Delta school district readying amid labour unrest

DELTA — It might not be business as usual around local schools due to labour unrest, but preparations are still underway for the start of a new school year in Delta.

The school district adopted a vision statement earlier this decade and continues to roll out initiatives in an effort to help students reach their potential. "We’ve really worked hard over the last two years to bring action to our vision and there have been a lot of things done behind the scenes," superintendent Dianne Turner said in an interview this week alongside a pair of deputy superintendents.

Part of the vision includes how students are assessed.

"The idea that children are asked to remember, and measured on their memory, really, is something that we’re trying to get away from," said deputy superintendent Garnet Ayres.

The district is moving toward a system of "assessment for learning," Ayres said, where students are provided descriptive feedback in their learning.

He said it takes teachers away from the model of standing and delivering knowledge to getting down and working with students to help them through the learning process. In assessment learning, students are not left to simply read and remember.

"It’s the way we want to go in our teaching practices," Ayres said.

He said reaction from teachers so far has been positive.

"It’s very well supported by the BCTF, it’s very well supported by the Ministry of Education … we’re seeing it taking a foothold really throughout the system."

Technology is also starting to have more of a pivotal role in the classroom. Assistant superintendent Doug Sheppard said there is a lot of interest in how to leverage students’ interest in different devices and the desire to create in a digital environment.

"It’s a challenge for both student and teacher to pursue that," he said, adding teachers and students are learning how to navigate some of the devices and programs together.

"There’s a lot of great student work and teacher work being done with various digital tools in different classrooms," he said, adding there has been a particular impact in the area of special needs students.

The Grade 10 Strive program continues at South Delta Secondary. Strive integrates curriculums from various subjects – English, math, social studies and science – into one solid block taught by four teachers.

For example, a social studies project can also be used as an English lesson.

The program, which is unique to Delta, is also being rolled out in other schools where two Grade 8 teachers pair up for math and science or English and socials. Turner said the program could also be expanded to encompass other grades as well.

The district has also been working on an expanded Aboriginal curriculum. There are about 500 Aboriginal students in Delta and Turner said the district was looking for ways to help improve graduation rates when the idea for expanding the curriculum came about.

She said the district and teachers have been working with Tsawwassen First Nation and Musqueam elders, staff and families to develop the curriculum.

In addition to educating all students on the First Nations history and culture, the hope is it will also foster pride in Aboriginal students.

The district isn’t planning to launch any specialty academies this year, the superintendent noted, but there are some possibilities being looked at for the future, including one geared towards students interested working in public safety/first responder and another specializing in science, physics and engineering.

For more storie from the Delta Optimist, click here.

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