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

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