Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Letters April 30, 2008

Disgusted by N.B. behaviour
Times and Transcript
To The Editor:

As a former New Brunswicker, I feel compelled to write to express my utter disgust with how the Province of New Brunswick is currently treating its citizens, and how the government is making decisions.

I have been following the French Second Language issue since it hit the news across Canada, and I have been aghast that Education Minister Kelly Lamrock has not been held to account by the premier about his language directed at his critics.

Selfish? Elitist? Not Christian? Surely using this divisive language is grounds enough to demand his resignation.

It is also clear to Canadians that this decision is not based on any sound research or theory. It seems to me that New Brunswick is throwing away over 30 years of research on Early French Immersion and tremendous cultural gains for the sake of a few points on tests. This is just shameful.

As a former New Brunswicker, I have always held a certain hope about moving back to my home province. I now see that this is no longer an option.

Not because of the education system, but because of the embarrassing behaviour and misguided decision-making that goes on in New Brunswick.

Ruth Thompson, Ottawa, Ont.

Give immersion new resources--Telegraph-Journal

I found the editorial, "Give students equal access" quite disturbing.

The comment that a disproportionate number of early French immersion students come from families who "are better educated and better off financially" is a non-sequitur. In fact, it is inflammatory and has nothing to do with students from "less educated" families performing different from than their "more educated" friends.

Admission to the public school system has never been based on a family's net worth. If a student is not learning, it is usually because the proper resources are not available to help that student.

For years, early immersion has been starved of adequate funding; that's the underlying issue. If another reason is given, it is just spin. Students who don't require extra "help" will excel no matter the programme they're in, but their good grades do not come at the expense of lower performing students. When did achieving good grades become a bad thing?

Education expert Doug Wilms was quoted as acknowledging "the earlier a student begins learning, the better." I couldn't agree more and it flies in the face of scraping early immersion. He continues that the "results of Lamrock's reforms won't be measurable for at least a decade." No one can't wait that long, and Mr. Lamrock does not have the moral authority to implement such an experiment. He has no proven track record in education reform.

This government must turn its focus to measuring student learning rather than teaching and start building a professional learning community.


Will Premier save school system? Telegraph-Journal.

The following is an open letter to Premier Shawn Graham.

By this time you may be wondering whether or not you made the right decision in supporting your minister of education. The number of French second language experts who have gone on record opposing your minister's decision should make you have second thoughts about your support.

The minister's decision will mean that the only bilingual province in Canada will begin all French instruction to anglophone students at the age of 10. This means that children in all other provinces will begin French instruction five years before any child in New Brunswick.

Before it is too late, I recommend that you take time from your busy schedule and go visit some of the elementary schools of the province. I recommend that you take the time to sit in core French classes in grades 1 to 4. I ask that you sit in some language arts classes, math classes and science classes in both the English stream and French immersion. I ask that you do this and see for yourself whether or not New Brunswick has a segregated school system. Please Mr. Premier, go take a look and make a decision. This is too important an issue for you to do less than that.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Parents' group blasts immersion report


FREDERICTON - Canadian Parents for French came out swinging Monday in response to a report by Doug Willms laying out the case for universal French instruction.

Willms, director of the Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy, argues in the document that the elimination of early immersion will substantially boost student performance by ending the practice of streaming lower-ability children into core French classrooms.

He also told the Telegraph-Journal in an editorial board meeting last week that the province should have gone further with its French second-language reforms, by eliminating the option of late immersion and promoting a universal program all the way through to high school.

Alison Ménard, president of CPF's New Brunswick branch, called the document "a great muddying of the waters," rejecting Willms's suggestion that proponents of early immersion have "trivialized" the streaming issue.

"That is absolutely not a reflection of reality," Ménard said.

"Proponents of FSL programming have clearly said we need to find solutions to the streaming problem.

"It is a systemic, administrative problem" that could have been addressed by boosting resources for early immersion, she noted.

According to Joseph Dicks, director of the Second Language Research Institute of Canada at the University of New Brunswick, Willms's support for Education Minister Kelly Lamrock's reforms is misplaced.

"What's being proposed now is not a universal system," Dicks said, pointing out that the same kind of streaming will still occur - just in Grade 6 instead of 1. And Grade 6 is a more difficult entry point for low-ability students who may have a tough time picking up a second language, he added.

But moving to a fully unstreamed system is not the answer either, Dicks said.

"I like the idea of having some choice for parents within the system," he said.

Click here to link to article

Letters April 29, 2008, Telegraph-Journal

Parent doesn't buy EFI study

In response to Mr. Willms' opinion of EFI, it is interesting to note that he fails to recognize the fact N.B. students score lower than other provinces that have EFI. I would think this means that there is something fundamentally wrong with New Brunswick's education system, period.

I disagree that "segregation" occurs with EFI. Children don't choose their friends based on whether they are in French Immersion or not. They are more likely to hang out with kids in their own class regardless of the language they are taught. So I guess we would have to put ALL children in the same grade in ONE classroom to avoid segregation.

I am particularly fed up with hearing about the socioeconomic class of children in EFI. My children are in the low socioeconomic group. I have made the choice, available to every parent, to enroll my children in EFI. My income had nothing to do with my choice. Why lower socioeconomic parents are avoiding EFI is perhaps a subject Mr. Willms can research.

It is highly unlikely that the parents who did not choose EFI for their children in the first place will encourage their children to learn the language in Grade 5, beyond which point the ability to choose will no longer exist. Nobody, children and adults alike, want to be told they must do something.

The "reason" for eliminating EFI has changed a number of times. I just wish we could know the real reason for this decision.


MASJ Inc. support early immersion

It is fundamentally important that all residents in New Brunswick be given the opportunity of becoming bilingual, especially in light of the fact that N.B. is the only officially bilingual province.

The early immersion program is one of the best methods of insuring that children in Saint John and N.B. continue to be given the opportunity of being able to communicate in New Brunswick and Canada's two official languages.

Many immigrants in Canada and Saint John speak more than two languages. They find it unusual that there could be any limitations on those who wish to become fluently bilingual. Many jobs in New Brunswick require bilingualism. There should be the best French immersion educational programs in place so as to enable our youth to gain employment as well as communicate with other Canadians whose mother tongue is French.

There should be no compromise. The continued prosperity and retention of our youth may depend on it.

MELANA IVERSON, Volunteer Executive Director
Multicultural Associaton of Saint John Inc

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Debate is Definitely Not Over--more letters

Letters Published Monday April 28th, 2008
The Daily Gleaner

Debate not over

It may seem that the debate over the elimination of early French immersion (EFI) is dying down, but it is not.

On March 14, the Minister of Education single-handedly removed choice in education from parents. As the changes made to French second language education have not been rescinded, the fight to restore it will continue.

Part of the changes made to FSL education - in particular the elimination of EFI - is that only those children presently in the EFI program are protected, or grandfathered in, and are able to continue in EFI until Grade 12.

Since EFI begins in Grade 1 in N.B., children presently in the school system in kindergarten are not protected.

In N.B., the school system is kindergarten to Grade 12.

By allowing the 2007-08 kindergarten children to be grandfathered in, you will give the Department of Education time to consult properly with experts in the fields of language and learning, to engage citizens in the decision-making process and to prepare effectively for the eventual changes made through proper consultation.

My question to Minister Lamrock and Premier Graham is: How can you not grandfather in the children in kindergarten when they are part of the school system?

Megan Doucette, Fredericton

Letters Published Monday April 28th, 2008, Times and Transcript
Questioning minister's data

To The Editor:

On April 19, Kelly Lamrock claimed that "in New Brunswick, there are around 300,000 adults who couldn't read well enough to learn a new skill if their job changed."

Hopefully, he is not one of those adults since he is likely to need to change his job in a few years.

Although Lamrock has a plan for terminating the Early French Immersion program to mix the immersion kids back into other classrooms so that English literacy test scores will rise (maybe), it's not clear exactly why Lamrock expects this misguided plan will improve our children's education.

And how is this plan supposed to help adults who may want to change jobs?

There are 616,100 people in New Brunswick of working age who could participate in the labour force (Statistics Canada, March 2008). Almost half of the adults in this province are "Lamrock illiterates"? Hard to believe.

Most of the people I've met in this province can read quite well. Some of them used to vote Liberal, but that's another problem.

Not to be forgotten: in New Brunswick today, there are some adults who would benefit from a literacy program and deserve one. Probably not 300,000, but it's not about numbers. Anyone in this group deserves our attention.

Lamrock does them no service by swelling their ranks to score political points and then mostly ignoring their real needs. It's not clear what Lamrock is able to count correctly.

It is clear why Lamrock counts: he has been handed the opportunity to make some decisions based on available evidence. But his poor use, or poor understanding, of evidence has led to some bad decisions, like the termination of Early French Immersion.

We can hope his literacy skills are up to his next task.

Stephen Law, Sackville

Changes too drastic for usPublished Monday April 28th, 2008
Miramichi Leader - Online Edition

I am a former resident of Chatham and think that your readers might be interested in the following letter I write to MLA John Foran, Minister of Public Safety.

Mr. Foran: I am writing to you to express my opposition to your government's decision to eliminate the Early French Immersion (EFI) program in New Brunswick. I believe delaying teaching our children French until Grade 5 is a mistake. I am not alone in this belief, for many parents and language education experts from across the country have also criticized this decision.

You have shown a strong commitment to improving the life of our children, in your policing career, your membership on the District 16 School Board, and on the "Youth at Risk" committee, among other accomplishments.

What if this is a mistake, as the experts say it is?

Surely we should not be rushing into something that is such a drastic change. Also, why is the government basing its decision on a report that has shown to be so poorly done and includes basic statistical errors? There is a certain irony in this, as it is supposed to facilitate improving the education system. Mr. Bernard Richard, the provincial Ombudsman, has suggested the decision be delayed a year, and I would suggest his advice be heeded.

No doubt there are many improvements that can be made to the current system. I would like to see EFI continue and I would like to see special needs children supported in the EFI program. The children currently in the Core French program could still have Intensive French offered to them in Grade 5, as the designers of the program originally intended. If this is not a resource issue, as the minister of education has claimed publicly several times, then why was this not considered? We also need to support children from disadvantaged backgrounds before they hit the school system.

Thank you for considering these options.

Geoff Martin

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Education changes aimed at gifted children

Kelly Lamrock says system needs to ensure all children reach their full potential
A11 By Aloma Jardine, Times & Transcript Staff

Education Minister Kelly Lamrock says its time none of our students get left behind -- and that includes the gifted ones.

Lamrock says much of the focus in the education system in recent years has been on struggling students, those who need extra help to succeed.

While that is as it should be, Lamrock says the province also needs to focus attention on the high achievers who need extra resources equally badly.

In an effort to change that, Lamrock is implementing several new initiatives this coming school year.

Each week, all elementary school children -- children in kindergarten through Grade 5 -- will have a half-hour set aside specifically for enrichment activities.


Lamrock says it is difficult to put an exact dollar figure on how much these new initiatives will cost.

[Blogger's comment --- Makes you wonder how much thought went into this plan.]

Some "choice" comments from the public posted on Times and Transcript's webpage about this announcement
Let me get this straight - Lamrock kills EFI, a program that challenged children, gave them the best chance of becoming bilingual, and was open to EVERYONE. Now he is proposing to pull a FEW kids out to work one-on-one with resource teachers, but only if they qualify as gifted. Welcome to the twilight zone - Lamrock style.

22Thumbs Up 0Thumbs Down
Anonymous Reader on 26/04/08, 11:06:24 AM ADT
"We need a school system where every child reaches their full potential and that should apply to kids whose potential is extremely high," he says. "The school system shouldn't only be about lifting everyone up to a level of mediocrity, it should be about letting everyone do as well as they could possibly do.

That applies to French education too Mr. Lamrock. Your anti-french bias is showing. Why is mediocrity acceptable when it comes to learning French?

22Thumbs Up 0Thumbs DownFlag
Anonymous Reader on 26/04/08, 11:12:24 AM ADT
30 minutes. WOW! watch those high flyers SOAR!
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Anonymous Reader on 26/04/08, 12:21:04 PM ADT

What a pathetic attempt at regaining some points with parents.

Watch for it folks, it won't be long until they announce some early years French exposure... likely something as useless as this.

all in a lame attempt to quiet the outrage in the province.

Good luck with that!

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Anonymous Reader on 26/04/08, 4:41:03 PM ADT
What a dog's breakfast our education system is going to become. Is Lamrock _trying_ to kill public education in N.B.? Because if he goes on this way, I predict a huge growth in various private school options for those who can afford them, a significant outflow of our teachers to provinces that would value them (i.e. any province other than N.B.), and a completely debased educational system for everyone else.

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Anonymous Reader on 26/04/08, 11:09:55 PM ADT
Trading 90% class time in second language acquisition for 30 minutes of project learning seems an extraordinarily poor bargain. And where are we going to find specialists in gifted education? Are we going to hire them from the same pool as the additional arts and music teachers and other 8 foot tall purple people the government seems to have access to? And send pink slips to our French immersion teachers? Maybe Mr. Lamrock could start listening to parents and teachers rather than spouting off at the mouth with one ridiculous idea after the next.

6Thumbs Up 0Thumbs Down
Anonymous Reader on 27/04/08, 9:48:30 AM ADT

Click here to link to article

More great letters from this weekend

Letters to the editor Minister's 'numbers' belie education trendsPublished Saturday April 26th, 2008, Telegraph Journal

In an article by Education Minister Kelly Lamrock (Increasing literacy is a defining challenge) he writes that "In New Brunswick, there are around 300,000 adults who can't read well enough to learn a new skill if their job changed." Let's look at the inanity of his assertion.

According to the 2006 census, there are 382,970 New Brunswickers in the labour force; 344,770 of these are actually employed. Using Mr. Lamrock's math, 87 per cent of employed New Brunswickers lack the ability to "learn a new skill." No doubt Mr. Lamrock will claim his reference to 300,000 New Brunswickers included the entire adult population, but his statement refers to changing jobs, which one cannot do unless one is already employed.

Lamrock's puzzling figure may be derived from the fact that 333,020 of New Brunswickers 15 and older do not have any post-secondary certificate, diploma or degree.

To get a more realistic view of our workforce's education level, we need to look at the 25-34 and 35-64 age groups. These numbers reveal the generational trend in education. For example, 24 per cent of New Brunswickers aged 35-64 did not complete high school, but this is true of only 11 per cent of those aged 25-34.

Lamrock's absurdly inflated illiteracy figures do not serve to underscore the need to reform education in New Brunswick. They call into question his capability to interpret figures appropriately, his integrity as a public figure, and his authority to make any decisions where our children's educations are concerned.


Report questions must be answered

It was a pleasure to read the commentary "Flawed report, flawed conclusion" by Diana Hamilton and Matthew Litvak. They effectively challenged every argument Minister Lamrock used in defence of his decision to eliminate all French instruction for anglophone students until Grade 5.

I hope the decision makers in our province will take the time to read this effective rebuttal of this terrible decision.

The Croll/Lee report has been discredited by all FSL experts in the country. Most of the data analysis has been found to be wrong by a variety of academics, including 21 math professors from UNB. This error-ridden report cost the taxpayers of the province $180,000.

The spending of $180,000 is even harder to understand when we learn that there was another FSL report (Rehorick Report) commissioned and paid for by the government less than two years before the Croll/Lee report was commissioned.

One can only wonder why Croll and Lee were hired to do this study. They have admitted that they are not FSL experts. Their countless errors in the report call into question their analytical skills. Their lack of consultation with FSL experts and the obvious biases revealed through wording in the report, make us wonder whether the outcome was predetermined, in which case the wasting of $180,000 is all the more outrageous.

It is time that the whole flawed process used to eliminate EFI is questioned. It is time that the citizens of New Brunswick get straight answers from their government.


Click here to link to letters

The Liberals are right to be worried

The sleuth-- Times and Trasncript April 26, 2008


In political gossip, Sleuth's spies inside the Liberal Party of New Brunswick report that there was a meeting in Moncton earlier this week of behind the scenes members, such as riding presidents and fundraisers, as well as the party's president and executive-director.

And what was one of the hottest topics du jour? French Immersion!

Sleuth's informant indicates the heat is on "high" in the kitchen, and although nobody has been seen vacating it yet, the grassroots are mightily worried about Premier Shawn Graham's refusal to date to abandon or alter Education Minister Kelly (I've got a Report) Lamrock's changes to second language training.

While the premier and education minister are still insisting there is a large "silent majority" among the public that supports the controversial changes, the grassroots members apparently aren't so sure. Of 10 party supporters from Moncton at this week's meeting, your gumshoe hears, only three support staying the course.Seven want changes.

And at least one Liberal backroom person told Sleuth, in worried tones, that this battle "isn't partisan". In fact, he noted, it is both small- and large-L liberals who are most against the government's plan. Could be a very hot summer on the barbeque circuit for Shawn.


Friday, April 25, 2008

CEC respond to Lamrock’s statement--Bugle-Observer

Dear Editor,

In an article published April 17 in the Daily Gleaner, our Minister of Education implied that five reports have recommended the removal of Early French Immersion.

In fact, the opposite is true. Only one of these reports, the Croll-Lee Report, suggested that cutting EFI would help our schools. The other four strongly recommended that the EFI classes be provided with better resources and more Methods & Resource Teachers to help cure the problems caused by streaming.

It is baffling to ordinary citizens why Kelly Lamrock would choose to implement strategies found in a demonstrably flawed and biased report. It is therefore incumbent upon Mr Lamrock to explain to the public why the Croll-Lee Report carries more weight than the combined four other reports he has referenced.

Citizens for Educational Choice remains confident that our Premier will do the right thing, and follow the Ombudsman's recommendation to delay this decision for one year. This would allow for full public consultation, further examination of the Croll-Lee Report, and prevent our children from becoming participants in yet another educational experiment.

Robert Hoadley, Citizens for Educational Choice

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Early immersion needed

Letter from the Daily Gleaner April 24th, 2008

It took incredible vision for provincial leaders years ago to understand that for the two cultures in our province to truly live and work together, a respect for each other had to be fostered.

The early French immersion program in our anglophone schools has been the most successful of any attempt to do just that.

The academic results of the program, while impressive enough on their own, are amplified by the symbolism of growing numbers of anglophone parents enrolling their children in a program where they do not just learn the language, they learn to respect it, along with the culture and those individuals within it.

Bernard Richard's comment, that the sight of 500 anglophones marching on the legislature demanding their children have the opportunity to be taught in French, would have been a preposterous idea 40 years ago.

It makes one appreciate how far we've come in a short period of time.

Yet, here we are today and this current government is now willing to eliminate the very program that, not only symbolizes, but has effectively become the engine that has been driving the shift in our province towards a truly successful multicultural province.

The destruction of such an integral part of our social fabric in order to implement a system proven to be riddled with flaws, with little, if any, valid research to support it in such a short period of time, is reckless and irresponsible.

The government must reverse the recent French second language programing changes that were made without proper consultation with stakeholders.

We must allow all parties involved to work together to develop a coherent and effective plan to improve our education system - one which includes the early immersion program that has brought us so far in such a short time.

Sue Park, Saint John, N.B.

Discuss education and immersion issues fully

By Daylene Lumis For The Times & Transcript

As an early childhood educator (BSc.,and Montessori AMI), semi-retired after 24 years, the mother of two immersion graduates now in their 30s, a person who has lived in three countries, and an avid reader of early human development specialist Dr. Frazer Mustard and many others, this is my perspective. I am also a "come from away", only five years in New Brunswick.

Language(s) is/are "absorbed" easily by virtually all children in the same way they learn their mother tongue. They learn what they hear with precise inflection, syntax and all. They seem to absorb it like a sponge.

By about age six, our minds change, becoming more comparative and associative.

This is the age of asking, "Is Santa real?" Now we compare new information to what we already know. We begin to learn in a different way. The "absorbent" stage of life is gone forever.

Gradually our vocal cords lose some flexibility, so that by about age 12, we will no longer be able to learn to speak another language without some trace of an accent.

Gradually we mature socially in such a way that we are increasingly self-conscious, concerned with making friends and the approval of peers, especially as we approach the teen years. We are afraid of being laughed at, when required to speak in class, in front of friends. These are the hardest years to be learning a new language in a classroom setting.

These are the well researched and also easily observed realities of nature, which we cannot change.

All Chinese children speak just like their parents, and all children born to French or English families, learn these "difficult" languages with ease. (Reading, writing and spelling, of course, is a later stage.) In Moncton, some Acadian children of four or younger can be heard speaking with their parents in French, and then suddenly changing to English, much to their parents' chagrin (and a little mix of pride, perhaps). This is the advantage, or disadvantage in some respects, of the minority.

My experience growing up in rural Michigan, with one year of Spanish in high school, from a book and a teacher who hardly spoke Spanish, was not very useful. In contrast my children, born in Ontario, had the marvellous opportunity to become functionally, if not perfectly, bilingual. Both have benefited from and made use of their French.

My daughter is in a position to hire French-speaking employees. My son, who dropped French Immersion after Grade 8 to focus on entrance requirements for engineering, was soon enough in a co-op workplace in Montreal, where he improved his French. He now lives and works in Switzerland.

These choices would not have been open to them, without a very good start in French. A whole new range of friends, experiences, possibilities and fun opened to them.

My son knows a girl of eight who speaks four languages. Her mother is Spanish, her father Swiss-German, her school French, and some friends English. I have seen many similar situations in recent years.

In Europe, immersion at school has not been implemented, perhaps because, for many, it exists all around them. When people perceive the need and benefit, they are eager to learn.

Canada is a land of diverse opportunities. Why not seek them out and embrace them? It should not cost appreciably more to educate our children in one language than in another. Other problems in our school systems are not caused by French Immersion.

School boards obviously have had problems accommodating the demand for French Immersion. They have obligations to the English (only) speaking teachers already in place. It takes some years of planning to prepare teachers and teacher training to extend French Immersion to the majority who could benefit. Even young children with some learning difficulties will, in many cases, have the same difficulty in any language. If their families moved to Germany or Japan, they would learn the new language before long, with some extra help, similar to what would be required wherever they are.

However, schools cannot be expected to adapt quickly, and especially when they cannot know whether this is just a trial program, which may or may not continue. The long term commitment must be in place. Then, we need not make it elitist, though people must have a choice, for many reasons.

We should also be insisting on Junior Kindergarten, or some early programs for those "head start" advantages, and early assessments. Help given early is critical for the future lives of many.

New Brunswick has some challenges. This is not Ontario, nor even Quebec, which has taken such a lead. But do we realize the real costs of doing so little or nothing for all our small children?

Remediation given too late is more difficult, costly, and less effective. Broken adult lives cost us all in both sadness and real dollars.

On TV, we hear a real estate ad which says, "and there's a French Immersion school just around the corner." Indeed, high quality schools, with attractive programs are a major selling point for any community trying to attract people, especially professional people, and industries, to their town or region. French Immersion programs have become entrenched in many Canadian provinces, where some have been expanding for almost 40 years.

There is a history of experience and research, which has been very positive. Awareness and expectations have increased. I have heard of a doctor planning a move from Nova Scotia to Saint John who is now reconsidering because she would have to remove her children from immersion.

People care a great deal about their children.

It would not be surprising if people in Sackville, especially new faculty coming to Mount Allison, will opt to live a short distance away in Amherst, N.S., because of French immersion opportunities. We must think about repercussions such as these.

The most alarming thing is the apparent rush by the government of New Brunswick to make this decision quickly and to cut short discussion. New Brunswick could benefit immensely by discussions in our communities about, not only French immersion in our schools, but the connections among our rather "apart" communities -- French, English and First Nations.

If we can "twin" with a city half-way around the world, why not also among our communities of different heritage nearby?

We need to brainstorm for ways to all work together in New Brunswick, for a common vision of our future and the potential place of New Brunswick in Canada and the world.

* Daylene Lumis, of Sackville, is an experienced early childhood educator.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Letters to NB Editors--April 23

Cutting French--Miramichi Leader

This is a copy of letter Sister Réjeanne Bourque sent to the Minister of Education Kelly Lamrock in response to his decision to cut early French Immersion.

Dear sir, I am writing concerning the decision released on French second-language programming in New Brunswick. I am pleased with the suggestions to improve the program from Grades 5 to 12. However, I have serious concerns regarding the total elimination of French below Grade 5. Here are some of my reasons: French immersion was introduced because parents asked for it. If parents wish to choose to have their children in early immersion, why should they now be refused? It should be their decision.

In my studies regarding second language learning, I was impressed by the comments of the world-famous neurologist, Dr. Wilder Penfield of Montréal. He explained that, at an early age, children are attuned to hearing sounds perfectly, and as soon as they are able to speak correctly, they can reproduce them perfectly. As they grow, they develop a "phonological filter" (crible phonologique). The brain gradually filters out sounds which have no meaning or are not used for communication. By the age of 12, it is harder to hear correctly the sounds that are not in their native language and it is also harder to reproduce them correctly because their speech patterns have been formed. The pronunciation of children in the early grades of second language classes is delightful. This is an advantage which they carry with them into their adult lives.

Are we going to deprive them of this gift?

We boast of being the only officially bilingual province in Canada, and yet, we're eliminating both immersion and core French before Grade 5? It is embarrassing when we look at what other provinces are doing.

Although the report was rather negative, I am aware of many success stories. There are young adults who have come out of early immersion and are holding bilingual positions today. Parents have frequently spoken of traveling in French-speaking areas with their young child who acted as interpreter.

Because of the speed with which the decision to implement this was made, it leaves school districts scurrying with the displacement of teachers, the scrapping and ordering of materials, etc. as well as disappointed parents.

Your goals are lofty, Honourable Minister, but the means to reach these goals are a deep concern for many people.

Réjeanne Bourque, CND

P.S. After sending the above letter, I was invited to visit elementary classes learning core French through the new AIM method. The results are very positive and the children are enjoying it. Isn't it a big step backwards to expect them to go into the intensive program in Grade 5 with absolutely no previous exposure to French?

Differing views don't count in N.B. Telegraph-Journal

It is interesting to see that Mr. Lamrock stated that we are a minor few - the people and educators who are against eliminating early French immersion.

I guess we do not count. It's interesting to see I no longer have a choice in what type of education my kids can have.

Meanwhile, I guess my attempt to help save the environment by recycling was just money waiting for the Liberals to take and use.

Mr. Graham, your ministers appear to say we really do not have a say anymore. That, and using heavy-handed tactics in the house, apparently is showing the government's real side.


Saint John

Excuse me Mr. Lamrock what did you say?

Elsipogtog to kick-start immersion
Children will learn traditional language from earliest grades
Times and Transcript April 23, 2008

FREDERICTON - In a province where language education has been a contentious issue since the Liberal government's decision to cut early French immersion programs, a First Nations community is taking its linguistic destiny into its own hands.

The chief of the province's largest First Nation is planning to rebuild Mi'kmaq immersion programs in that community which have been decimated in past years by a lack of funding.
Jesse Simon, chief of Elsipogtog, near Richibuctou, is planning to kick-start the program with his band's share of the $40 million committed yesterday by Education Minister Kelly Lamrock for First Nations education over the next five years.

"At an early age the more languages you learn, the better the brain develops and the more worldly you become," he said, noting that fund will also be directed towards establishing more arts and sports programs that will capture the imagination of students.
"Everybody should learn a different language no matter if they are native or non-native. I think if our non-native brothers would learn our language they would have a better understanding, and I think we should learn French as well," said Simon, ...

Education Minister Kelly Lamrock said there are still many details to be looked at, but he says the Elsipogtog initiative represents exactly the type of initiative the provincial and federal government expect to see grow out of the funding.

"There is a lot of faith that school districts and band councils who are closest to the individual schools know what they need," he said.

And from one of the comments--
"Education Minister Kelly Lamrock said ... the Elsipogtog initiative represents exactly the type of initiative the provincial and federal government expect to see grow out of the funding....

'There is a lot of faith that school districts and band councils who are closest to the individual schools know what they need,' he said."

Let me get this straight: Kelly Lamrock speaking approvingly of early immersion? Kelly Lamrock saying that school districts and individual communities should be able to shape educational decisions?

Did I wake up in another dimension?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The letters keep coming --April 22, 2008

Most reports in favour of EFI --Telegraph Journal

In an article published April 17, our minister of education implied that five reports have recommended the removal of early French immersion. In fact, the opposite is true. Only one of these reports, the Croll-Lee report, suggested that cutting EFI would help our schools. The other four strongly recommended that the EFI classes be provided with better resources and more methods and resource teachers to help cure the problems caused by streaming.

It is baffling to ordinary citizens why Kelly Lamrock would choose to implement strategies found in a demonstrably flawed and biased report. It is therefore incumbent upon Mr. Lamrock to explain to the public why the Croll-Lee report carries more weight than the combined four other reports he has referenced.

Citizens for Educational Choice remains confident that our premier will do the right thing, and follow the ombudsman's recommendation to delay this decision for one year. This would allow for full public consultation, further examination of the Croll-Lee report, and prevent our children from becoming participants in yet another educational experiment.

ROBERT HOADLEY, Citizens for Educational Choice

Shouldn't MLAs know what they're voting for? asks Johnson --Kings Record

To the editor:
Recently a few friends and I had the pleasure of visiting a minister and MLA's office with concerns about the French second language programs. Our first question to this minister was where he stood on the subject .

‘I stand 100 per cent behind Mr. Lamrock,' he said. I want the people of New Brunswick to know that this minister openly admitted that he based his vote on no knowledge of what he was voting for. Many questions were asked about French immersion and the core program, and by the way, he didn't even know what core meant and neither did he understand what grandfathering out of the program meant.

He had absolutely no clue not even an inkling of what Kelly Lamrock's decision would mean for children of this province. Yet he voted to support and stand 100 per cent behind Lamrock's decision. How many other ministers and MLAs have done the same?

Let me be clear: I'm not saying these ministers and MLAs aren't good people they're probably great people just ignorant of certain issues they vote on. As a parent I can honestly say I would never put my vote on something without first making sure I knew all I could possibly know about what I was voting for.

Is it too much to ask that the government we voted for and put our trust in do the same? It shouldn't be, but I guess that's what some of them did. They supported something without first knowing the facts.

Lila Johnson, Penobsquis

Monday, April 21, 2008

Flawed report, flawed conclusion

Diana Hamilton and Matthew Litvak --Telegraph Journal
Published Monday April 21st, 2008
Appeared on page A5

The recent decision to terminate early French immersion in New Brunswick is unwelcome news for many New Brunswickers.

The centerpiece of Minister Lamrock's decision was the Croll and Lee report, released in late February. Mr. Lamrock quickly indicated that he liked what he saw in the report. Others were confused; this represented a radical change in direction from previous reports, which called on the government to fix early immersion, not terminate it. So, is this change justified?

We, and a growing number of others, think not, for a variety of reasons. First, the government is ignoring French Second Language (FSL) experts, all of whom have come out against this decision. Dr. Croll and Ms. Lee are not FSL experts. Second, we found many fundamental mathematical flaws that undermine the core recommendations of the report. Following are some of the major ones:

Attrition - ... When calculated properly, there is virtually no difference in attrition between the two programs, and annual attrition (divided over the life of each program) is somewhat lower in early immersion than late immersion.

Success rates - Success rates of the various programs were underestimated in the report. ...

... FSL experts have stated, this change [elimination of EFI] represents a significant lowering of the bar.

Costs - Contrary to what the report suggests, early immersion is not sapping resources. ...

... if you look at the percentage of French language funding devoted to the three programs (core, early immersion, late immersion) relative to the number of students in each, late immersion costs about 30 per cent more than early immersion on a per student basis.

Streaming - ... Croll, Lee, and Minister Lamrock seem to miss the important point that streaming only becomes a substantial issue AFTER late immersion students are separated out from the rest.

In conclusion, all of this is not "quibbling over numbers," as Minister Lamrock has said. The errors identified in the Croll and Lee report are so substantial that they undermine both its recommendations, which the Minister has adopted, and public confidence in its objectivity. N.B. taxpayers paid $180,000 for this effort, and we deserve an explanation of how it supports the Minister's decision.

The bottom line is that there is no support among FSL experts for this decision, and the Croll-Lee report does not deliver the required evidence.

Minister Lamrock has stated that his job is to "look at reports - all the information - and make a decision on what's best for all kids." Did he consider Rehorick et al. (2006), written by FSL experts and recommending strengthening early immersion to make it more inclusive? Further, both the Scraba (2002) and MacKay (2006) reports identified problems and recommended changes to improve inclusion, but neither recommended eliminating early immersion, and both opposed a one-size-fits-all approach.

The Graham government is gambling with our children, and they need to demonstrate to citizens that this is a good wager. Simply telling us that everyone who disagrees with them is biased for some reason or another and therefore should not be considered isn't cutting it.

With the weight of expert evidence so heavily skewed against them, we should all be demanding an explanation of what is going on in education in this province.

Our review can be found at

Click here to link to complete article

Letters | Report money could have been better spent

Published Monday April 21st, 2008 Telegraph-Journal
Appeared on page A4

While schools are struggling to finance smart boards, stock libraries and even provide text books to its classrooms, Mr. Lamrock and the Liberal government have chosen to spend $180,000 on a totally inaccurate report to support a decision Kelly Lamrock feels is the right direction for the education of our children. Now, none of the other reports that were done by actual language experts have come to the same conclusion that Mr. Lamrock has come to. That doesn't give leave me with a lot of confidence in our government. When government decides to eliminate successful programs as important as the early immersion program, without public consultation, public debate or credible reports then there is something wrong with the way this government is operating.

That $180,000 could have bought many smart boards, thousands of novels, or hundreds of text books. The two Grade 8 classes at my daughter's school are being forced to share their text books because the budget for text books was not enough to purchase one for every student. It is not easy to study without a text book.

So, when I hear that useless reports are costing $180,000, I can't help but think maybe the whole problem isn't streaming like Mr. Lamrock wants us to believe. Maybe just one of the many problems is that our schools aren't funded properly. Next time Mr. Lamrock needs a report to support his decision, he should get one with a money back guarantee, in case it is reviewed by experts as well.


Click here to link to article

Letter of the day | Is anybody in N.B. awake, or is it a bad dream?

Published Monday April 21st, 2008 Times and Transcript
Appeared on page D8

In 1972, my wife and I moved from Halifax to Moncton. We came here on a work promotion from a multinational company. After a few months, we had real second thoughts about staying in New Brunswick. The reason, as many of you may remember, was the time of English and French politicians flexing their bigotry muscles, and the highlight we all remember of a pig's head being placed upon the doorstep of one of those politicians.

Since that time, with the help of some level-headed people we started to move toward tolerance of each other. English schools began programs to learn French language with early immersion classes. Health care facilities and other government departments recognized the fairness of citizens being able to be served in their own Official Language.

There was positive progress being made. The bigoted jokes I once heard were greatly reduced and in most cases were no longer being tolerated. I am a purebred English-speaker and have educated both my children in early French immersion and they have completed high school and speak both French and English today.

However, I am now deeply disturbed by some of the latest moves of the Government of New Brunswick. It seems they have a desire to return to those old days of trouble.

The reason I say this is that the dropping of early French immersion in favour of late immersion will be too late for students to become fluent. I had French language training in Nova Scotia beginning in Grade 7 and I never learned to speak any conversation in French until I returned to Conversational French and forced myself later in life.

I believe we should be starting earlier; kindergarten; not later. ...

Governments learned long ago to divide and conquer and in that way you polarize the people to keep your party in power. However, I have learned in my lifetime that old men create and dream of wars while their young men die fighting them.

Where is the Opposition? Where is the press?

Is anybody awake or am I just having a bad dream?

Barry Burton, Riverview

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

More great letters--April 19th

Bilingualism is what makes us Canadian

Published Saturday April 19th, 2008 --The Daily Gleaner
Appeared on page B9

Pierre Elliott Trudeau had a dream for Canada: one nation, two languages and many cultures.
I, like many Canadians, hold dear the values of multiculturalism and bilingualism. In fact, I believe these values are what set Canada apart from other western liberal democracies. They are what make Canada a truly great nation. I had the opportunity to enter the immersion program in elementary school. When I graduated from high school, I was fluent in French.
Nothing has been a more integral and important part of my education. Learning a second language exposed me to new possibilities that have afforded me a level of personal, educational and social development not otherwise possible.
When I travel to any part of the world where French in spoken, I am proud to be able to express myself with ease. French is not just a language I speak; it is part of my identity as a Canadian.
It is too late for me to de deprived of this opportunity. However, I fear for the generation of New Brunswick children who follow mine; they may be robbed of this wonderful opportunity. But that is not all. The immersion program produced generations of New Brunswickers who would fulfill Trudeau's vision of a bilingual society. It produced the kind of people who would go to Quebec during a referendum to show Quebecers they spoke the language, that they cared and wanted Quebec to stay.
I believe the decision to cut French immersion in New Brunswick is contradictory to Trudeau's dream, to the vision of a bilingual society and to fundamental Canadian values.
Bilingualism may be an elusive goal. But that does not mean we should give up, as Education Minister Kelly Lamrock would have us do. No, we must keep working towards these goals; it is our duty as Canadians. If Trudeau were alive today, he would be, as I am, terribly disappointed with this retrograde decision.

Tom Cheney, Fredericton

Immersion report's authors misinterpreted the facts

In a recent letter, Mr. Harrison, noting that experts in statistics have called the recent Croll and Lee report on French immersion "laughable," reasonably wonders, "what, specifically, are the problems .... Where are the errors in the arithmetic?"
As an example, let's look at the report's fundamental arguments based on attrition, or drop-out, rates in the two immersion programs. The report's authors claim that late immersion is better because far fewer people drop out from it. The following example shows the flaw in their reasoning. Imagine a town hockey club which kids join at Grade 1, but usually don't in later years. Its board of directors note that, in 2008, there are 200 in Grade 1, 100 in Grade 2 and 50 in Grade 3. They conclude the club has a serious problem with attrition - every year half the kids are leaving, and so they're after the head coach's job.
When confronted at the annual meeting, the poor coach calmly stands up and says: "But you didn't look at how many kids entered each year. Two years ago I had 55 kids enter, last year 110 entered and this year 201. I'm not losing very many kids.In fact, the numbers show that our club is growing in popularity." He keeps his job.
Croll and Lee wrongly compare early French immersion with late French immersion, using the board's' method. Using the coach's method, the report's criticism of early French immersion disappears. So while Mr. Harrison is right that Lamrock's researchers often add correctly, they argue from the addition incorrectly.
There is one last point to be made. Because the Liberal educational changes are wholly experimental, the burden of proof lies with Education Minister Kelly Lamrock to show that they will succeed, not with his critics to show that it will not.
I, for one, think we shouldn't fire the coach.

Bruce Robertson, Sackville, N.B

Immersion decision smacks of bullying
Published Saturday April 19th, 2008
Appeared on page A10

Education Minister Lamrock has connected the opposing reaction to the submersion of the early French immersion program to the various emotional stages of the grieving process. He believes that eventually those opposed will enter the final stage of "acceptance of the loss."
Such an attitude clearly indicates that he is unaware he abused the trust placed in his credentials as minister of education when he amputated something that was alive and well before he entered the Department of Education. Following this radical surgery, he then went about unhooking any hope of maintaining a life support system for the early French immersion program. Not only are these actions comparable to a case of malpractice, they also fall within the parameters of the worst case scenario of bullying in the workplace, which is against the law in some provinces.
The Premier and the minister have also misdiagnosed the symptoms of those injured by such malpractice. For the trauma being felt is not only connected to the loss of trust in those they elected to serve the best interests of the province but to the cloud of suspicion the elected members have injected into any forthcoming agenda connected to the plans for "self-sufficiency."

BETTY RYAN, Fredericton

Citizens group looking for answers to immersion decision

By Edna Williston --Miramichi Leader
Published Friday April 18th, 2008
Appeared on page A3

Quick decisions very often prove not to be the best decisions.

At least that is the consensus of the members of a newly formed citizens group who are looking for answers from the New Brunswick government on its recent decision to eliminate early French Immersion (EFI) from provincial schools.

A decision they say that has been made far too quickly.

The group Citizens for Educational Choice(CEC) disagree with Education Minister Kelly Lamrocks' decision to eliminate EFI and are requesting the documentation relating to the decision through the province's Right to Information Act be made available to them.

"We are really concerned about why this has to happen so quickly. Why aren't we investigating? Why aren't we waiting for the Ombudsman (Bernard Richard) to look into this. What is the rush?

"This is an emotional topic for many people but I don't believe we are basing this on emotion. I think we are basing it on the evidence before us and as citizens we are not convinced that this is the best decision. What we are asking is where is the evidence this new approach is going to work?" said Burdett, "There are people in our group who are concerned about the implementation of the Intensive French program."

Burdett said the CEC is an open group and people are always welcome to what we are saying as a group is that we basically disagree with the changes that have been made and primarily with the process in which they have been made by government.

Click here to link to article

Keep fear of debate--editorial Telegraph-Journal

Published Friday April 18th, 2008
Appeared on page A6

The debate over French immersion has taken a nasty turn, swerving into emotional arguments over language that have nothing to do with education.

It's time to start separating emotion from logic, before the situation gets out of control. The government must take the lead.

Education Minister Kelly Lamrock has been treating this issue like a university debate, rather than a major policy shift with the potential to stir a powerful emotional reaction. His tendency to be dismissive, somewhat sarcastic, and deploy argument after argument without much consistency is not helping the government make a strong case.

What New Brunswickers see is the government adopting a policy ostensibly based on a report that is shot through with errors, and refusing to confront those errors or to articulate the logic behind its decisions. The government's yield-no-quarter approach is creating fear and suspicion, when what the public wants is a reasoned debate.


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Great letters from April 18th

Immersion builds critical thinking--Times Transcript

The value of Early French Immersion cannot be judged solely on the liquid fluency of its graduates.
Early French Immersion is an introduction to much more than a code of language. It is a valuable early widening of a young mind, an opportunity to broaden a perspective on cultures and to realize how big, different and wonderful the world is. It early on demonstrates how perspectives may be viewed through other prisms.
Who can say that Early French Immersion doesn't broaden the mind, make it more tolerant, and begin a lasting ability to reflect, weigh and challenge, instead of merely judging?
Early French Immersion may be the beginning of critical thinking, of learning to challenge assumptions, yours, theirs, his, hers. What better values are there for young minds to sop up? Are these reasons why Early French Immersion students go on to excel in their native language in school?
Think about it. Immersion presents exposure to critical thinking years before it's taught in history and literature. An early escape from rigid orthodoxy. We shouldn't be dropping it.
We should be expanding it, and providing support so all children can early learn these valuable things.

Graham Watt, Sackville

Lamrock, streaming and literacy--Daily Gleaner

Education Minister Kelly Lamrock repeatedly claims that the streaming of special-needs students from the early French immersion (EFI) program into the core program has a negative impact on classroom environments and, ultimately, upon assessment scores.
What is the evidence of streaming? It has been calculated that the total effect of streaming is to have five special-needs students per class in the core program instead of four per class in a combined program if EFI was eliminated.
Clearly this is not the dramatic effect that we have been led to believe.
What is the effect on assessment scores? I would direct Mr. Lamrock to review the 2006-07 literacy assessment scores for grades 2 and 4 that were included in the Croll & Lee report.
The mean scores for literacy for Grade 2: Core - 69.29, EFI - 68.23. The mean scores for literacy for Grade 4: Core - 66.61, EFI - 68.63.
Statisticians tell me that there is no meaningful difference in literacy scores between both programs for grades 2 and 4. These scores don't support the notion of a core program that is significantly disadvantaged and an EFI program that is privileged and elite.
Nor do they support the statement that many students in the core program aren't getting the attention they deserve and, consequently, are "falling through the cracks."
It's important to note that most special-needs students are in the core program by virtue of its higher overall student enrollment.
There is an additional concentration due to streaming, as noted above. However, it is also important to note that nearly all of the literacy and resource support is provided for students in the core program, and it appears to be paying off.
I hope readers will now see this for the propaganda that it represents. It should also be viewed as an insult by the literacy support teachers and specialists whose devotion is clearly paying dividends.

Andre Levesque, St. Stephen, N.B.

Bring back early immersion--Daily Gleaner

It is hard to take seriously a government which claims that our French language program can only be strengthened by cutting out the parts which most clearly work.
One must sympathize with the parents of small children knowing that they are facing a lengthy period of chaos in French language instruction. It will be years before the new program is fully introduced and more before it is so discredited that the politicians are forced to admit their mistakes.
It is not only the children who will suffer. The early French immersion option is an important part of the quality of life which attracts young professionals to New Brunswick. It has been said that "consistency is the resort of small minds." Please, Mr. Premier, show us the flexibility and breadth of vision we expected when we elected you.

Ernie and Irene Forbes, Fredericton

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Citizens for Education Choice says teachers oppose immersion change

Published Thursday April 17th, 2008; Daily Gleaner
Appeared on page A4

Citizens for Education Choice says more discussion is needed before early French immersion is eliminated this fall.

Group spokesman Rob Hoadley said the group has been contacted by teachers opposed to the idea of switching from early immersion to an intensive French program.

He said the decision didn't give adequate time for teachers and parents to absorb the proposed changes and voice their opinions.

"We ask that the New Brunswick Teachers Association and the Department of Education reopen the consultation process before rolling out these changes," Hoadley said. "Teachers were surveyed about intensive French, but not told until later about the elimination of early immersion. They were not properly consulted."

Click here to link to article

Re-establish early immersion, MP says

Published Thursday April 17th, 2008, Telegraph-Journal
Appeared on page A8

Excerpts of a letter to Kelly Lamrock.

Section 88 of the Official Languages Act provides that the Standing Committee on Official Languages is responsible for reviewing the administration of the Act.

As a Member of Parliament and Vice-Chair of the Committee, I oppose your decision to eliminate the early French immersion program. This is a serious mistake and goes against the spirit of the Official Languages Act.

Our children need to be exposed to a second language at as early an age as possible to give them an opportunity to fully develop their language skills.

Have you considered other ways to change the English education system without eliminating early immersion? I would like to know your thoughts on this matter.

Furthermore, access to education in both official languages is a basic right. By preventing parents from choosing what is best for their child, you are flouting this right. You are responsible for ensuring (New Brunswick) remains (bilingual) through a meaningful education system.

Over 300 people gathered in front of the Legislature to oppose your decision.

Over 200 complaints have been filed with the Office of the Ombudsman/Child and Youth Advocate. I have also received dozens of complaints. Do these actions not speak for themselves?
I have learned that researchers at the Université de Moncton say the study on which you based your decision is flawed and that the findings are biased.

Our children must have an equal shot at success. I urge you to promptly re-establish an early immersion program.

MP, Acadie-Bathurst

Click here to link to letter

Keep EFI: Grand Falls to plead their case in Fredericton

How will English-speaking students affect Francophone children's education?
Marty Klinkenberg Telegraph-Journal
Published Thursday April 17th, 2008
Appeared on page A1

GRAND FALLS - It is New Brunswick's most bilingual community, and one of the most fluent in both official languages in all of Canada, and Grand Falls wears the distinction like a badge of honour.

Eighty-two percent of the residents switch seamlessly between French and English, and see their little city in the Upper St. John River Valley as a model of civility. There is no tension between Anglophones and Francophones here, or at least there wasn't until the government announced recently that it is eliminating early French immersion next fall.

"At first, when I heard early immersion was being dropped, I was shocked,'' said McClure, who works as a speech-language pathologist a short drive across the border in Van Buren, Me. "And then outrage set in.

"I think it is wonderful that kids here have the gift of bilingualism, and I'm sick of hearing the premier say that people who have had access to early French immersion are privileged and elitist.

"In Grand Falls, being able to speak French isn't a privilege, it is a necessity."
McClure is so angry about the Liberals' plan that she is petitioning the government to allow the John Caldwell School to retain its early immersion program. To that end, she other parents have collected more than 500 signatures, which will be turned over in the legislature today.

Michelle Rioux, the chairperson for the Caldwell School's Parental Support Committee. "I am more concerned for the children in the community as a whole.

"In a community like this, you realize the value of bilingualism. It is one of the things that gives our children a competitive edge, and gives our community its unique flavour."

Click here to link to article

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Teachers need to speak out

Published Wednesday April 16th, 2008 , Times Transcript
Appeared on page D8

New Brunswickers need to hear what teachers think of the significant changes to the education system recently imposed by the Education Minister, Kelly Lamrock.

Teachers are on the frontline: they are the ones with the most intimate experience of what works and what doesn't.

However, to date, we only hear anecdotally that many teachers across the province have strong opinions about Minister Lamrock's decision to eliminate Early French Immersion and elementary Core French.

New Brunswick's children need their teachers to speak out, to make their views known. Parents and teachers have a common interest in a sound educational policy.

Teachers and parents must support the education system to achieve the best results. We look to teachers for advice.

We encourage teachers to join other experts in making their views public.

A press release by the president of the Association des enseignantes et enseignants francophones du Nouveau-Brunswick (AEFNB), which represents 2,400 teachers, has asked that Mr. Lamrock reconsider the recent changes to the educational system. Similarly, the Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers (CASLT) has also sent a letter to Mr. Lamrock asking him to reconsider the proposed changes. The CASLT represents over 3,000 teachers, researchers, school administrators, faculties of education, language centres, departments of education, and educational publishers interested in second language education issues.

We encourage New Brunswick teachers to make their concerns known to the NBTA (New Brunswick Teachers' Association) executive and the board of directors. Their voices are invaluable to this debate.

Robert Hoadley, Citizens for Educational Choice, Fredericton

Click here to link to this and other letters

Ferlatte – a Liberal no more

Published Wednesday April 16th, 2008, The Tribune On-line
Appeared on page A5

DALHOUSIE - Shortly after Irma Ferlatte of Pointe Verte burned her Liberal Association membership card last week, she was arguing with the provincial education minister, Kelly Lamrock.

Ferlatte is a former Dalhousie resident. She came back home April 10 so she could demonstrate her displeasure with the Graham government's decision to eliminate early French immersion, replacing it with an intensive French program in Grade 5.
Ferlatte said that she knows, from 20 years of teaching, that this doesn't make sense. In her experience, Grade 5 is a difficult year, with a heavy curriculum for the first time.

"So many things could be done if only Mr. Lamrock would let his ego go and listen to the people," she said.

Ferlatte said that this is her fiftieth year as a Liberal member, so burning her card should send a message. In an interview the day after, she said that she intends to do whatever she can to defeat the current government. She says the government won't listen to anyone and few ministers return phone calls.

Click here to link to article

Monday, April 14, 2008

Letters | Why not be passionate about education?

Published Monday April 14th, 2008 Telegraph-Journal
Appeared on page A4

I am equally offended by Shawn Graham's remarks that I am "too emotional" and Kelly Lamrock's comment that I am "elitist." The government has lowered themselves to name calling and bullying all citizens who disagree with their disgraceful decision to eliminate the early French immersion program. They show a grave lack of respect for the people of New Brunswick, not to mention a shocking disregard for our provincial ombudsman.

I have every right to be passionate about my children's education. Mr. Graham underestimates the role of parents when he assumes they could ever be too emotional about their children's well-being. As citizens of this province we have the right to both official languages.

Destroying the only program designed to achieve bilingual results is obliterating the very core of what it means to be a New Brunswicker.

In exchange for extinguishing early French immersion the government has promised additional art and music. Proper instruction of art and music requires specialized skills and expertise. Does our education system suddenly have an abundance of educators with these qualifications? Emphasis on art and music would be beneficial to children, provided it is taught with experience and appreciation so they actually learn the concepts.

Art has the ability to teach children how to learn to think creatively and make intelligent decisions based on exploration, deduction and fact. Unfortunately, these are skills our government does not possess.


Home and school voice not unanimous

There has been a lot of controversy the past few weeks regarding the government's decision to eliminate the early French immersion program. I disagree with this decision and am concerned that the government is allowed to take away our rights of choice. Whether a parent chooses to enroll their children in EFI or in an English program we should all be concerned that the government feels it is OK to do what it wants with little or no consultation with the public.

To add insult to injury the president of the New Brunswick Home & School Association, Cynthia Richards, has taken it upon herself to be a spokesperson for the membership of the various Home and School Associations across the province. I have been a member of the home and school association at a school in Dieppe since 2001 and I was in no way asked if I supported Kelly Lamrock's decision to eliminate EFI.

I just do not understand how anyone can support this. New Brunswick is the only bilingual province in the country and yet we are now the only province that no longer provides early French immersion as an option to parents. I do not doubt that there is a problem with our present system but the answer is not to eliminate EFI. Perhaps the curriculum should be dissected and then improved.

The people who are representing me (both in the government and in the H&S) are not listening!


Ombudsman acting within his role

I was more than a little puzzled by the editorial of April 5 that criticized the role of the ombudsman in respect to the decision to investigate the government's new French immersion policy. I have not been able to tell if the editorial was based on ignorance or malicious intent. Having just taught a course at UNBSJ on the ombudsman idea in Canada, and with a book on the several provincial ombudsman offices in the hands of a publisher, I can say with confidence that the editorial lacked a basic understanding of the ombudsman's role. The government's decision is clearly of an administrative nature - the implementation of public education under the Education Act. Since the ombudsman's role is to investigate allegations of administrative wrong-doings, the matter is obviously within the ombudsman's ambit of responsibility.

This does not prejudge the eventual findings of the ombudsman's investigation, let alone the final results. Rather, in a democracy, the public has the right to express grievances and the ombudsman has a responsibility to investigate.

A closer reading of the editorial, however, suggests that there was a mean intent behind the words - a bitter personal attack on the integrity of the current Ombudsman, Mr. Richard. By only using selectively a portion of Mr. Richard's announcement to investigate, the editorial distortingly suggested that the investigation was a personal vendetta of Mr. Richard's. In fact, a full reading of the announcement clearly indicates that the investigation was premised on the 200-odd complaints that he had received from New Brunswickers.

Saint John

Click here to link to letters

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Le sénateur qui se bat pour le français--The senator who fights for French

par Richard Cléroux
Article mis en ligne le 11 avril 2008 à 15:20
L’autre jour, au sénat, Segal a fait une sortie en règle. Il s’en est pris au gouvernement du Nouveau-Brunswick qui veut abolir les programmes d'immersion française en bas âge dans les écoles de la province. Pour le sénateur Segal, ça ne fait pas de maudit bon sens.

Encore moins lorsqu’on sait que le Nouveau-Brunswick est la seule province officiellement bilingue du Canada. C’est même garanti dans la Constitution. «Et maintenant ils vont éliminer l'immersion française dans les écoles anglophones», s’indigne Segal.

Quant au Nouveau-Brunswick, «j’espère sincèrement qu’ils reviendront sur leur décision».

Click here to link to the full article

It continues to stay hot out there

Here are a couple of letters you might find interesting.

Dismissing probe by ombudsman unusual

There seems no limit to which the provincial government will go to proceed with the abolition of early French immersion, despite strong and growing public opposition to it.

It is correct, as Minister Lamrock notes, that decisions of the ombudsman are not binding. But to have the executive arm of government willfully dismiss an investigation of the ombudsman, an officer of the Legislature, before it even starts is, to put it mildly, highly unusual, potentially damaging to the office of Ombudsman and a poor reflection on the reputation of the government itself.

One can imagine the reaction of the government to a public statement by a deputy minister, whose activities more usually attract the attention of that office, that he or she will ignore what the ombudsman may look into on behalf of an aggrieved member of the public simply because it is not binding.


Misleading statements in French immersion issue

I wish to point out two misleading statements Premier Shawn Graham has made regarding recent changes to the education system in New Brunswick. During the budget speech, Graham stated: "We've been accused of taking away choice. However, the status quo offers no early immersion opportunities for 60 per cent of New Brunswick students - particularly in rural communities. Where is the choice in that? Going forward, every single New Brunswick child will have access to eight years of quality bilingual education."

This is a very misleading statement, given policy 309 (French Second Language Programs) states: "A school district shall implement a French Immersion program (beginning in Grade 1 or Grade 6 or both) if there is sufficient interest such that Immersion classes are of comparable size to other classes in the community at that level of instruction."

According to Policy 309, any school could have early immersion, if enough parents sign up their children. The schools that don't have immersion merely reflect the wishes of parents.

Graham also stated: "I'm going to say it again: going forward, every single New Brunswick child will have access to eight years of quality bilingual education." This is another misleading statement. There is no guarantee any kid will enroll in immersion after Grade 5. Those who don't - the big majority I would guess - will be in something called "Post Intensive French." I don't know what this is, but I suspect it is core French or something very much like it by other name.

Mr. Premier, your statements regarding elimination of early French immersion are misleading and incorrect.

Scott LeBlanc

Strong or just plain stubborn?

Robert MacLeod COMMENTARY Telegraph-Journal
Published Saturday April 12th, 2008
Appeared on page A11

At what point in the life of a losing political issue does a politician move from hoping to appear as a "strong decision-maker" to being just plain arrogant and stubborn?

Let's put this question another way - the Shawn Graham Liberal government made a decision based on research that 21 university professors have described as "crazy." One would think that alone would cause a politician to take a second look at his or her decision.

Although the decision to axe the effective early French immersion program is only a few weeks old, the daily mounting criticism from a wide variety of credible sources is making the silver-tongued Kelly Lamrock look more stubborn and arrogant than strong. From the understandably disappointed parents to the thousands of graduates of the very successful EFI, there is an expected reaction - please don't take away a nationally recognized program that we cherish.

This is not just a Liberal versus Conservative tussle. Very clear evidence of this fact can be found in the long list of Liberals starting to line up against their leader. Prominent Liberals like Donald Savoie, former Louis Robichaud confidante Robert Pichette, and former Liberal cabinet minister Denis Losier have openly cautioned the government about this and other reckless policies.

As the opponents to this decision continue to line up one after another, and as the government continues to brush them off with soaring rhetoric about making "strong decisions," the question looms larger and larger. Who really is being emotional about this decision? As parents and concerned citizens continue to press on with facts and arguments, it is the government that turns a blind eye and by doing so displays their true emotion - they are stubborn.

The fact is that all of these people, Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, New Democrats and unaffiliateds, are appealing directly to the man who could make this whole issue go away, Shawn Graham. As the Premier of New Brunswick, he has the power and should have the ability to intervene, as he did with UNBSJ, and clearly state that he is going to listen to the will of the people and reverse this ill-conceived policy decision. The question is, will he lead?

Click here to link to article

Friday, April 11, 2008

Liberal Myths About French Immersion--Contribution #2

This is the second in a series of contributions by Bruce Robertson entitled "Liberal Myths about French Immersion".

Myth #2: The Ombudsman of New Brunswick is investigating the Liberal dismantling of EFI because of his French bias. ...

Click here to open Liberal Myth #2.

Just to make it easier for you to find Liberal Myth #1 --click here to open it.

Expect additions to this series in the near future...

If you would like to add your own myth(s) please comment on this posting.

New Brunswick: In danger of 'loosing' our language

Published Friday April 11th, 2008
Appeared on page A5

The importance of language rights is grounded in the essential role that language plays in human existence, development and dignity... language bridges the gap between isolation and community.

-Retiring Supreme Court Justice Michel Bastarache


We live in the only bilingual province in Canada. Living in a bilingual province is, however, a costly endeavour. Eliminating or changing the foundation of its structure is perhaps even more costly. I thought of this as I reflected upon the last study that dealt with the possible restructuring of French immersion in New Brunswick. In April of 2006, the provincial government released a report entitled the Quality Learning in French Second Language in New Brunswick. Its authors, including Sally Rehorick, noted,
"We are recommending a phased-in implementation of intensive French across all districts as the main enhancement of the core French programme. We caution, however, that intensive French is untested and is unresearched over the longer term...."

As a public document, the report might as well have entered the Witness Protection Programme. My copy, as it happens, arrived in a brown envelope last fall with a note referring to it as a "leaked report."


Accordingly, the UNB report recommends expanding second language immersion (particularly EFI) in education as a means of increasing the level of language proficiency for New Brunswick students. In order to reach this end, the UNB researchers (three professors and a faculty associate) recommended putting more resources into both French immersion streams but, more importantly, also recommended increasing staffing levels for the delivery of the intensive French programme.


More to the point, however, the Rehorick report clearly stated that the best way to achieve the provincial target for bilingualism was to have more second language immersion, not less.

There is no denying that New Brunswick's education system needs urgent revamping, but in making French Immersion the scapegoat for what truly ails our education system, the Liberals may be playing into a system of bigotry that we had all hopefully shut the door upon decades ago. When all is said and done, we may all end up being "Loosers."

Click here to link to article

Burn, party card, burn

Published Friday April 11th, 2008
Appeared on page A3

She has been a Liberal for five decades, but on Thursday morning Irma Ferlatte was so burned up that she quit the party. Standing across the street from a hotel in Dalhousie where the premier and cabinet were meeting with community leaders, Ferlatte tossed a placard aside and set her membership card ablaze.

"I am very disillusioned with the Liberal party,'' said Ferlatte, 71, who was celebrating her 50th year as a true Grit. "They are not standing up for what I believe in. "I invite anyone else who wants to follow suit to join me. We have to make a stand."

Like just about everywhere else government officials turn up these days, Ferlatte and several dozen other protesters turned out to rail at them for eliminating early French immersion. And the tone seems to be getting more and more angry all the time.


"I think this is just terrible,'' said Stacy Doiron, who in 1976 was among the first groups of students in Campbellton to attend French immersion. "I went to bed one night and woke up the next morning, and the program was gone. "New Brunswick is a bilingual province and we're taking away early French immersion? I just can't wrap my mind around it."


"The bottom line is that this is something that comes down to choice,'' she said. "It should be our choice as parents if we want our children to take early French immersion, and the government has taken our choice away."

A teacher for 46 years, Gertrude Harrison of Dalhousie said she is torqued by a handful of issues, immersion chief among them. "They think we're stupid,'' Harrison said. "They think they can lie to us with statistics. But it doesn't take too much reading to recognize that their report on French immersion is bogus."

Ferlatte, meanwhile, lamented the fact that the situation had gotten to the point where she felt compelled to torch her party membership card. "I can remember the year I turned 21,'' she said. "We had an election that year, and I got to vote for the first time, and I was never so proud. "But now I have never been so disappointed in a government. At times, you realize government has to do what it has to do, and you just have to live with it.

"But with this one, we're not going to stand for it."

Click here to link to article.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

'Go West' to learn about immersion

Published Thursday April 10th, 2008
Appeared on page A1

A language expert says New Brunswick has a lot to learn from Edmonton schools when it comes to effectively teaching French.

"Research proves the earlier a child starts a second language, the better,'' said Fred Genesee, an expert in second language acquisition at McGill University in Montreal. "Edmonton schools have really taken that to heart. Their students are doing extremely well in French and many even opt for other languages." Edmonton public schools offer an intensive French immersion program that starts in kindergarten.


Genesee said he understands changes were needed in New Brunswick, but said he's not certain cutting early immersion was the way to go. "The solutions the government has opted for may not solve the problems in New Brunswick," he said. "Not only that, but it sends the unfortunate message that they don't value French as much as they do English in New Brunswick."


Genesee believes New Brunswick would see similar success if it modeled a system after the Edmonton district. "A couple of French consultants, increased professional development and more opportunities for students outside the classroom, would make a big difference in New Brunswick," he said. "Why not follow the example of those who have successful French graduates and a system that works well for all students?

"I don't see how cutting a program that's had such success in other provinces makes sense."

Click here to link to article

167 words on the lasting value of EFI

The value of Early French Immersion cannot be judged solely on the liquid fluency of its graduates. EFI is an introduction to much more than a code of language. It is a valuable early widening of a young mind, an opportunity to broaden a perspective on cultures and to realize how big, different and wonderful the world is. It early demonstrates how perspectives may be viewed through other prisms. Who can say that EFI doesn’t broaden the mind, make it more tolerant, and begin a lasting ability to reflect, weigh and challenge, instead of merely judging? EFI may be the beginning of critical thinking, of learning to challenge assumptions, yours, theirs, his, hers. What better values are there for young minds to sop up? Are these reasons why EFI students go on to excel in their native language in school? Think about it. EFI presents exposure to critical thinking years before it’s taught in history and literature. An early escape from rigid orthodoxy. What’s not to like?

by Graham Watt

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Group studies its legal options

Early immersion Reversal of decision wanted ASAP

Published Tuesday April 8th, 2008
Appeared on page A1

A lobby group opposed to the elimination of New Brunswick's early immersion program is weighing its legal options. Rob Hoadley, spokesman for Citizens for Education Choice, said the group's goal is to take legal action that will affect the upcoming school year.

"We're consulting with lawyers on avenues of legal recourse," Hoadley said. "Our legal team is preparing a legal challenge to the decision. "At this point, we're just making sure we have all the documentation we need. Whatever we decide to do, it's going to happen fast."


Hoadley said he and other members of the group have been writing to MLAs, and Members of Parliament, along with sending opinion letters to newspapers throughout the province.

"We're not going away," Hoadley said of the citizens' group. "If the government thinks we've been vocal to this point, they should know we're only just getting started."

Click here to link to article.

Letters in the Telegraph Journal April 8th, 2008

Immersion changes will affect all

The elimination of early immersion is perhaps the most dramatic of proposed changes to education, but make no mistake: the minister's plan would affect all children in public schools in this province, not just those denied early immersion.

Six months from now, all students in Grade 4 core French, regardless of their circumstances, would be compelled to take Intensive French for half the year in Grade 5. Afterward, students would make the one and only choice that would be offered to them throughout their whole K-12 experience: do they want to go into late immersion, or continue with the new post-Intensive French program? This decision would be binding, unlike now.

The minister has taken to characterizing his opponents as elitist. Even if he were correct - and he is not, as the streaming he cites is the result of underfunding, not immersion - children denied early immersion would not be the only ones affected. The ones in early immersion would not be "safe-" they would stumble through a diminished and dying program. Students with challenges would be without resources. Since intensive French focuses on language use, not content, students would only cover half the curriculum usually covered in Grade 5. When would they catch up?

All children would be affected by this rushed, cobbled-together plan. They would all bear the brunt of a system-wide upheaval. And so all of us must call on Premier Graham to listen to the Ombudsman and postpone the Minister's plan for at least a year.

Saint John

Don't add religion to EFI discussion

It's Christian and right - if it works for a few, share it with the many.-" Kelly Lamrock quote (Canadian Press). I'll give Minister Lamrock the benefit of the doubt that he means well by the cliché. But, by adding a moral and religious dimension to what is essentially a policy decision about early French immersion, Minister Lamrock has crossed into dangerous political territory and trashed his credibility.

If you disagree with Minister Lamrock, the implication is that you are un-Christian and wrong. For non-religious people and people of other faiths, this is offensive and alienating. Didn't we just learn from the 2006 Census that New Brunswick still is one of least ethnoculturally diverse societies in all of Canada? As New Brunswickers, are we not supposed to be rallying our efforts towards self-sufficiency, which is dependent on the recruitment and retention of immigrants and Canadians from other provinces?

Elimination of EFI is pedagogically regressive and culturally baffling for Canada's only officially bilingual province - and, unfortunately, it provides yet another reason to avoid settling here in the 21st century.