At last month’s Provincial Educational Leadership Conference, the former Deputy Minister of Education from Ontario, Ben Levin, reminded us all of the good story we have in public education, in our province and Canada. There are exciting conversations around educational transformation, where to go to next, and that we continue to be one of the world’s top performing jurisdictions. We do have a great story to tell. The West Vancouver School District Board Chair, Cindy Dekker, picked up on this theme in her latest Taking Action column in the North Shore Outlook:
The many success stories coming out of public education across Canada never cease to inspire those of us serving as trustees on the West Vancouver Board of Education.
Our latest source of inspiration came from Ben Levin, former Deputy Minister of Education in Ontario, who delivered a powerful, positive message at a recent Educational Leadership Conference in Vancouver.
He reminded us that Canada has one of the highest performing public education systems in the world but suggested we haven’t “hit the top of our potential and the drive to improve must be unrelenting”.
Levin challenged us to continue to push for better teaching, better programming and better use of resources – goals our staff strive to achieve every day in West Vancouver, Lions Bay and Bowen Island.
How do we reach them? His ideas align with ours; by continuing to provide relevant curriculum and classrooms, building personal relationships with students and families and forging strong community connections.
I have spent some time over the last couple of weeks collating items around our graduation rates in West Vancouver. Once again, it is a very impressive story to share. Our overall graduation rate continues to hover around 97-98%, with about 60% of our students graduating with Honours (B average or better). This high rate continues at a time when classrooms have become increasingly diverse, and with increases in our English Language Learner (ELL) numbers. If anything, the trend has been upward over the last several years, and is a tribute to our outstanding teachers who work with amazing students each day.
Finally, at least week’s meeting of the District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC), I heard our schools tell stories of pride, on a range of rich and diverse topics including: a school transforming a library into a learning commons; a school with an inquiry /technology focus going deeper with its learning; another school looking at inquiry, but more through the lens of the Arts; several schools adopting self-regulation principles including MindUP; several schools giving back to the community with ventures like the Cinderella Project and the Harvest Project; several schools committing to environmental education initiatives, including school gardens and outdoor learning projects; several schools that have seen aesthetic upgrades outside and inside their buildings, and a number of schools highlighting well-rounded, parent education projects. At each school there was a sense of great pride, and outstanding schools trying new and better things for their kids.
I have written in my blog before that “we don’t have to be sick to get better” — but we do need to step back, once in a while, to remind ourselves about the outstanding system we have.