Act TODAY to save alternative schoolsSat Nov 14, 2009 Miss Vicky
Here's a guest blog post by one of Miss Vicky's readers. Parents and friends of Churchill Alternative School are looking for letters supporting alternative schools in Ottawa - currently the school board is conducting a review, and there is some concern that the short time frame and structure of the review will put these schools at risk. See below for links and info!
Last year my daughter was diagnosed with a learning disability. Although she is an extremely bright kid, the struggles with her schoolwork caused a lot of challenges for her at school. Her self esteem went down, and she wasn’t her happy go-lucky self. Mid-way through the year we decided that we needed to move her from the French immersion school she was enrolled in and into a new English school. We wanted a school that would be willing to work with us to provide her with the best education; would be willing to modify programs to accommodate for her learning disability; and would make her feel comfortable. After a lot of research, school and classroom visits we decided on Churchill Alternative.
The Churchill philosophy matched what we were looking for in a school.
* Children learn in different ways and at different times from things around them that interest them, from adults and from one another.
* Learning involves the development of the whole child
* The subjects we study are increasingly related to each other and it is through knowledge of these interrelationships that students gain an understanding of the world
* Learning occurs when students are agents and initiators of their learning
* Learning is shared responsibility, a partnership between children, parents, and teachers.
* Human development is a lifelong, continuous, sequential and interactive process through which each person moves at a unique rate.
Before my research I didn’t know much about the alternative program, I definitely didn’t know it was a mainstream school that followed the regular OCDSB curriculum, but now I know that Churchill is exactly where she needed to be. The school has provided her (and us as parents) with ongoing support and encouragement. Learning support teachers are integrated into the classroom, so she has always felt just like any other child in the class. The teachers have proactively modified her schoolwork to compensate for her learning disability, without sacrificing her potential to learn. The alternative approach works for her. She now enjoys school and feels successful, and her self esteem has gone through the roof.
Alternative methods might not work for all children, but it’s a choice that we’re lucky to have in Ottawa because, as in my case, you don’t know that you’ll need it until you need it. But our choice in education is being threatened. The OCDSB is currently reviewing the alternative program and there is a strong possibility that the recommendation to the Trustees will be to close the program. Which brings me to the reason for this email, we need community support from those in the areas of alternative schools, and those that aren’t and would like to see alternative schools as an option. If you could take some time between now and November 15th to write a letter or send an email to the school board and your local trustee it would be most appreciated. Sample letters, contacts, and more information can be found here.
It’s important that alternative schools are an available option to encourage and foster development of children who may learn differently. As a society we benefit from providing a choice of teaching approaches for children to grow and develop in; children who feel accepted and included in their learning environment will thrive and become more successful.
Thank you in advance!
Here's some background info Kelly provided:
Lady Evelyn's page
Great videos recorded by parents, kids and supporters
Concerns with the OCDSB Alternative Program Review
· Short Time Frame - The short length of time devoted to the review does not allow the review to fully capture the scope of the Alternative Program – they are not able to evaluate the QUALITY or DELIVERY of the program. Nor does it give the Trustees the opportunity to spend time in the schools that run the programs that they are tasked with reviewing.
· Limited Consultation with Stakeholders – During the short review time, no current students will be surveyed about their experiences in the Alternative Program. The appointed Steering Committee will also have little to no input during the review process nor will any of the alternative schools will be visited by board staff, trustees or the steering committee.
· No Expanded Research – During the review, the process will not include looking at alternative programs in other areas (for example, the very successful and expanding Alternative Programs in Toronto and Hamilton). Only written descriptions of their programs will be considered as part of the literature review. The actual quality and delivery of their programs is not considered relevant.
· Diluted Focus of the Review - The quality and delivery of the Alternative Program is not being considered in the review. The purpose of the review is described as being about “coming to a decision” regarding the alternative program, without reference to how such a decision should be made. There appears to be a disconnect between this objective and the structure of the review process. Without knowing how the alternative program functions, it is difficult to see how the review will determine how it differs from the non-alternative program offerings.
· Paper Based Review – The Alternative Review will be solely done on paper and will not take into account the lived reality of the program. For example, it is easy to look at the Alternative Program principle like "parental engagement" on paper and say that happens everywhere, instead of looking at how that principle actually manifests in different schools and programs
Churchill Alternative Mission Statement
Each child will find success, self confidence, and independence in learning. A positive atmosphere conducive to learning, mutual respect and social responsibility will exist throughout the school.
Creativity and a love of the arts will be fostered. Parents will be partners in the education of their children. Staff will engage in professional development activities creating an atmosphere of lifelong growth. Evaluation will be used by children and teachers for program planning. A sense of community will exist.