Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Recent EFI articles, comments and letters in NB papers

August 19th
Bilingualism is a significant strength for New Brunswick--repeat of Dubé article from the Telegraph-Journal-- The Daily Gleaner
Too many unanswered questions, writes Johnson--Letter--Kings County Record
Liberals hurt integrity of political process in FSL debacle--Repeat of Miramichi Leader piece on August 18th--Kings County record

August 18th
French Immersion debacle reveals Liberal strategy--Miramichi Leader
No French for start of 2008--Letter--The Daily-Gleaner

August 16th
Francophone committee will make us better--Telegraph-Journal
Bilingualism, strength for our province--Telegraph-Journal
Questions remain about FSL--Letter--Telegraph-Journal

Friday, August 15, 2008

When Bad Research Leads to Bad Policy: The Case of New Brunswick

This opinion piece was in response to EFI policy development in NB. It was written by Philip Oreopolous who is an Associate Professor of Economics, University of British Columbia and a University of Toronto Research Fellow, Canadian Institute For Advanced Research. It was written just before the decision was announced on August 5th and unfortunately it was not printed. However, it is a great piece and it should see the light of day. I believe it is still relevant, particularly when we see what has recently been written in the Ottawa Citizen (see post below).

When Bad Research Leads to Bad Policy: The Case of New Brunswick

Governments in Canada pay a lot for research and commission reports regularly to help develop public policy. Recently, policy makers have been placing more emphasis on experimental approaches to research for determining whether social programs are worth maintaining, or whether better alternatives to current policies exist.

These methods, sometimes collectively referred to as ‘evidence based policy’, involve setting up pilot projects or using historical events that allow the comparison of groups of individuals that are eligible or engaged in a particular program against other groups of individuals that are not eligible for the program, or enrolled instead in an alternative program. The experimental approach leads to strong conclusions about the overall impact of one policy compared to another.

Most often, however, governments rely on non-experimental research to draw policy conclusions. Non-experimental reports often use surveys or interviews, without a comparison group to draw policy conclusions. This approach requires working with data that was never intended to answer the questions at hand.

Often these reports draw strong conclusions when they really should not. We are inundated with research and reports drawing strong conclusions, and it is virtually impossible to tell from reading an executive summary or listening to a sound bite whether a study should be taken seriously or not.

Taking a report’s conclusions or sound bites at face value, without initial skepticism about how the report came to these conclusions can sometimes lead to disastrous policy mistakes.

For example, take the case of French Immersion reform in New Brunswick, which I use in my Public Policy class as a case example of when bad research can lead to bad policy. ....

Click here to link to full opinion piece

More letters and comments on EFI this week

August 15th
Letters Language program another rushed decision--Telepgraph-Journal
Bilingualism and FSL are a strength for N.B.--Times and Transcript

August 14th
Immersion decision is a disgrace--Letter--Telegraph-Journal
Is everyone now happy?--Letter (little longer than the one above)--Times and Transcript

August 13th
It's not 'elitist' to want immersion program that works--Letter commenting on Margaret Norrie McCain's opinion--Times and Transcript
Parents reluctantly accept FI changes--The Sackville Tribune Post

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Is the anti-EFI movement spreading to Ottawa?

July 10th
N.B. French immersion highly segregated, discriminatory: report--Ottawa Citizen

July 23rd
The real reason we send our kids to French immersion--Dan Gardner--Ottawa Citizen

August 12th
Let's talk about immersion--Elizabeth Payne member of the Ottawa Citizen Editorial Board

"... Ottawa school officials should be paying close attention to New Brunswick's stab at reform."

This is a very strange comment since the Ottawa Carleton Board of Education did conduct a very thorough study of FSL training in Ottawa. To use NB as an example at this time is rather odd isn't it?

EFI in NB papers--Monday and Tuesday

August 12th
Can a government learn?--Telegraph-Journal
N.B. on an untested path with immersion--Times and Transcript
No French until '09--Kings County Record
Local parent pleased with govt.'s compromise on French immersion--Northern Light
Hit the ground running--Kings County Record
NBers care don't you get it?--Kings County Record

August 11th
Province urged to ensure success of French program--Telegraph-Journal
Parents encouraged to keep fighting for better education--The Daily Gleaner
Local reaction to FSL revisions cautiously optimistic--Miramichi Leader

Saturday, August 9, 2008

EFI in the news on Friday and Saturday

August 7th
Letters Louis would be proud of change: widow & The 'how' of plan is not in place--Telegraph-Journal
Government passes big test--Telegraph-Journal
Sometimes, fear of change is hard to understand--Telegraph-Journal
Bilingualism and equality--Letter--The Daily Gleaner
There is no plan--Letter--The Daily Gleaner
New plan an improvement--Times and Transcript

August 8th
More research sought on language education--Telegraph-Journal
Bullying won't be forgotten--Great Letter from Michael Wilcott--Telegraph-Journal
Let's not drop Education issue--Telegraph-Journal
The education of government--Terrific Commentary by Lisa Keenan--Telegraph-Journal
Federation supporting aspects of FSL reform--Letter--Miramichi Leader
FSL changes step in wrong direction--Miramichi Leader
My thoughts exactly--Bugle-Observer
Minister unveils immersion compromise--Bugle-Observer

Thursday, August 7, 2008

More news on the Decision -- more sober reflections

English Media
FRENCH IMMERSION IN NEW BRUNSWICK: Thinking better of it--Thank you--Globe and Mail
Rural schools may not benefit from changes--The Daily Gleaner
Immersion plan pan--Fascinating--Telegraph-Journal
Lamrock hopes for universal teaching of French--Pay close attention to the comments--Telegraph-Journal
Rural schools to miss immersion benefits--Telegraph-Journal
Remember why debate started--Telegraph-Journal
Letters EFI plan offers a balanced approach: MP--Aargggh--Mr. Murphy you could have "quietly" patted yourself on the back too--In both the Telegraph-Journal and Times and Transcript

Francophone media
Français langue seconde : Madeleine Dubé dénonce le « pas dans la mauvaise direction »--Hebdosblogue
Les groupes de francophones plutôt satisfaits du compromis en immersion--Jminforme.ca
Immersion française : victoire aigre-douce pour les parents--Jminforme.ca
La réforme suscite du scepticisme--Radio-Canada
Le programme révisé est mieux accueilli--L'Acadie Nouvelle
Immersion: bataille aux retombées inattendues --L'Acadie Nouvelle
L'avantage de la cogestion --L'Acadie Nouvelle

Thanks go to Dodie Perkin--I really needed your D-Mail today.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

So where are we now?

The Decision -- (click here to link to the revised FSL plan)

Minister Lamrock and the Liberal Government have decided that there will be a Universal K-2 Program effective September 2008. They have called this the “Universal Program K-2”. Curriculum modules will be developed to replace the current Core French program starting in January 2009 with the intent of exposing children to French and the Acadian culture during K-2. Unfortunately, at this point we don’t know what these modules will look like. After grade 2, parents will be provided a choice of enrolling their children in either Grade 3 immersion or the new “English Prime” program. As expected, he has also decided to implement intensive French for all students currently in the Core program. After grade 5, they will have the choice of late immersion or English Prime with post-intensive French.

So, where does the decision leave us? We, like a lot of other people, have put a tremendous amount of work into fighting the decision to end Early French Immersion in Canada’s only bilingual province. Was it worth it? Yes, for a number of reasons.

First, we must state that we are disappointed that the children who were registered in Early French Immersion for 2009 are not going to be able to enter that program, as we feel that they should have been grandfathered in. Further, we would have preferred a kindergarten or grade 1 entry-point with significant investment to make it more inclusive, and we worry about the untested and undeveloped aspects of the new plan. That said, the grade 3 entry-point to French immersion seems better than the original grade 6 plan developed by the government. It is our hope that grade 3, with appropriate preparation in K-2, will give children a reasonable chance of reaching advanced proficiency. We also hope that the promised additional resources will be provided to make immersion more inclusive.

Second, we have met a lot of really great people from across New Brunswick and Canada who have shared our concerns. We learned that a group of parents, grandparents and friends can, if they try hard enough, buck the system and get the government to listen to their point of view.

Third, we learned that the internet, with its ease of use and instant information transmission, is a terrific vehicle to challenge the government. Over the past 6 months the people of New Brunswick, and from all areas of Canada, have written many letters to editors, commented on-line about articles printed for and against the decision, and posted comments and proposals on the Government’s website. With email, Googledocs, YouTube, FaceBook, WebPages, Blogs and PayPal, it was possible to conduct research, engage effectively in this debate, and generate funds for a legal challenge. Thankfully, the judicial review was granted and this landmark decision forced the government to reopen this issue. Although grade 3 immersion is not the outcome we were hoping for, without the internet, our “e-voice”, coupled with a huge commitment from so many dedicated people, we expect that we would have been facing a far bleaker FSL education picture in NB than now appears to be the case.

The changes announced today by Minister Lamrock will take us down an uncertain path. Will kids starting immersion in grade 3 still become fully bilingual? Will more or fewer students enroll in immersion at this new entry point? Will streaming be made better or worse? Will having all students take the early years together result in better achievement for struggling learners or make no difference? Will all students do well with Intensive French? Unfortunately, only time will tell. The Minister is asking New Bruswickers to take a leap of faith here, which makes us nervous because it involves the education of children, but we can take solace in the fact that the leap now seems somewhat smaller than it was in March.

On a personal note, when my wife (Diana Hamilton) and I embarked on this incredibly time consuming journey, never in our wildest dreams did we anticipate what would actually transpire. Neither of us is an activist, nor an expert on the use of the internet for this purpose. While this process has been difficult at times and trying for our family, we value what we have learned and the friends we have made. We plan to remain engaged and we hope you will too.

Matt Litvak

P.S. To our friends in Sackville and elsewhere, you are tremendous. Your contributions to the blog have been much appreciated and very powerful.

Decision: Grade 3 Immersion -- unfortunately no grandfathering of EFI for 2008 grade 1 kids

I will comment later. However, for those interested here is the link to the Government's press release--Click here.

To look at the NB Government's revised FSL plan--CLICK HERE.

Decision Day

EARLY EDUCATION-- N.B. parents await answer on French immersion's fate--Globe and Mail
Liberals spend at taxpayers' expense--Bugle-Observer
Lamrock to make decision public today--The Daily Gleaner
Immersion reforms unveiled today--Times and Transcript
Today's the day--Telegraph-Journal
Letter of the day Cancelling early immersion won't fix the problem--Times and Transcript

Monday, August 4, 2008

One more day to wait for Minister Lamrock's decision

Some of the costs for removing Early French Immersion in NB:

'Maybe we'll be back in 10 years, maybe not at all'--Another family decides not to move back to NB if EFI is terminated--Telegraph-Journal