly surprised. There were squares! And cookies! And coffee!
That School Board really knows how to throw a meeting, I tell you.
Anyway, I learned all kinds of useful stuff and got all kinds of good PTA type ideas, and in general it was very interesting and useful.
The most interesting thing, for me, was a discussion of Early French Immersion, which is FI that starts in Senior Kindergarten. Apparently there is a 60% drop out rate for the program over its lifetime (i.e. between grades SK and 8, 60% of the original SK class will have dropped out of French Immersion). Scary!
The Board is trying to introduce new initiatives to keep kids who start FI in the FI program. Their biggest concern — as I’ve mentioned here before — is that as soon as a kid starts having trouble in school, the school recommends that they leave FI and move to the English stream. This is rarely a solution, as kids that leave FI in grades 2, 3, or 4 might be as much as two years behind their counterparts in English reading and math. So rather than improve their school performance, it might actually hinder it further.
The real problem is that there is no remedial help available in most schools for French students. So if a student is struggling, they have no resources and no tutors to help them out. They can only get this kind of help if they move to the English stream…or, if their parents are French speaking and can provide the help they need.
Eeep. Totally not what I needed to hear right now, when we are already feeling like our French skills will not be enough to see us all the way through to Grade 8. Chantal, I may be over at your house A LOT.
Anyway, it’s a very tough line for the schools to walk right now. The Board wants them to let parents know that when they choose FI, they will be STAYING in FI, no matter what. At the same time, they want to increase their FI numbers, so they want schools to assure parents that FI is suitable for any and all kids, no matter what their language background or current abilities. I think it’s really hard for a school to sell, sell, sell FI, and then tell any kids that chose FI who don’t like it that tough, they are stuck now.
My own school actually kind of tried to discourage parents from choosing FI. They did make it clear that switching streams later would be very hard and not good for your kid, so they wanted everyone who chose FI to be fully committed. They didn’t want any wafflers. I think that’s a good way to do it, but our Board rep would be quite unhappy if she heard that our school was warning parents away FI if they had any doubts at all. It doesn’t exactly fit with their “welcome all comers” policy.
Anyway, it was an interesting discussion, so thought I’d pass that info along.
Now, don’t get me started on all-day JK and SK in 2010…GACK.