Friday, March 28, 2008

Letter from a School Principal

25 March 2008
Dear Mr. Lamrock:

I am writing with concerns regarding the elimination of the Early French Immersion Program currently available to students in New Brunswick.

I have 18 years experience in the public school system as a Teacher, Consultant, Vice-Principal and Principal. This experience has provided me with a profound understanding of the many complexities facing our students and school system. Due to budgetary and personnel constraints, I know that it is very difficult to meet all the needs of all stakeholders. I also know that it is impossible to please everyone, and therefore difficult decisions must be made.

I am hoping that all decisions that are being considered are based on correct, peer-reviewed data, not merely perception or public opinion. To remove the only program in New Brunswick which is attaining the provincial goal of intermediate French proficiency is not using data to guide decisions. Teachers are encouraged to use data to guide teaching and practices; unfortunately, this philosophy is not modelled by the New Brunswick Department of Education.

To remove the Early French Immersion Program to address problems of streaming in the English Core Program is inappropriate. It does nothing to assist the students who are currently struggling within the Core System. Early identification and support, regardless of the language of instruction, is necessary. All New Brunswick students have access to the EFI program, therefore the D.O.E. and school boards must do a better job of presenting EFI as a viable program for all learners, regardless of ability. I understand, unfortunately, that Principals and teachers may
encourage/discourage students from entering into the EFI programs. This is not sound educational practice. It is the responsibility of the D.O.E. to ensure accurate information is presented to all parents.

I challenge your department to find one peer-reviewed, international, longitudinal study which indicates that second language acquisition impacts negatively on first language skills. If this were truly the case, New Brunswick students who do not have access to Early French Immersion in their neighbourhood schools would do statistically significantly better on Provincial Literacy Assessments. I know this is not the case. Early French Immersion students consistently score higher on literacy tests as language acquisition is transferable between (or among) languages. Current studies indicate that students who are struggling in their first language benefit from the explicit instruction in a second language setting.

I also have concerns regarding the statement that all children entering grade 5 would be enrolled in the Intensive French Program. As I am certain you are aware, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right of Canadians to be schooled in their first official language. Based on this fundamental right of all Canadians, it would be impossible to insist that all students take Intensive French. Therefore, the problem of streaming of two programs would continue. Unfortunately, the Intensive French students would not achieve the level of oral proficiency as the EFI students. A change for the sake of change (or political perception of "fixing" a problem) is never acceptable.

In closing, I would ask that you and your department make the best decisions for students in New Brunswick. As there are needs with inclusion, address those needs. Do not dismantle a successful program to provide the perception of making sound educational decisions to assist the struggling Core classes.

I anxiously await your reply.

Bernadine Conron, M. Ed.


Miriam Jones said...

I hope he reads his mail. This is powerful.

Anonymous said...

According to my Intranet directory, nobody by the name of Bernadine Conron is employed by the Province of New Brunswick.

She makes valid points though.

hamlit said...

To anonymous 3:39. Quite true, she is not a Principal in NB. Ms. Conron is a Principal right across the border in NS. And yes, she sure does make valid points.

Harold Jarche said...

It was never stated that Bernadine is a school Principal in New Brunswick, though her children do attend school in this province.

Amanda Cockshutt said...

Of course she isn't a principal in New Brunswick, she would be under a gag order if she worked in this province!

Anonymous said...

I'm under a gag order, as are all teachers. Teachers are not pleased with the direction our Minister is going. He is set to drop another bombshell this week or the next. Rumours are flying!

PS - I'm anonymous 3:39

amanda cockshutt said...

Hey, anon 3:39. You're comments are welcomed and respected in this forum. We really feel that as a group teachers, both EFI and others, have very valuable information to add to these discussions. Too bad you can't do so publicly!

chris said...

All teachers should talk to their NBTA Your voice needs to be heard -1998 it was the voice of teachers that brought an end to foundation years/9-10 programme which demonstrates your power.- act quickly

Anonymous said...

The government's insistence that only the elete are in Immersion is unfounded. When French resource is available, most children can be successful in the program. There are children on special education plans in the Immersion program in schools that are fortunate to have a resource teacher that is able to work with the Immersion teachers. This is what our children need.