As New Brunswick's Liberal government abolishes early immersion, English parents are taking to the streets to loudly oppose the move
INGRID PERITZ , From Monday's Globe and Mail, March 31, 2008 at 4:44 AM EDT
FREDERICTON — Not so many years ago, when English parents in New Brunswick held rallies to protest about French, it was to complain there was too much of it.
But across the province this month, from Saint John to Moncton to the capital of Fredericton, hundreds of anglophones have massed together with a passionate rallying cry: We want more French, not less.
They wave placards proclaiming: "We want to be bilingual!" and "We love French!" They stand on the steps of the New Brunswick Legislature giving anti-government speeches in both official languages.
These New Brunswickers are the children of Pierre Trudeau's vision of a bilingual and bicultural Canada. And the focus of their protest is the ticket they think gets them there: early French immersion.
The Liberal government of New Brunswick has decided to abolish early immersion, and will begin phasing it out this fall. The move has triggered an unexpectedly fierce backlash in Canada's only officially bilingual province.
"Canada looks to New Brunswick for its language integration. We need to integrate the two languages, not separate them," said Gail Arseneau, a Fredericton nurse who has two children in immersion but whose kindergarten-age son won't have access to the program come fall. ...
Click here to link to the article.
Monday, March 31, 2008
As New Brunswick's Liberal government abolishes early immersion, English parents are taking to the streets to loudly oppose the move
March 29th, 2008
Moncton Times & Transcript
The New Brunswick Liberal Government’s drastic and reprehensible elimination of early French immersion learning in New Brunswick schools will stick like stink to that party for many years. And not only in New Brunswick, but everywhere in Canada and abroad. Make no mistake, this is no efficient adjustment to school pedagogy. It is the rasping down of the learning of French to base levels where success will be described as: “able to utter minimal sentences.” Somewhat like the French I learned in Montreal’s Protestant schools in the 50’s, absolutely abysmal lip service sops, given out with no intent of success. The Liberal Party will be rightfully tarred with this travesty, an almost criminal act of replacing the best practice learning of a second official language with a retrograde system, as much to appease the old CORE seethers in the Education Minister’s riding as to actually provide learning.
This decision, engineered by a somewhat language-biased education department, and supported by just one hastily concocted study (so flawed as to be laughable) is an historic insult to the very foundations of the country. The deplorable state of all education in New Brunswick, smack at the bottom of a very long list of provinces in almost every subject, is being excused as the result of the cancer of early French immersion growing within its breast. Evidently, with this cancer now surgically removed, new hope for New Brunswick as a land of high-ranking math and literacy scores is assured.
What a cynical, deceitful and malicious scapegoating of the most effective method of learning French. Throughout history, the scapegoat methodology has always remained the same. Blame something that is a minority, easily attackable, has angered some within the majority, and which can be positioned as the reason for our own failings. Critical to the scapegoating is that it allows the bureaucracy to cover its own very substantial ass.
All of this mischief may be sufficient to graduate the New Brunswick Liberal Government into that select listing of language bottom feeders including those proponents of the Manitoba School Act in 1890, an Act which destroyed French as an official language in Manitoba, and which precipitated the rise of language radicalism in Quebec. How ironic that 118 years later a group of English people fighting to protect the proven best way for their children to learn French, is being opposed by the Party of Laurier and Trudeau. And long after Liberal politicians finally realize the curse of presentmindedness their BlackBerry’s bestow on all who tap and click, voters will remember the perfidy and shortsightedness of a principled Party reduced to pandering to the base instincts of its population.
Graham Watt, Sackville, NB
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Marianne White, Canwest News ServicePublished: 7 hours ago
The New Brunswick government's decision to axe the early French immersion program could hurt the reputation of Canada's only officially bilingual province and revive language tensions, many experts believe.
Premier Shawn Graham has decided to drop the program that currently begins in Grade 1 as well as mandatory French classes for anglophone children in favour of a more intensive French program for all students starting in Grade 5.
The decision has proven to be unpopular with many New Brunswick parents - francophones and anglophones alike - and also with teachers and university professors across the country.
But many second language experts stress that early immersion is inarguably the most effective way to teach children a second language and the solution that delivers the best results. "That is a real loss for New Brunswick children," added Helene Deacon, a language and literacy professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax. "They are losing out on this really strong program that has positive outcome early and they are trading it for a later program that is going to be universal," she said.
Experts also believe the New Brunswick government will keep facing serious and increasing opposition over its decision. "This issue is not going to go away quickly," said Geoff Martin. "The government is hoping it will blow over, but I think we have only seen the beginning of this debate."
For the complete article click this link.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
This is a letter published in the Telegraph Journal, March 29, 2008.
The debate over the fate of early French immersion is of historical significance. The Graham government is bold to venture into these turbulent waters, but they are sailing without a map and showing stubborn disregard for obvious danger.
Make no mistake. The entire country is watching. We must get this right. When I say "without a map," I am referring to the use of the Croll-Lee Report to make decisions which will deeply affect the lives of thousands of children. In this era of global positioning systems, this is the equivalent of using a sketch on the back of a napkin. The report has been roundly criticized by the majority of scholars who have read it as unscientific at best and misleading at worst. Some map. The stubborn disregard of danger is Minister Lamrock's complete refusal to respect the opinions of a legion of experts on language and education.
Early French immersion is a jewel in the crown of Canada's just society. We can be proud that even in a have-not province, we can offer this gem to our children. I feel deeply for the parents who are watching this great privilege being taken from future generations. Premier Graham, ministers Murphy and Boudreau, I applaud your government's courage for trying to tackle this difficult issue. However, it is not an exaggeration to say that killing early French immersion will be a crime. I pray that you will choose not to go down in history as accomplices in this tragic mistake.
Dr. ANDRÉ TOUCHBURN
Saturday, March 29th. Edward Greenspon, editor of the Globe and Mail questions the reasons behind Minister Lamrock's decision to end Early French Immersion. See a few excerpts below:
"The speed with which small children pick up a language is hardly disputable.... Again and again, solid research has confirmed this phenomenon.
Yet the government of the only province in Canada that has declared itself bilingual is acting in defiance of this gift of nature."
"It will be a grave national setback if the Fredericton government does not change its mind."
Friday, March 28, 2008
25 March 2008
Dear Mr. Lamrock:
I am writing with concerns regarding the elimination of the Early French Immersion Program currently available to students in New Brunswick.
I have 18 years experience in the public school system as a Teacher, Consultant, Vice-Principal and Principal. This experience has provided me with a profound understanding of the many complexities facing our students and school system. Due to budgetary and personnel constraints, I know that it is very difficult to meet all the needs of all stakeholders. I also know that it is impossible to please everyone, and therefore difficult decisions must be made.
I am hoping that all decisions that are being considered are based on correct, peer-reviewed data, not merely perception or public opinion. To remove the only program in New Brunswick which is attaining the provincial goal of intermediate French proficiency is not using data to guide decisions. Teachers are encouraged to use data to guide teaching and practices; unfortunately, this philosophy is not modelled by the New Brunswick Department of Education.
To remove the Early French Immersion Program to address problems of streaming in the English Core Program is inappropriate. It does nothing to assist the students who are currently struggling within the Core System. Early identification and support, regardless of the language of instruction, is necessary. All New Brunswick students have access to the EFI program, therefore the D.O.E. and school boards must do a better job of presenting EFI as a viable program for all learners, regardless of ability. I understand, unfortunately, that Principals and teachers may
encourage/discourage students from entering into the EFI programs. This is not sound educational practice. It is the responsibility of the D.O.E. to ensure accurate information is presented to all parents.
I challenge your department to find one peer-reviewed, international, longitudinal study which indicates that second language acquisition impacts negatively on first language skills. If this were truly the case, New Brunswick students who do not have access to Early French Immersion in their neighbourhood schools would do statistically significantly better on Provincial Literacy Assessments. I know this is not the case. Early French Immersion students consistently score higher on literacy tests as language acquisition is transferable between (or among) languages. Current studies indicate that students who are struggling in their first language benefit from the explicit instruction in a second language setting.
I also have concerns regarding the statement that all children entering grade 5 would be enrolled in the Intensive French Program. As I am certain you are aware, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the right of Canadians to be schooled in their first official language. Based on this fundamental right of all Canadians, it would be impossible to insist that all students take Intensive French. Therefore, the problem of streaming of two programs would continue. Unfortunately, the Intensive French students would not achieve the level of oral proficiency as the EFI students. A change for the sake of change (or political perception of "fixing" a problem) is never acceptable.
In closing, I would ask that you and your department make the best decisions for students in New Brunswick. As there are needs with inclusion, address those needs. Do not dismantle a successful program to provide the perception of making sound educational decisions to assist the struggling Core classes.
I anxiously await your reply.
Bernadine Conron, M. Ed.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
OpEd submitted to Times & Transcript
The Minister of Education tells the CTV news (19 March) that “There have been 15 years of reports that say right now we are teaching too few kids French effectively, and those that aren’t learning French are streamed into classes where they can’t learn”. He stresses that “years of reports have done that”. Apparently the inability of Department of Education bureaucrats, school district administrators, principals, and teachers to rectify the situation and propose a reasonable solution has lead the minister to a new proposal: he will put that responsibility on the shoulders of some ~1600 six years olds who were planning to enroll in early French immersion in September. These well trained education experts (after all, they made it though kindergarten) are being sent to Core classrooms throughout the province to fix all of the classroom composition problems that have evolved over the years. It is somewhat troubling that not only will these kids not be paid for this job, they’ll actually be paying. The price will be foregoing the opportunity to acquire advanced proficiency in French through public education. Their chances of ever landing jobs requiring bilingualism will be slim. It’s not actually clear how these kids will effectuate the changes the minister says they’ll bring about, but I guess we’ll have to rely on their extensive experience.
All tongue in cheek aside, the elimination of early French immersion is unlikely to have any real effect on the problems of the core program. There are no proposed changes to the K-4 curriculum. There will still be the same number of disruptive students in the province. Instead of 5 “exceptional” children on average per grade 1 core class of 22 students (as there would have been were EFI to continue), there will now be 4. We are told that this is going to bring about massive changes to the program. It is hard to imagine how, especially since more than half of K-5 schools in the province won’t be affected (only 44% of these schools currently offer EFI). What is clear is that this group of kids will be less proficient in French when they graduate from high school.
Dr. Amanda Cockshutt
A recent job posting from NB Dept of Ed shows that the government is pushing ahead at full speed (a speed not considered normal for this Department) on its abolition of EFI. The job competition closes on April 15th.
The Anglophone Division of the Department of Education, Fredericton, is seeking the services of two learning specialists to collaboratively assume lead responsibility for French Second Language in the Educational Programs and Services Branch.
Working with colleagues in the Department and school districts, curriculum committees and other interested partners, the successful applicants will have lead responsibility for the development and implementation of curricula in French Second Language. One learning specialist position will focus on Intensive French and Post Intensive French; the other position will focus on Late French Immersion and English as a Second Language.
Successful candidates must possess a thorough knowledge of research and best practice in the teaching of FSL. Experience with Intensive French and French Immersion will be considered an asset. The learning specialists will assist in coordinating training opportunities in FSL methodology, will review print and non-print resources to support the prescribed curricula, will organize any needed piloting of the resources and will process resulting recommendations. They will communicate curriculum changes and initiatives to district office personnel and, upon request assist with professional development. The learning specialists may have opportunities to work with FSL education groups and organizations within and beyond the province and to represent the Department of Education on various inter-departmental and regional committees.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Copy of a letter sent by J.A. Burnett to the Premier, Minister Lamrock, and NB papers.
Dear Mr. Lamrock,
Did it ever occur to you, when you set foot on the path you have chosen with regard to FSL options in the New Brunswick school system, that you would find yourself beset by such a storm of determined, energetic, and well-prepared opposition? Perhaps it did. You have not been one to shy away from challenges in the past and you may well have knowingly adopted as your motto, "Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead!"
In some circumstances - when it turns out to have been right – such bravado can be admired as courageous. In others - especially when it turns out to have been wrong - the judgment of history is that it is merely foolhardy. I greatly fear that your present course, if you hold to it, will be judged to have fallen into the foolhardy category, at great cost to the province and to the political fortunes of the present government.
Fortunately, there is still ample time to withdraw that misstep. Not long ago, you stated your hope that the Lee-Croll report would stimulate an active debate. It has done so. In the course of that debate, a large number of knowledgeable individuals - scholars, teachers, lawyers, community leaders, and concerned parents – have offered reasoned critiques of the Commissioners' methodology and sensible, constructive alternatives to their reductionist "one size fits all" conclusion. The evidence against adoption of the report's proposals is compelling and comprehensive.
When experts in statistical study and analysis can demonstrate with such ease that the commission's statistical methods and assumptions are repeatedly flawed and misleading, it is time to reconsider.
When thoughtful and well-informed observers of the provincial school system point out that the 'streaming effect' decried by the commissioners actually results from the failure to provide adequate resources for special needs children in EFI so they may claim their birthright as New Brunswickers to a bilingual education, it is time to reconsider.
When the evidence of world-class school systems in Europe demonstrates the value and efficacy of early language teaching in producing young people who are fluent not just in one or two languages but in three and four, it is time to reconsider.
When even public officials like the Commissioner of Official Languages and the Provincial Ombudsman go on the record to state their grave misgivings about the wisdom and appropriateness of the commissioners' recommendations and the manner of their adoption, it is time to reconsider.
As the Minister responsible, you have the option and the power and the privilege to reconsider, to examine the alternatives that are now before you, to engage in a genuine dialogue, and to demonstrate leadership in arriving at a broadly acceptable resolution of this complex issue - one which includes the reinstatement and enhancement of Early French Immersion as the keystone of a school system of which we may all be justly proud in the not-too-distant future.
I urge you to do so.
J.A. Burnett, Sackville, NB.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Sunday, March 23, 2008
by Andre Levesque, St. Stephen
Ever wonder how a seasoned debater would try to defend the proposed changes to French Second Language education in New Brunswick. Look no further than our Minister of Education, Kelly Lamrock. It’s true. In high school Mr. Lamrock won a number of national debating competitions, and the evidence for this is not hard to find. For instance, Mr. Lamrock has, on at least two occasions, changed the premise upon which he recommends eliminating Early French Immersion. This represents debate tactic number one. When the Croll and Lee report was first released, the reasons for eliminating EFI were high attrition, poor achievement of French proficiency results, high cost of the program, and lower literacy scores of Core students as a result of streaming. The statistics used in the report were quickly shown to be biased, misleading and inaccurate. A review and recalculation of the statistics has led to alternate conclusions. Attrition in high school is equivalent between Late and Early Immersion, the highest French proficiency scores are attained by Early Immersion students, Early Immersion is actually more cost effective than Late Immersion, and literacy scores of EFI and Core students are essentially equivalent in grades 2 and 4. Mr. Lamrock quickly altered the premise for his objection to EFI, stating subsequently that EFI actually teaches French very well, but that under the present model of FSL instruction, only 20% of all students are receiving quality French education. Why then would you want to eliminate the only program that you are now admitting is working well? In a recent article appearing in the Times & Transcript on March 21/08 (Change is best route to a bilingual New Brunswick), Mr. Lamrock has once again altered the focal point on this issue. The article represents a personal consideration of the merits of simply increasing more resources versus improving structure (adopting a universal way to teach French) as a means to remedy FSL woes. Which do you think Mr. Lamrock demonstrates is most reasonable? Unfortunately, the entire exercise represents a false premise as few people, if any, would subscribe exclusively to either solution. Regardless, Mr. Lamrock invokes additional examples of debate tactics to solidify his position.
Click on this link to see the rest of this article
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Letter from Andrea Wilson:
I wish to express my intense opposition to Minister Kelly Lamrock's recent decision to abolish our province's Early French Immersion program. I do not question his well-meant intentions, however I cannot condone his decision. I am convinced that he has not extrapolated nor fully understood the implications of this decision.
Displaying considerable restraint, I will limit my focus to the one issue which causes me the most angst.
Exposure to language diversity plays a vital role in promoting racial tolerance and a harmonious embracing of cultural diversity. Early introduction to multiculturalism not only fosters the acceptance of racial, linguistic and cultural differences, but ideally, these differences are no longer perceived as threatening but conversely, as enriching. Given the reality of our increasingly blended cultural communities, it would seem in all our best interests to promote harmony and understanding.
Kelly Lamrock has reintroduced a truly devisive issue into our province. Whereas the majority of Anglo and Franco NB citizens have been coexisting in relative harmony, Lamrock has chosen to once again polarize the two solitudes. By implying that the EFI program is elitist, that this pro-French program is causing streaming to the detriment of other anglophones, he has reignited a dormant yet radical anti-French mentality. It seems to me apt, in this holy week, that Minister Lamrock has chosen to resurrect the the age-old English/French biases.
Congratulations Mr Lamrock. By ignoring respected academic research, by predetermining the outcome of your own study, by refusing to give due diligence to citizens who object to this decision, and by force-feeding us in an accelerated time-frame ...You have managed to place the entire Province in a state of turmoil and adversity. You have made a farce of our claim to be an officially bilingual province. And your government wishes to reverse the "brain-drain" and attract immigrants? Why on earth would they chose to come here?...or stay here?
Andrea Wilson, Sackville, NB
Mr. Lamrock, spend taxpayers' money on educating students and not on newspaper ads justifying your decision
The government is now running ads in all the major newspapers in NB. They are extolling the virtues of Minister Lamrock's decision and presenting some fascinating "facts" about how well everyone will do under the new plan, ignoring the fact that they have no evidence to back this up. Please see page 4 of this Saturday's Times and Transcript as an example. Is this at taxpayers' expense and coming from the Department of Education's budget? Considering we hear that the Department of Education doesn't have enough money to effectively deliver programs in both languages, why are these scarce funds being used to justify a bad decision based on bad information?
Thursday, March 20, 2008
From John Higham is this commentary in the Telegraph Journal:
Perhaps exploring how the Croll and Lee logic would be applied to another topic facing the province can help us understand this point of view. Let's examine obesity from the Croll-Lee perspective.
For immediate release
Fredericton, March 20, 2008 The Official Languages Act of New Brunswick states that it does not apply to the Department of Education. This in fact limits the power of the Commissioner of Official Languages to investigate complaints with respect to the operation of the education system. The Act, however, does provide him with the authority and the responsibility to promote the advancement of both official languages. It is based on this part of his mandate that Commissioner Michel Carrier became involved with FSL reform in the province, beginning with his own review, the details of which were included in his 2005-2006 annual report.
The Commissioner has been speaking in favor of improving FSL for many years. He made presentations to the FSL Commissioners to this effect last fall and was instrumental in ensuring that the Federal Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, and others appeared before the FSL Review Commissioners as he believed these people had valuable information and insights to share. The Commissioner also spoke directly with the Minister prior to the launching of the departments FSL Review, following the release of the Review and prior to the announcement in the Legislature last Friday. Mr. Carrier attempted to convince the Minister that the abolition of the early Immersion program was not the right course of action. He pointed out that there are a number of expert recommendations that did not seem to have been given the proper attention during the review process.
While the Commissioner does not take issue with the Minister's right to bring about needed changes in the education system, and while he recognizes the fact that the Minister has been available to meet with him on this subject, he cannot support the decision to remove the Early Immersion program from the FSL curriculum. "There is no doubt that the system is in need of reform", adds the Commissioner. "However, like many others who have come forward, I am not convinced that this is the way to go. Indeed, experts in the field have confirmed that there are many options that could have been considered other than slashing the early immersion program."
As his mandate does not allow him to investigate complaints related to the ongoing FSL controversy, the Commissioner is encouraging New Brunswickers who are unhappy with the government's decision to contact the Office of the Ombudsman. While policy issues and decisions are generally in the domain of the legislators, the suggestion that the immersion changes are more administrative than legislative and, moreover, that the Commissioners' work was flawed, brings about questions of due process, an issue that falls squarely within the Ombudsman's purview. As well, the Ombudsman's role as Child and Youth Advocate mandates him to examine the impact of the changes on New Brunswick's children.
"It is now essential that New Brunswickers share their concerns with their government," Mr. Carrier said. "In addition to letters to the editor, MLA's and the Minister, they can also contact the Office of the Ombudsman. For my part, I intend to continue exerting whatever influence I have to convince the provincial government of the need to re-think its decision."
-- 30 --
CONTACT PERSON: Giselle Goguen, Director of Public Affairs and Research, Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick, (506) 444-4229, 1-888-651-6444 (toll-free), e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Forwarded e-mail from Dodie:
Plans are now in the works to provide transportation for those of us from Sackville who have committed to going to Fredericton on Thursday, March 27 to protest the decision to eliminate Early French Immersion on the steps of the Legislature. If you are going, and you would like free transportation (many thanks to Canadian Parents for French!!), please e-mail me as soon as you can. We will need to have a more or less solid idea of numbers by Monday. Buses seat 47 people -- I am quite sure we can fill at least 3 from Sackville alone!
The protest will start at noon, so departure time will be at approximately 9:15 AM (place of pickup will be the parking lot on Lansdowne Street across from the Curling Club). The protest is scheduled to go from noon to 3:00. That means returning to Sackville by about 5:30.
Please dress appropriately for the weather, and bring food and refreshment with you. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. If you intend to take your child out of school for this protest, please let the school know the reason your child won't be in school that day! Every administrator needs to know how much support there is for EFI!
Also, if you are bringing your children, please make them aware that there will (hopefully!) be media in attendance. That means that there might be opportunity for them to interact with media in both French and English -- a great opportunity to show the minister through the media that our children are in fact quite literate in BOTH languages!
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
EFI Concerned Citizens’ Meeting
Monday, March 17, 2008
Chaired by: Amanda Cockshutt, Diana Hamilton and Matt Litvak.
- Information was presented on the CBC Forum on French instruction at the Capital Theatre.
- Diana and Matt did a brief review of the errors in the Lee/Kroll report.
Discussed were options for immediate action:
- Media blitz.
- Letter writing blitz. All were asked to send a print letter (not electronic) to all MLAs, Kelly Lamrock, the Premier and to copy all correspondence to the blog.
- Continue with Marshview Middle School petition started by Rosemary Cockshutt
- E-mail Mount A students to inform them of the report and changes to EFI
- Protest in Fredericton
- Identify a unifying slogan
- Demand the resignation of the Minister of Education
- Revisit the provincial charter on bilingualism
- Revisit the federal Heritage Act
- Blitz each MLA office in the province
- Investigate the legalities that there was no disclaimer on the EFI application sent to Kindergarten parents: Does this constitute a signed contract?
- Investigate the possibilities of litigation as an intention to mislead the public
- Investigate the necessary changes to the Education Act
- Lobby Liberal Memramcook MLA, Bernard LeBlanc for support
- Parent petition
- Contact all New Brunswick MPs for support as there may be a federal election soon, particularly Dominic LeBlanc
- Investigate the impact that the loss of EFI will have on Sackville’s designation as a Cultural Capital
- Contact the NB Ombudsman office
Concrete ideas to move on immediately:
Protest in Fredericton
Tintamarre March in Sackville
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
March 18th, 2008
To: Moncton Times and Transcript
I must congratulate Kelly Lamrock for bringing that neo-con tenet: "If I don’t use it, you don’t need it" to provincial Liberal political thought. This deliniation will assist me in furthering my distance from the provincial party in future. It is embarrassing to hear Premier Graham proudly touting “Canada’s only bilingual province” in execrable French, while simultaneously gutting its most effective early French immersion programs as if they were so much fish offal. There’s a kind of stench to this whole thing, no doubt the partially-cooked statistics from a biased study purpose-built to destroy Early French Immersion programs in New Brunswick. None of the occurring changes make any sense if a higher degree of bilingualism is sought in New Brunswick. Only if one looks at the political advantages does such a meaningless and ill-thought out plan begin to make sense. Poor New Brunswick. Poor Dick Hatfield and Louis Robichaud, their achievements trashed by political bunglers. Welcome to the Endarkenment.
Graham Watt, Sackville
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Education Minister Kelly Lamrock announced today that effective in September, Early French Immersion would be eliminated in all NB schools. Students will receive no French instruction until grade 5, and immersion will start in grade 6.
Previous interactions with the Minister
We had a number of discussions with the Minister last fall regarding early French Immersion, and in his last email to us he indicated that he had no plans to eliminate the program. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the Croll and Lee report changed his mind. This is troubling, because he is basing his decision on a deeply flawed document. There are significant errors in analysis and interpretation throughout (see the pdf link for details). When the numbers are dealt with correctly, there is almost no evidence to support their conclusions, and ample evidence to refute them. We sent this analysis to the minister a week ago (Mar. 7). He responded thanking us and indicating that he and the public would benefit from it. Since then, he has not attempted to refute our analysis and has simply ignored it. More importantly, he has also ignored advice provided by FSL education experts. The government has commissioned several reports in recent years. The most recent, done by Sally Rehorick in 2006, was never released. She recommended strengthening EFI to make it more accessible to all students. Is this a situation where the government simply kept requesting new studies until they got the one they wanted?
Response by Patricia Lee to our comments:
Patricia Lee, one of the authors of the report, sent a brief rebuttal of our analysis to CBC. In it, she indicated that their analysis was not intended to represent attrition rates, but merely to indicate how the number of students in French Immersion declined with advancing grades. She claimed that they could not calculate attrition rates because of limited data. We respond with the following:
They DO refer to these as attrition or “drop out” rates throughout the text. This CANNOT be determined if you don’t consider how many students you started with – it is simply mathematically wrong. They specifically do compare “attrition” (their version of attrition) rates between the two programs, and generate a biased result because of the method they used. An example of her comments:
“When examining Table 12 (“Comparing FSL Early and Late Immersion Registrations for Grades 9 through 12 between September 2004 and 2006”), once again someone is attempting to use the numbers as “cohort data”. It was/is not the intention to demonstrate anything other than the fact (using 2007-7 as an example) that the registrations in 2006-7 indicate that 37.22% of those registering that year in grade 12 in Early Immersion compared with those who registered in grade 9. Similarly, the grade 12 registrations were nearly 70% of those who registered in Late Immersion in grade 9 in the same year.”
Compare this statement with a quote from the original report:
“ Table 12 provides a comparative view of the success rates of the two programs in terms of the attrition rates from the two programs. Not only are the proportionate attrition rates approximately twice as high within the Early Immersion program, the net completion numbers are significantly (α = 0.05) lower than those of the Late French Immersion program.”
They ARE talking about attrition rates (or at least say they are), and they are simply wrong.
She also stated that the proportion of EFI students who successfully completed the provincial test at Advanced level or above was based on the number who enrolled initially, and that it was not a function of those who took the test.
We would very much like her to explain this statement. Of course they have used initial enrollment as the denominator in this calculation. The point is that they based success solely on whether or not a student passed an optional test. The numerator IS a function of how many took the test. This is obvious.
A particularly unusual criticism:
“Note that those reviewing the table have made a rounding error in the calculation at the bottom of the first page of his review. Using the same cohort from Grade 1 through Grade 5 shows a decline of 476 (from 1822 to 1346), resulting in a decline of 26.13.”
The number we presented was 26.1%. Not exactly a massive problem (and not even a rounding error based on standard mathematical practice). However, in future we will set no limit on significant digits….
Ms. Lee did not attempt to respond to our conclusions on achievement levels, streaming, or costs.
Questions for the Minister:
Given the importance of this decision, the minister should be expected to explain it, and in particular explain which parts of the report are so convincing that he needed to act in this way. Doing anything else suggests a disregard for the residents of this province, and in particular for the children he is damaging with this decision. The stakes here are very high – he is jeopardizing the future of an entire cohort of children based on fundamentally incorrect information, and we need to know why.
In view of this, we request that the minister answer the following questions:
1) Was this report reviewed prior to release? If so, by whom?
2) Specifically which criteria did he use to arrive at his decision? Which data in the report did he view as supporting this decision?
3) Did he consider or even read our analysis of the report, and similar documents prepared by others?
4) Why did he allow such a short time (2 weeks) for consultation after the report was released? Was he concerned about flaws in the report becoming too obvious? Was he trying to cut off debate?
5) Why did he ignore all previous studies by documented experts?
6) Why is he not willing to commit the resources necessary to make EFI accessible to all students?
7) Why is he not replacing core French with Intensive French, and leaving EFI in place? This approach would have the best chance of producing the desired result.
8) Is this a purely financial decision? (If so, he should consult our analysis…)
We invite the Minister to respond to these questions, and would welcome the opportunity to engage in a discussion of the report and its conclusions.
Where this leaves us:
The Minister has said that his goal is for 70% of students in the province to communicate effectively in French. He has set this level at intermediate proficiency. He has abandoned any effort to reach advanced proficiency (which a good proportion of EFI students currently do). Intermediate proficiency is defined as follows on the Department of Education website:
Able to satisfy routine social demands and limited work requirements. Can handle routine work-related interactions that are limited in scope. In more complex and sophisticated work-related tasks, language usage generally disturbs the native speaker. Can handle with confidence, but not with facility, most normal, high-frequency social conversational situations including extensive, but casual, conversations about current events, as well as work, family and autobiographical information. The individual can get the gist of most everyday conversations but has some difficulty understanding native speakers in situations that require specialized or sophisticated knowledge. The individual's utterances are minimally cohesive. Linguistic structure is usually not very elaborate and not thoroughly controlled; errors are frequent. Vocabulary use is appropriate for high-frequency utterances, but unusual or imprecise elsewhere.
It appears that a goal of having 70% of our graduating class capable of minimally cohesive utterances is acceptable to the Minister. We wonder whether it is acceptable to New Brunswickers, especially when it comes at such a high personal cost to the hundreds of students who will no longer graduate as truly bilingual citizens.
Monday, March 10, 2008
We have created a webpage at hamlit2008.googlepages.com that contains a detailed review of the Croll and Lee NB FSL Report.
We are very concerned about the number of errors in their report. This is particularly alarming since they are advocating the elimination of Early French Immersion in NB Schools. This radical recommendation is based on data analyzed in their report. We maintain that their analyses are seriously flawed and that the data do not support their major recommendation.
Please view our site and draw your own conclusions. If you agree with us, please contact the NB Minister of Education and express your concerns. He has received a copy of our analysis.
Feel free to comment.