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.
Friday, March 28, 2008
25 March 2008