Math program under review

Big changes in school division sought


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Manitoba students' lousy performance in math will be reviewed by the Winnipeg School Division.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/05/2012 (3864 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba students’ lousy performance in math will be reviewed by the Winnipeg School Division.

Internal staff will see if the division’s cherished comprehensive assessment program is robbing students of crucial classroom time.

And as for sweeping plans to acknowledge the impact of residential schools — WSD trustees weren’t very eager Monday night to jump into that issue without a lot of study and discussion.

Rookie trustee Mark Wasyliw brought three diverse and potentially controversial motions before the board Monday night, and all three ended up getting bounced to the board’s policy program committee.

Wasyliw made an impassioned plea to review and then broaden what’s being taught about residential schools into every grade in WSD.

“These were acts that were done in the name of every single Canadian,” Wasyliw declared.

He wanted the division to hold a Remembrance Day-style ceremony in every school to formally display Ottawa’s formal apology for residential schools.

But the rest of the board wanted to take its time to review what is already being taught.

“How would we handle other groups that came forward who want to commemorate the tragedies in their communities?” asked trustee Mike Babinsky.

Trustee Darlyne Bautista wouldn’t approve anything until she’s consulted with people directly affected by residential schools.

Bautista said she visited Niji Mahkwa School, where she said aboriginal students and teachers want to celebrate their identity, not be seen as victims.

Wasyliw said he’s receiving letters from across Canada, from people who’ve heard about his proposal, but he agreed the proposals would go to committee.

CAP is the program in which teachers assess students individually on math and reading skills each fall in nursery to Grade 6.

Wasyliw said staff claim it takes 25 minutes per student, no more than 10 hours of classroom time. But teachers claim CAP takes three hours per student, or eight weeks of classroom time, he said.

If the teachers are right, “over a seven-year period, you’re losing a year of instruction. That’s quite shocking,” Wasyliw said.

Several years ago, the division threatened to fire the union executive over its criticism of CAP, but a lengthy Manitoba Labour Board hearing sided with the teachers.

WSD needs accurate information from outside auditors, he said: “This program has a bad history. There’s a lot of acrimony — there’s mistrust. If we have independent numbers, they’re unimpeachable,” Wasyliw implored.

The rest of the board, however, was OK with its own staff conducting random samples in September and October and reporting back on how much classroom time CAP takes.

Finally came Wasyliw’s call for an investigation into Manitoba students’ second-from-the-bottom performance in a 2010 random national math test, including finding out why Ontario and Quebec kids did so well and how WSD can develop a strategic plan to improve math performance here.

“We want to be at the top of these lists,” he said.

Board chairwoman Rita Hildahl said the national test was stacked against Manitoba because the test used Ontario and Quebec curricula.

“There is fear-mongering, due to a lack of information,” Hildahl said.

Furthermore, she told the board, only Manitoba did not “pull out schools” from taking the test. However, she said later in an interview she could not substantiate that claim and would withdraw it.

Chief Superintendent Pauline Clarke told trustees the administration would prepare a report.


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