Monday, March 10, 2008

Please read our comments on the Croll and Lee NB FSL Report

We have created a webpage at hamlit2008.googlepages.com that contains a detailed review of the Croll and Lee NB FSL Report.

We are very concerned about the number of errors in their report. This is particularly alarming since they are advocating the elimination of Early French Immersion in NB Schools. This radical recommendation is based on data analyzed in their report. We maintain that their analyses are seriously flawed and that the data do not support their major recommendation.

Please view our site and draw your own conclusions. If you agree with us, please contact the NB Minister of Education and express your concerns. He has received a copy of our analysis.

Feel free to comment.

16 comments:

Amanda Cockshutt said...

Thanks to both of you for putting together this document and investing so much time. My hunch is that the minister is seeing this as quibbling between statisticians. I feel that it is essential that we shame them into agreeing that the math is flawed, and therefore the recommendations go against the numbers they present. This has to be made public, and quickly.

I intend to write a letter to the papers this weekend explaining the streaming numbers. Perhaps we should divide up topics or issues from the review and write individual letters. I would encourage as many people as possible to act now.

John Higham said...

I too had been curious about the methods, assumptions and evidence supplied in the reportan don the policy side the lack of a larger pciture and of of examinig other options. After more of a review I prepared the note below which was sent to the departments web site on Monday, but as of now is still not included in the comments there.

To Whom it May Concern:

In the last provincial election one of Liberal platforms that resounded with the people of New Brunswick was to transform the Education system from worst to first. Such a transformational change must be evidence based, integrated with other development goals for the province, aimed at achievable objectives, and thoroughly costed.

A recent report is now being suggested as providing the basis for action in a key area of education French Second Language. While I am not a professional educator, my own review of the report finds it confirms many things about second language programs. For example it confirms

• Despite decreasing school enrolment across the country, the percentage of people choosing immersion continues to increase.
• The results of core French in the English program is dismal by almost any measure.
• Many of the long suspected difficulties in early immersion in this province have gone unaddressed for years.
• Reading performance data shows little or nor difference between immersion and non-immersion in grade two, and that by grade four immersion students show better results.
• Early immersion student results in math are better than their English counterparts by grade five.
• High school offers hard immersion choices- the French offered is maintenance rather than enhancement and the lack of French offerings mean many must either choose to graduate with their peers by moving to English, or choose to wait for French courses graduate at a later date.
• The report confirms that few finish the full 12 years of early immersion and that as a result, very few achieve the target level of full fluency at the end.
• It also confirms that despite little or no French language education for immersion students in high school, early immersion students still achieve French language results at over twice the rate of late immersion results.
• It confirms that there is almost no difference in cost per student over 12 years for any of the second language programs--core French is $49,044/student, early immersion is $51,000 and late immersion is $50,122.
• Finally the report also confirms that there is almost no hard evidence on the Intensive French approach.

There are certainly some questions deserving investigation— What would be needed in high school to achieve the full fluency objective? Can we afford or deliver those supports? Does the original fluency objective of immersion remain valid or even achievable? Should objectives be changed and if so, how do they fit in the larger provincial plan for self sufficiency, post secondary education, and labour force development? What are the experiences of other jurisdictions and practices?

Despite these unanswered questions the basic evidence of this report would lead to fairly straightforward conclusions—early immersion delivers better student performance in two languages at minimal additional cost.

But it does not.

The authors insist that post-grade nine drop outs are not a matter for review to improve the situation, but an indication of catastrophic failure of a system that must be discarded.

How do such conclusions come from such positive data? It looks to me that there are many methodological issues with this study and how it arrives at conclusions.

Is it right:
• to assume that early immersion causes “streaming” and therefore performance comparisons between French and English students must manipulate out lower scores in English classes, and then to conclude that the remaining differences while still positive for immersion, are insignificant?
• to note that there is little substantive data on intensive French pilots yet adopt anecdotes by those involved as evidence of its superior basis for second language instruction?
• to recommend a lower goal for second language proficiency without reference to a broader system for attaining fluency outside of secondary school and ignoring the costs of that addition to the system?
• to also recommend the disbandment of the only program that is meeting that proposed new goal of lower proficiency?
• to portray the marginal cost differences between second language approaches as major differences, and then not assess existing investments against the proposed new goal ?
• to ignore hard scientific evidence of early childhood education data such as that by Fraser Mustard and Margaret McCain, and replace it with an assertion that “many children are simply not “ready” to be receiving their early education in a second language”.

Early immersion is an emotional subject for many. But public policy must be informed by the best evidence we can gather. Much of the data that is in this report would actually support other policy decisions than those provided. Much of the other parts of the report seem to me to be at best incomplete.

At the very least we need to subject this study to a rigorous and independent peer review. As well the leadership of this province must look not just at the recommendations of this report, but at the actual facts of the situation and the needs of the province, before acting.

John Higham

Anonymous said...

I want to extend my thanks to you for taking the time to put this report together - it validates all the concerns so many of us have raised in terms of its validity and interpretation.

Monsters Mom said...

Thank you for putting a well informed document together. Too many people are believing and quoting the Croll/Lee report and making rash decisions against EFI. The numbers are obviously flawed and manipulated to give false results.

I can't understand why a province that pushes bilingualism and makes it nearly impossible for someone like me who is english to get a quality job, would want to get rid of EFI. It makes no sense. Children learn better at a younger age as they are not afraid to make mistakes and their minds are like empty sponges. By the time they are ready to enter middle school, learning a second language is the last thing on their minds!

To see actual results, stop by any grade 2 classroom and listen to the children speaking. They are confident and proficient enough to carry on a conversation in french and are excited to do so.

As I watch a second year LFI student stumble across words that were learned the first week of EFI, it becomes obvious that we need early french immersion. I'm sure that if students in the second year of both programs were tested (given the same test), the EFI students would have much better result!

Tenecia Ross said...

I agree!

David Fleming said...

Thank you so much for this thorough analysis of the report. I have been hoping to see a well organized review of the document and its statistics.

To me the most troubling aspect of the entire process has been the tone, which has been less than impartial. The fact that the inaccuracies in the report's numbers point in the same direction each and every time has reinforced my concerns.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I knew the comissioned report was biased, and you have confirmed it.

This is a sad day in New Brunswick.

Andrew Spring said...

When we moved to NB we were excited at the prospect of enrolling our children to an immersion program as it is important to us for them to be bilingual. However, after this report, which is false and misleading, we are deciding on whether or not to stay in NB. Losing a program with so many benefits is one thing, being lied to is another.

Anonymous said...

I am at minimum flabbergasted by Min. Lamrock's decision to can EFI, let alone ALL FSL education until grade 5. This decision makes no sense! It is not in the best interest of government, the opposition, parents and certainly not children. It will not help NB grow and prosper.

I have a daughter in a K/1 split class. She has been offered the core french AIM program this year and has learned so much, on top of all the regular English Kindergarten content, such as reading & writing English. There has been no negative to her learning because she has to contend with 2 languages. If anyhting it has enriched her learning.

I am a graduate of EFI and I want my children to attend an EFI program. My Kindergarten age daughter is registered in EFI (based on the enrolment form I sent in to the school 3 weeks ago) and I intend to hold the Dept of Education to it. If you have already sent in your enrolment form, I encourage you to join me in keeping the Dept to these.

Thank you to the writers for putting perspective on this issue and showing the biases in the Croll/Lee report.

Tessie said...

Hi! Thank you so much for this report, it's findings are very similar to another report by Dr. Paula Kristmansom and Dr. Joesph Dicks from the Second Language Research Institute of Canada. The FSL report goes against everything I have learned through numerous University courses on Biligualism, and Second Language Teaching, as well as personal experience in the school system. What worries me the most is that I know the Second Language Research Institute Of Canada was consulted prior to the report yet their expert advice was ignored and not even mentioned. I think that the recommendations at the end of this report make a great deal more sense than what the report recommends. The debate on this topic has become an emotional cess pool and people need to understand all the fact! Thank you again!

andrea said...

I would also like to extend my thanks to you for compiling this report. It provides us with valuable ammunition.

Anyone who believes that lowering the requirements for attaining second language proficiency and shortening the number of years of instruction will assist us in achieving our bilingualism goals displays flawed thinking skills. As has all too often been our experience with NB schools, lower the bar and the system will at least appear to be working. Our children are paying a hefty price for that attitude.

This is not the first time we have been confronted with this challenge and I must admit I was lulled into a state of semi-complacency this time round. The arguments supporting efi seem so obvious to me by now that I suppose I naively couldn't really believe the minister could be so easily led astray...or was he?

I am honestly wondering if this decision wasn't orchestrated prior to the report. How else can one explain why so many valid arguments, so much evidence and research to the contrary was ignored? I feel we have been manipulated and would be very interested to know what his real agenda is.

I do know that this cyclical efi tug of war we go through every few years is an effective diversion. While everyone is up in arms arguing about the merits of early, middle and late immersion, we are shedding very little light on the truly problematic issues within our education system.

Our family chose to move here to a great extent because of the existing early immersion program. We would not have done so if it had not existed and if my children were not so far along in the system, I would either move elsewhere or home-school.

andrea wilson

Sara Grant said...

Thanks for all the information!

Slogans could be -

"Bring Education to Life"

"Anytime. Anyplace. Immersion Equips."

"You deserve a language today"

"We do language right"

Thomas said...

Here's yet another idea for a slogan:

"Core French: $49K,
Late Immersion: $50K,
Early Immersion: PRICELESS!!"

Bruce said...

The report clearly began with the intent of eliminating EFI. How else could it state "the principal issue confronting these administrators is the inability to recruit and retain qualified, French language-competent teachers" as if this were evidence of trouble in the EFI programme? I understand NB is having trouble hiring good Cardiologists, too: do Croll and Lee therefore recommend we should get rid of heart care centres at our hospitals? It is difficult to recruit EFI teachers because they are being hired in N.S., Ontario, etc. into successful EFI programmes.

John Higham said...

The FSL report authors contend “many children are simply not “ready” to be receiving their early education in a second language”.
The strongest scientific evidence on early childhood development is being led by Fraser Mustard and Margaret McCain. Data is compiled in two documents that can be found on the web site of the Council for Early Childhood Development at http://www.councilecd.ca/cecd/home.nsf/pages/about

Here is an excerpt from the Early Years Study 2 (page 25) at the site:
"LANGUAGE ACQUISITION BEGINS IN
EARLY INFANCY
Early infancy is a critical period for language acquisition. An infant exposed to two languages
before seven months will be able to speak those languages without an accent and more easily
master additional languages. Individuals who acquire multiple languages in early childhood
have a denser left hemisphere of the brain than those with one language."

John Higham said...

The following letter was printed today March 18, 2008 in the Times Transcript:
"Mr Lamrock has decided to rely on suspect cost and pedagogical information on French language programs and choose a route designed to take us from "first to worst" in the second language field. Now we will be aiming to produce less fluent high school graduates at higher costs. What does this mean for the self sufficiency goals of the province? Is the self sufficiency vision based on similar quality information about an ever more unilingual labour force? Does the data suggest being competitive in global trade demands proficiency in one language? That highly qualified health and other professionals want to move to a place that provides unilingual education for their children? And that international IT service centres will be lining up for locations where staff can answer inquiries in only one language.

Maybe the new tag line already needs updating, how about: Be.. Unilingual in this place."