Government-imposed report card plan should be tabled: QESBA - By Debbie

The following is a statement by Debbie Horrocks, President of the Quebec English School Boards.

MONTREAL, June 30 /CNW Telbec/ -

    School's out for summer. ...Ya, right! Perhaps, Education Minister
    Michelle Courchesne isn't an Alice Cooper fan. While our children happily
    forego tests and textbooks for bathing suits and summer camp, the
    Minister has evidently picked the first weeks of summer as the best time
    to table a series of controversial and far-reaching amendments to the
    Basic School Regulation. That document dictates how Quebec's elementary
    and high school students are evaluated. The changes would revamp report
    cards, could put at risk the very basis of Quebec's curriculum reform and
    will impede on the expertise and autonomy of democratically-elected
    school boards. Furthermore, some of the changes, which are to become law
    in late July, could compromise the progressive practice of evaluating
    special needs students on their individual progress.

    The Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) will be telling the
    Minister how we feel about the timing and the content of these changes to
    the Basic School Regulation but we think the public has a right to know
    as well.

    First, the timing: These sweeping changes to the province's well-known
    curriculum reform were published in the Gazette officielle du Québec on
    June 11th. By July 26th -- not normally a key date on the education
    calendar -- those changes could become law. In between, QESBA,
    administrators' associations, teachers' unions, parents groups and other
    partners in the delivery of elementary and secondary education, must
    offer their final word on the merits of the plan. Whatever those merits,
    and they are highly debatable, the timing of this initiative raises
    logistical questions. Why rush new and untested report cards and
    evaluation tools through before teachers, principals and parents have had
    the chance to assess and adjust to them? How are they going to encourage
    greater student success? What research findings made them necessary? What
    about the careful course planning and evaluation steps that our teachers
    and administrators have already undertaken to prepare for the coming
    school year?

    Second, the content: The proposals would have a substantial impact on how
    our students are marked, and how they are prepared for tests and exams.
    Standard Ministry-developed report cards would be put in place at the
    pre-school, primary and secondary levels. English school administrators
    will tell you that the report cards aren't broken, so why fix
    them...again. Our parents and students understand our Board-developed
    report cards, and our teachers have adapted their expertise in evaluation
    to respond to the admittedly challenging adjustments of the reform. It is
    frustrating to receive the apparent message that it is now time to start

    The new report cards would significantly alter the delicate balance
    between the evaluation of knowledge and "competencies". Quebec's
    curriculum reform has been much maligned, and often unfairly. This clear
    move to lessen the focus on competencies is a particularly unfortunate
    one. The first full graduates of Quebec's reform have only just completed
    their final Secondary V exams. There has been no time to even begin to
    assess the impact of the revised course of study on these students. The
    philosophical underpinnings of the reform they have just finished are
    absolutely consonant with a changing world and job market. The reform
    focuses on helping our children acquire the transferable skills and
    judgment as well as the basic knowledge they will need to go forward.
    It's an educational approach that has seen Quebec widely praised on the
    international stage. It is a pity that this same reform now seems up for
    grabs in a summer scramble.

    Ask any educator: when you change how students are marked on report
    cards, you inevitably change how teachers teach and how they assess what
    their students learn and understand. The Ministry-imposed report card, if
    it is decreed for implementation next Fall, will only create confusion
    rather than the greater clarity the Minister says she is seeking. By
    downgrading the importance of our students acquiring competencies - the
    ability to actually use and analyze the knowledge they acquire - these
    draft regulations are cutting to the very heart of progressive curriculum
    reform. The Minister has insisted publicly that she has no intention of
    calling into question the basic tenets of the curriculum reform. Her
    actions would suggest otherwise.

    English public schools in Quebec have justifiably prided themselves on
    balancing the educational needs of all of the students they serve. In
    practice, and consonant with current Ministry policy, they include most
    students with special needs in the regular classroom whenever possible.
    Additional human resources, and a promising new injection of more, under
    recently-signed collective agreements, help teachers manage the included
    classroom. It's not perfect but our comparatively high graduation rates
    suggest that this is the right approach for students at every spectrum of
    potential. The over-all high school success average at Quebec's nine
    English school boards has already reached the targeted 80 per-cent level
    set by the Ministry for the year 2020.

    QESBA worries that the new regulations might be a signal a departure from
    this favored orientation of inclusion. They appear to prescribe the
    standard report card for any special needs students included in the
    regular classroom. QESBA has asked Ministry officials for reassurance
    that this would not be the case but so far, to no avail. Exceptions will
    henceforth require a special derogation from the Minister. Our school
    boards are well-equipped to make the right calls on how to evaluate
    students with special needs, and when to include them in the regular

    Curriculum development and student evaluation must always evolve. It's
    our job to lead educational change, not follow it. But the pace of change
    must be coherent and the progress must be assessed before it properly
    moves forward. The Minister's current summer timetable fails on both
    counts. QESBA thinks this regulation should be delayed for at least a
    year and carefully re-examined before being reintroduced. The key
    partners in education, our elected school boards, their administrators
    and teachers, deserve the full opportunity to provide their full input on
    such crucial matters - and not while school's out.

    Debbie Horrocks is the President of the Quebec English School Boards

SOURCE Quebec English School Boards Association

For further information: For further information: Kim Hamilton, Director of Communications and Special Projects, 514-849-5900, ext. 225, 514-919-3894, Cell.

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