The education system in Alberta has seen several changes in the past few years with Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) at the head of the pack, and with new initiatives coming, those changes are not done.
After much deliberation from school divisions across the province regarding whether or not diploma weights should be changed from a 50 per cent of a student’s final grade to 30 per cent, a final vote in favour of change was made at the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) fall general meeting, held mid-November.
“Years ago the weighting was 100 per cent,” said WCPS superintendent Larry Jacobs. There were concerns about giving more power to teachers as differences in marking and biases could lead to a rift between schools.
However, perceptions changed in favour of the 50/50 framework.
Recently, concerns arose that there was too much pressure on students with 50 per cent going to the diploma. “There are a lot of people that believe with the diploma exam . . . it’s a one off,” said Jacobs.
With so much pressure on the students, the general consensus is that diploma exams may not give an accurate reading and teachers will have more insight.
While the ASBA voiced its favour, nothing will change until the province agrees. “Alberta Education can say ‘yes we’ll accept that’ or ‘no we’re going to ignore it’,” said Jacobs.
“I think we’ll see some change. Especially as we come, in the province, to understand there’s a common teaching framework,” he added.
The framework, called inter-rater reliability, is a common knowledge base among all teachers that will lead to balanced marking across the province.
‘That’s when I think you’re going to find Alberta Education relaxes its grip,” said Jacobs.
Jacobs investigates a First Nation board member
A letter from the four bands of Maskwacis recently sent to the province has the WCPS board of trustees re-evaluating the idea of having an appointed First Nation member on the board.
“Once of the things I think is critically important is they want a mechanism in place to make sure First Nation students succeed,” said Jacobs.
Last year, WCPS formed the Wisdom and Guidance Committee to aid First Nation affairs within the division. “The reason we formed this group is for exactly the same purpose.”
The committee is part of the reason the WCPS trustees have not yet agreed to an appointed member. “They're thinking, at this point, the Wisdom and Guidance Committee is doing that,” said Jacobs.
He also believes groups are more effective than individuals and the committee may be the better option for serving an end goal. “It brings more perspective, certainly the voice of an elder, certainly the voice of a parent.”
With the committee, Jacobs says the division is looking for First Nation students to increase their performance in school. “Engagement is critically important to us.”
Troubled rural schools
An issue not peculiar to WCPS division is the problem rural schools are facing in terms of programming.
“One of the challenges for small high schools in rural Alberta is to have the student base and credits to generate funding,” said Jacobs.
The smaller schools are not generating enough credits for funding, to be able to provide teaching staff and CTS programs.
Four schools in the division are running on deficits and Jacobs recently held a meeting with the principals of schools in Alix, Bentley, Eckville and Lacombe to look for a solution, with the added help of a task force.
“We started the discussion what does equity look like in our school,” said Jacobs.
The idea of possibly transporting students to other schools for periods of time to give them access to more programming was briefly mentioned at the board of trustees Nov. 21 meeting.
Finding more funding is also an option. “More money is a short-term solution. What I’m looking at is a more systematic solution,” said Jacobs.