November Meeting: Monday November 16, 2015
AGENDA | Public Engagement – Transportation – Math Learning – Budget

Thanks to the parents who joined us at our November meeting to discuss transportation, public engagement, math learning and school budgets. We were pleased to meet with you in person to talk about current events in education.

We discussed transportation challenges such as a shortage of school space, the development of alternative programs which encourage moving children to inner city schools with more room, budget shortfalls, and how transportation dollars are currently being used. Strategies used to help the transportation budget go further include:

  • double busing (buses drive two routes, one immediately after the other)
  • longer walk distances, up to 1.6 for elementary school students, and 1.8 km for middle/junior high school students
  • a combination of double busing, longer walk distances and longer routes for alternative program students
  • the possibility of moving junior high school students to public transit, which is complicated by the CBE’s Grade 5 – 9 middle school grouping.

As student learning is affected when families struggle with reductions to transportation service, this issue needs to be addressed. We touched briefly on our opinion editorial published in the Calgary Herald, detailing concerns about the safety of children, transparency around decision making, and managing of cost. We understand that the CBE plans to begin consulting families about transportation in January.

Public Engagement
We appreciate that the CBE chose public engagement as their focus item for the November 5 CoSC meeting. Our members discussed the same questions presented in that forum. Concerns mentioned were similar to those defined at the CoSC meeting, and include:

  • gathering input/ideas from parents at the beginning of the process, rather than tweaking a plan that has already been made
  • providing details before meetings so parents have time to review information before the discussion happens
  • allowing sufficient time for consultation – such as bringing forward ideas in January for changes that will happen in September
  • developing metrics – such as a five year timeline on how the CBE will meet goals for standardized testing.

We encourage you to get involved in the CBE’s process for improving public engagement.The survey and discussion guide contributions closed in December. Although submissions for the report are now closed, you can continue to use the council discussion guide to make suggestions on improving communication with parents. Look for the first draft of a new system-wide approach to be released this spring.

Math Learning
Members at this meeting had considerable concern about math education. PAT results, while an imperfect tool, are the best measure of how children are performing. We asked if parents were aware of the curriculum update for math learning that the Deputy Minister of Education provided to school boards. Consistent with the last meeting, no school councils represented were aware of any changes. Please ask your principal to advise your school council how these changes are being implemented in your school.

Some excerpts from the update include:

  1. The updates clarified the expectation that students are able to recall addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts, as well as multiplication tables, and that they investigate a variety of strategies and become proficient in at least one appropriate and efficient strategy (strategies may include traditional algorithms, such as long division and vertical addition).
  2. Some new and updated supports: The Alberta K–9 Mathematics Achievement Indicators (2015) resource. This resource has been updated to include standard/traditional algorithm achievement indicators in the Grades 2 to 5 number strand.  Achievement indicators provide suggested samples of how students may demonstrate their achievement of the learner outcomes in the mathematics program. The Summary of Updates highlights all revisions for easy reference and comparison.
    Sample Standard/Traditional Algorithms is the newest fact sheet in our series aimed at supporting teachers in the implementation of the K-9 Mathematics Program of Studies. The fact sheet provides samples of standard/traditional algorithms for all four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division).

Results from the spring 2015 PATs show that roughly 30 percent of Grade 9 students did not have an ‘acceptable’ score in math exam results. ‘Acceptable’ begins at 42 per cent for grade 9. CBE trustees voted last fall that grade 9 math scores were unacceptable, and there was a tie vote on grade 6 math scores. We note this year’s math scores were worse.

Parents discussed that part of the issue seems to be that ‘Inspiring Education’ ideology has not yet translated into successful and consistent classroom strategies. CAPSC representatives attended a meeting this summer with the Assistant Deputy Minister of Education to express parental concerns about math in Calgary. At this meeting, a University of Alberta math engineering professor stated that the October midterms now have to be simplified for first-year students emerging from high school as they are unable to do the work.

Parents want help in supporting their kids with this learning. Suggestions included:

  • asking schools for a two-page document giving examples of what children should be able to do when they finish the grade level
  • accessing the Jump math program, which is newly recommended by Alberta Ed and also by a teacher in the room
  • increasing math awareness in other ways – one council did a math quiz night as a fundraiser.

CAPSC is planning a Math Learning presentation in January or February, which will focus on best practices from schools with excellent results in this area. Details will be posted on the website soon.

School Budget
CAPSC executive are encouraging more clarity and transparency about how funding is used at the administrative level.

Meeting Focus Items
We asked members what they would like to have covered in upcoming meetings. Suggestions included:

  • Nutrition – for instance, how packing a healthy lunch can support learning
  • Science and math
  • Appropriate amounts of technology in the classroom and at home; best practices for computer use
  • Supports from police, including social network safety
  • Encouraging more interest in school council.

Thanks to all who joined us on November 16th. We look forward to seeing you at our January event on math learning.