Different or Just New? Communicating Student Learning

Recently, BICS Vice-Principal Laura Magrath and I hosted a Communicating Student Learning Information Evening. In response to major changes to BC’s curriculum, the way teachers communicate student learning has also been changing over the last two years.

We started the information session by soliciting parent’s recollections of their own report cards. These recollections ranged from dread to excitement and they highlighted a number of things we should avoid (letters csl-reflections-2016or numbers that make people feel labelled) and what we should strive for (“specific feedback, made me feel special”; “they were a good measure of where to improve”) in our newest iterations of written reports.

In my mind the new Communicating Student Learning written reports which will be sent home with students on December 16 are a vast improvement over our previous report cards. When reading and using the report card, I hope families notice acc-csl-2016nd find useful these five elements of the CSL documents.

 

First, the reports are very clear on the foundational skills. For primary reports (Kindergarten to Grade 3) and intermediate reports (Grades 4-7), students are given clear descriptors for a student’s abilities to read, write and use numbers to solve problems. In the primary report, the terms beginning, developing and acquired are used as descripcc_csl_2016_2tors referring to varying levels of support required for a student to demonstrate the skill assessed. The descriptors are based on the idea that all students can be successful; it is a matter of how much support they require to be successful with our goal of students becoming independent. At the intermediate level, the terms beginning, developing, acquired and exceeding are used. The terms are designed for parents to know precisely which areas of learning the student needs to focus on in the terms ahead.

Second, the reports focus to a greater level on what students can do. Many of the learning objectives identified in the primary report as Concepts and Content and in the intermediate report as Curricular Competencies refer to the skills needed for a specific subject; i.e. what skills does a scientist or a historian need? This focus on what the child can do aligns nicely with our feeder school Rockridge Secondary School which uses a report which places a strong focus on what students can do, with limited focus on what the student knows.

Third, the reports also give a clear picture of the big ideas and concepts students know about and understand. Transformational learning is learning that will affect how a student approaches, processes and understands future experiences. Transformational learning is often perspective shaping. When a student develops a deep understanding of big ideas, which are chosen because they are timeless and transferable, the learning can often be transformational. Therefore, while the most important and longest lasting takeaways from elementary school are skills (personal and social, reading, writing and using numbers to solve problems), understandings are still vitally important and readers of the report will see the topics and content of students’ inquiries clearly stated.

Fourth, the reports continue to include information on a child’s social and emotional development. In the opening comments, in Core Competencies (for intermediate reports), and in other fields, teachers share information on the child’s social and emotional development. Schools share the role with parents of supporting a child’s well-being and development of personal and social skills. In the opening comments, teachers also refer to an aspect of our school goal of students developing their learning character so parents will find comments related to a child’s development of Responsibility, Openness, Ambition and Resilience (ROAR).

Fifth, areas of growth for each student to help foster a child’s independence and confidence are very clearly identified. The Supporting Student Learning (primary) and Ways to Support (intermediate) sections of the report give a concise explanation of learning that the child needs to focus on as well as some strategies for school and home to support these needs.

In addition to the comments from teachers, the reports also include reflections from students. BICS teachers will be refining student reflections throughout the year so as to accurately and authentically capture student voice on the process of learning. Our hope is for students to thoughtfully reflect on the process of their learning: were they committed to the strategies identified to achieve their learning goals? Were they successful not just in achieving their goals but more importantly in having the responsibility and resilience to stick to a plan to achieve them?

Teachers, school administrators and school district staff have worked hard to develop written reports that add to the strategy of communicating student learning. We hope these documents, in addition to parent/teacher conferences, student-led conferences, and ongoing feedback in the form of assignments sent home, phone calls and emails, help families understand the progress of their children. This year, all of our K-7 reports are considered pilots so we will be seeking further feedback throughout the year to ensure we are providing the most useful tools to communicate student learning.

 

Click below to see the slide deck from Laura Magrath for our presentation to parents on November 30.

csl_2016

A Survey of Student Learning

The maxim, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts,”* holds much truth when it comes to “report cards,” but what teachers are mandated to report and also choose to report suggests to parents what many of the priorities are for student learning at each grade. Similar to the way a school’s blog reveals what is important to the school, so does the report card reveal key areas for student learning.

What follows then, is both of those things: a blog post surveying some of the learning outcomes found in reports ranging from kindergarten to Grade 7.

Prior to the conclusion of each term, I review each report, something I have done enough times now to be impressed by the extraordinary diversity and depth of learning at BICS but not surprised by it. The reports capture just a little of the remarkable experiences students have in their classrooms and beyond learning about interesting and often complex things and using what they’ve learned to, among other things, learn more.

In reviewing reports this term, I’ve pulled one learning outcome from each grade as well as an outcome from our wonderful music and learning assistance programs. My hope is that it offers the reader a very brief look at the breadth of what is learned at BICS.

 

Kindergarten – Speaking and Listening

  • use speaking an listening when engaging in imaginative play; such as problem solving and working co-operatively

 

Grade 1 – Attitudes, Effort, Work Habits, Social Responsibility

  • consistently models respectful behaviour and acceptance of others’ differences

 

Grade 2 – Fine Arts

  • began to use simplification effectively, to create artwork in the styles of Lawren Harris & Ted Harrison

 

Grade 3 – HACE/Physical and Health Education

  • describes practices contributing to healthy living (e.g. exercise, healthy eating, friendships, sleep)

 

Grade 4 – Thinking Competency

  • reasons and uses logic to explore, make connections, predict, analyze, generalize and make conclusions

 

Grade 5 – Language Arts

  • recognizes oral traditions in First Peoples’ culture and identifies how story connects people to land

 

Grade 6 – Socials Studies

  • evaluates how geographic challenges and opportunities affect the development of societies

 

Grade 7 – Math

  • competently uses mathematical operations to determine a monthly budget

 

Performing Arts – Music

  • can create, notate, and perform rhythmic solos while following a musical form

 

Learning Support reports

  • Segmenting, manipulating, and blending vowel and consonant sounds in words

 

In selecting the learning outcomes above, I tried to pull diverse outcomes – math, language arts, performing arts, etc. In reviewing the reports, however, I looked for some patterns that might reveal how our school is doing with some key priorities identified in our School Growth Plan and Aboriginal Education Plan: inquiry-based learning, self-regulation, critical thinking and aboriginal education. There are far more effective ways of determining how the school is doing in these areas – visiting classrooms and speaking with students being one of them – but what did the general scan of K-7 reports reveal to me about these priorities?

Learning outcomes about timeless and transferable concepts and references to “Fascination Time,” “Genius Hour,” and “Passion Projects” made it clear that students were pursuing inquiry, whether it be teacher-led or open inquiry, often. In opening comments and in various sections, it was obvious that not only is self-regulation a key feature of each classroom at BICS, it is also being reported on frequently. Whether it be found in socials studies or explicit references to the “Thinking Competencies,” it was obvious that developing students’ skills as critical thinkers and asking them to uses these skills is a key area of learning. Lastly, students are learning about Indigenous Peoples frequently. Whether it is in Language Arts learning about oral stories teaching about the land, or learning about cultural characteristics and traditional ways of life in Socials Studies, the many references to Aboriginal Education found in BC’s new curriculum were also obvious in the K-7 reports.

I am proud of our School’s progress. And in reading reports, I can’t help but feel a strong sense of satisfaction in knowing that each of the many bullets on a report card, simple words on a page, had some powerful learning experience behind it – perhaps a beautiful work of art, a field experience to a National Historic Site, a memorable visitor, help from a dedicated staff member, or simply a student’s persistent effort – and that each of these experiences provided a sense of accomplishment and the satisfaction of learning.

 

*This quote is attributed to both Albert Einstein and the sociologist, William Bruce Cameron.

What is new in BC’s New Curriclum

This post was originally published on the BICS Blog.

It has been said, “The only constant in life is change.”

That statement certainly holds true in education, perhaps now more than ever.

Last week, BICS Vice-Principal Laura Magrath and I spoke to parents about BC’s New Curriculum as part of our BICS Open House. Our staff has been learning about and working with what until recently has been termed the “Draft Curriculum” for two years and I have been sharing information with our BICS PAC and writing blog posts on the topic since November 2013. But the “Draft” stamp has recently been removed from the curriculum and it is now referred to as the New Curriculum so we felt it was a particularly important time to share aspects of the New Curriculum with parents; particularly three important changes.

This post summarizes some of the key messages of that presentation. For the 2015-2016 school year, both the “old curriculum” and New Curriculum are usable documents. In 2016-2017, what is taught in Kindergarten to Grade 9 classrooms will be based on the New Curriculum only.

Prezi_15

For purposes of explanation, the curriculum can be divided in two parts:

1. What students understand and know à this is termed Content in the New Curriculum

2. What students can do à this is termed Core Competencies and Curricular Competencies in the New Curriculum

 

Three Key Changes

1. Content – What Students Understand And Know à Start with the big picture.

The “old curriculum” was organized by themed learning outcomes. For some time, teachers who have taught with an inquiry-based approach to learning have tried to discern the essence of the learning outcomes. Teachers would find themselves asking, What’s the big idea here? Beyond facts and figures, what is the concept or understanding that students will take away from this unit of study that they can apply to future learning situations?Big_Ideas

The New Curriculum starts with the big picture. Ideas and theories are presented as Big Ideas and from there the content, which is used to develop an understanding of the Big Ideas, is articulated. As suggested by the name, Big Ideas are greater than what can be covered in one subject in one grade. So, many Big Ideas are repeated throughout many grade levels as students develop more sophisticated understandings of theories and ideas.

2. Competencies – What students can do à Competencies are key.

While all people need a level of general knowledge to understand themselves, others and the world, knowledge is easily lost; skills less so. For example, most people likely have forgotten many of the facts, figures and ideas they learned in Grades 1 and 2, the age when they were learning to read. But people don’t forget how to read.

2015-03-19_0946In the New Curriculum, Competencies are key. The content, while still worthy in its own right, is a vehicle to develop two types of competency.

The first type of competency are the Core Competencies – Communication, Thinking and Personal and Social. The Core Competencies are not subject or grade specific. It is thought any learning activity can demonstrate and develop some or each of the competencies. As learning is a lifelong endeavour, the competency continuum is also lifelong.

The second type of competency is Curricular Competencies. These are subject specific skills; for example in Science, Questioning and Prediction as well as Planning and Conducting experiments, are curricular competencies

3. Communicating – How Student Learning is Communicated

As part of our transition to the new curriculum, in terms two and three of the 2014-2015 School Year, many BICS teachers used language from the Core Competencies in their opening comments. However, the report card looked identical to previous terms and did not reflect the changes that have been made to the curriculum. Kindergarten and Grade 4 reports will look very different in 2015-2016 offering space for Core Competency and Curricular Competency assessments. Further, as reflecting on learning is essential, there is space on the new reports for student voice and reflections. Further information will be shared by Director of Instruction for West Vancouver Schools Lynne Tomlinson regarding a change of reporting for Kindergarten and Grade 4 students in 2015-2016, and a change for all elementary school students in 2016-2017.

While this curriculum signals a major change in BC education, it is also a response to the innovative work being done in classrooms across BC including BICS. The Curriculum will support the work we started long ago – inquiry, self-regulation and critical thinking – and also push us to examine and evolve in other areas of practice. Change truly is the only constant in life, and so to in education.

Making Use of the Core Competencies

Many of our efforts at Bowen Island Community School (BICS) to transition to the new draft curriculum are focusing on understanding and making use of the Core Competencies: Communication Competency, Thinking Competency, and Personal and Social Competency.  This is not easy work and my understanding of the competencies continually shifts thanks to conversations with educators at BICS and in #SD45PLN.2015-03-19_0946

Below, shared in green, are three understandings I think will affect the way educators and students make use of the competencies.  In blue, based on the understandings, I share how the competencies can be used by teachers and students.

1.  The Core Competencies, the Draft Curriculum notes, “are sets of intellectual, personal, and social and emotional proficiencies that all students need to develop in order to engage in deep learning and life-long learning.”  The competencies are not subject-specific (subject-specific competencies are called curricular competencies, i.e., the scientific method in the subject science), they are transferable and often applicable to all areas of learning.

Most learning experiences can develop some facet(s) of one or more of the competencies.  While teachers are always mindful of developing literacy and numeracy foundations, in my experience as a teacher I have sometimes planned lessons and assignments with too great a focus on knowledge acquisition and not enough focus on what students would be able to do, or to do better, as a result of the lesson or assignment.  When planning, the teacher can examine the competency facets to ensure what students can do is a core part of the lesson or assignment.  The facets may even broaden or simply make explicit the range of abilities students can develop.

2.  The competencies are a continuum which a person develops from the moment they start learning to the moment they stop learning.  In other words, they are not limited to a student’s experience in K-12 education and the profiles of each competency are not intended to align with any grade level expectations; for example, it is not expected that all students have reached profile level 3 in the Personal and Social Competency by grade five.

It is not important to focus on what profile level students achieve because a students level will vary from task to task.  Profile level 8 for the Communication Competency does not mean “A+” or exceeding expectations.  Students should also know that experiences outside of school, such as participating on a sports team or attending a community event, develop competencies.

3.  Following from point 2, the profile levels within a competency are more pertinent to the task assigned to the student rather than the student’s performance in the task:  some tasks only require the development and demonstration of a certain level of competency so regardless of how competent a student might be as a communicator, the task itself may be limiting to what the student does.

The competencies are helpful for self-assessment.  But self-assessment when using the competencies is more about assessing the task and the opportunities the task offers the student to demonstrate and develop the competencies than it is about assessing the student’s performance in demonstrating the competencies.  In other words, self-assessment is more about understanding the task and what competencies the task makes use of and develops.  Therefore, a major, if not the major, part of self-assessment happens prior to starting the task when the student assesses the task and identifies what abilities they have, or need to develop, to be successful at the task rather than after completing the task where the student evaluates their performance.

In summary, teachers can use the competencies to design learning experiences that effectively develop what students can do, not just what they are to know.  Teachers have long used learning outcomes and the Performance Standards to ensure planning developed students skills as well as understanding but determining what facets of a competency might be applicable for a task allows teachers to broaden the purpose of learning tasks and provides language to articulate this purpose clearly.

Students can use the competencies to understand a learning experiences:  beyond what knowledge and understanding they are to gain, how is the task intended to make the student a more capable/competent communicator or thinker?  What skills do students already have that they should apply to the task?

The key to planning for teachers and to self-assessment for students is to have a strong understanding of the end in mind.  While I am not yet certain how students will be assessed or self-assess the competencies for reporting, or even if they will do so, what is clear is that educators can make use of the competencies for planning, and students can make use of the competencies to understand tasks and their purpose.

The Immeasurables

Each year, many students in Grades Four and Seven around British Columbia participate in the Foundational Skills Assessments (FSAs) which is followed in the springtime by a report by the Fraser Institute ranking schools based on the results. Each year, there is plenty of talk among parents and educators as to how the school rankings capture only a part of what elementary students learn and the effectiveness of schools.

While foundation skills of reading, writing and numeracy are inarguably fundamental to the purpose of elementary education, there are frequent conversations as to the many “immeasurables” schools are responsible for that foster the well-being of children related to their social, emotional, and physical health.

In my years in education, I have noticed an increase in expectation and appreciation for schools’ roles beyond primary levels in developing the whole child, focusing not just on academic success but social, emotional and physical development as well. Experiential evidence and academic research suggest that educating the mind cannot be done effectively without a strong social and emotional foundation.

It is fortunate that as awareness and expectations of the importance of schools doing more to educate the whole child increase beyond academic development, many of the “immeasurables” are now being measured and shared with the schools, districts and communities that are responsible for the development of children.

Some of the work of measuring is being done by the Human Early Learning Partnership at the University of British Columbia. For several years, the Partnership has been utilizing the Early Development Instrument (EDI) to measure core areas of early (pre-kindergarten) child development that predict adult health and positive social outcomes.

More recently, the Partnership has started implementing the Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) for children ages six to twelve. Recently, the Director of the Partnership, Professor Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, spoke to school leaders in School District 45 about the MDI and the focus of this post will be on some of the results of the MDI for the community of Bowen Island.

A survey was administered to Grade Four students at BICS last spring with the intention of measuring children’s overall health and well-being. The phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child,” is recognized in the survey so it analyzes assets within a child’s community, including at the child’s school, that support their overall health and well-being.

The assets within the school and the community that are recognized as supporting overall health and well-being are summarized (not in order of importance) as (1) supportive relationships with adults, (2) supportive relationships with peers, (3) participation in enriching after-school activities, and (4) proper nutrition and sleep.

As the community of Bowen Island considers how we are setting our students up for success, it is worth analyzing the data from the MDI – available here. The rest of this post will be divided in three sections: first, assets that promote development; second, some of the results of these assets on students’ well-being; and third, my conclusions from reading the report.

Assets

Asset 1 – Supportive Relationships with Adults

  • 97% of students report having medium to high connection to adults at school (86% high; 11% medium)
  • 86% of students report having medium to high connection to adults in the neighbourhood (67% high; 19% medium)

Asset 2 – Supportive Peer Relationships

  • 84% of students report having medium to high sense of peer belonging (68% high; 16% medium)
  • 84% of students report having medium to high level of friendship intimacy (67% high; 17% medium)

Asset 3 – After School Activities

  • 94% of students report watching less than 2 hours of television per day (22% report watching no television at all)
  • 98% of students report being on the computer less than 2 hours per day
  • 89% of students report participating in an organized activity (sports, music, arts) 2+ times per week

Asset 4 – Nutrition and Sleep

  • 97% of students report having breakfast (3 or more times per week)
  • 81% of students report having meals at home with family 3 or more times per week
  • 84% of students report having a good sleep 3 or more times per week (68% high; 16% medium)

The MDI summarizes the percentages of children reporting each of the assets in the form of a puzzle. In the puzzle to the right, the percentages include students who report “a little true” or higher to questions related to each of the assets.

Overall Health & Well-Being

The well-being index shared below summarizes student responses related to feeling happy and optimistic, having high self-esteem, general health, and little sadness. Students were asked to share their sense of these attributes on a scale of 1-5 (1 = disagree a lot, 5 = agree a lot) where average responses less than 3 were considered low, and average responses 4 and greater were considered high.

My Conclusions

In reviewing the data, there were few surprises and few alarm bells as to the assets BICS and the community of Bowen Island are offering children. The community is, in comparison with the neighborhoods in the rest of the School District of West Vancouver and the other districts in the province I reviewed, doing well. However, one cannot help but have some concern that 25% of students report low well-being.

In considering what to do with the MDI report, there are no glaring deficits or assets needing particular attention but the high percentage of students reporting low well-being suggests there is plenty of room for improvement, and regardless of result, we may as well always be oriented toward improvement.

The key takeaway for me though is not just in the results. It is that the school and community generally should be reminded often of the key assets that have been identified as promoting the positive development of children and to ensure we as a community are deliberate in promoting these assets. In many ways, the statements that students were asked to respond to are more enlightening than the answers as it is the statements in the survey (“At my school there is an adult who really cares about me.” “In my home, there is a parent or another adult who listens to me when I have something to say.”) that reminds us of our purpose and the importance of our roles in schools and communities.

It will be interesting as the survey is implemented in coming years to track progress, note trends, and identify needs of varying cohorts. It is fortunate that the “immeasurables” are being measured.

Note

This blog is not intended as a summary of the MDI report (its results or how the results were acquired) for Bowen Island or School District 45. MDI results for various districts can be found here.

Further Reading

Click here to read about the importance of sleep from Catherine Ratz, principal of Irwin Park Elementary School.

Moving or Wandering?

Tolien ImageIn a recent blog post, I referred to Bowen Island Community School as a “moving school.”  As I was writing the post, I shared it with my colleague Laura Magrath for her input.  She suggested I clarify the word “moving.”

Her concern was that “moving school” might suggest simply moving from trend to trend without taking the time and expending the required energy to implement anything of substance.   If schools are planes and educators are its passengers, this would be like flying around the world, touching down on various runways but taking off before anyone has had a chance to disembark and learn about a place beyond what they could see in brief moments below the clouds.  Lots of energy is expended in such sightseeing but little is gained.

The ambiguity of the word moving encouraged me to clarify between moving and wandering.

As individual educators, it pays to wander broadly:  to read blog posts, learn of the latest trends, experiment with strategies.

It is best, however, for schools not to wander.  Implementing change in a school requires a significant amount of time, energy and inertia, and if not done well or without follow-through, innovation too often feels like adding to practice rather than evolving practice, of increasing workload without increasing student achievement.  A wandering school means that broad changes may be made, but likely not deep ones.

So, with all of the opportunities to improve the education we offer students – new curriculum, insights into brain research including executive functioning and self-regulation, access to new tools for learning – how does a school ensure it does not, in an effort to “keep up with the times,” wander from one great initiative to the next without spending enough time to do any of these initiatives well?

I have far more thinking to do on this and it is central to my professional growth plan for at least this year but my first thinking on this suggests there are three keys that help a school move rather than just wander.

The first is to clarify what the drivers of change are – goals for students – and what the strategies are to achieve goals.  In other words, to start, as educators have long known, with the end in mind and then look at strategies to achieve those ends.  To move, alignment of strategies towards well-articulated goals is needed.

Regarding being clear on goals for students, the new BC Curriculum, currently in draft form, clearly articulates what students are to know and understand as well as the skills – or competencies – students are to develop.  The core competencies – Thinking CompetencyCommunication Competency and Personal and Social Competency, as well as a focus on foundation skills – literacy and numeracy – provide an ideal starting point for any discussions as to the validity of instructional strategies or tools for learning.

The second key is to identify whether professional learning is an evolution of practice or a revolution of practice.

Evolution, as I am referring to it, means doing similar things better; revolution means doing things markedly different.  Evolving practice is, inherently, constant and there is a tremendous capacity among educators as learners for evolving practice.

If it is a revolution in practice, doing things markedly different, it is worth assessing what existing practices are being replaced and can be discarded to “make room” for significant changes.  It is not common where entire practices are so far off the mark as to be discarded outright but changes in how students are assessed, and how student progress is communicated as related to the core competencies noted above, will likely involve a revolution in assessment as educators do more than simply adapt to the profiles of the core competencies, but instead change significantly.

It is important, through the measurement of school goals, to recognize a staff’s capacity for revolutions and to engage in evolution constantly, but revolutions infrequently.

A third key is recognizing that the crucial element of innovation is follow-through and that follow-through takes time.  A school’s growth plan may be in place for several years and this does not suggest stagnation.  Engaging an entire staff to pursue an initiative – and to do it well – is a far less facile process than individual learning and the inertia generated through collaboration takes time to develop and even more time for the benefits of this inertial to be fully realized.

As a new principal, I have been asked what kind of stamp I will put on the school.  I will work with our school community on the evolving vision for BICS and school-wide initiatives, keeping in mind our goals for students and where we are at in achieving those goals.  I believe it is important to find a balance between incorporating insights into learning and being responsive to the changing world we are preparing students for, with ensuring that educators have sufficient time to truly move on the agreed upon core strategies.

Similar to how students are encouraged to learn deeply and how teachers offer time and space for that to occur, schools must also take time to go deep.  Often, continuity in change is needed.

I am interested in learning more about the keys to moving on innovations rather than wandering between innovations.  Please consider commenting below on how this is done.
Further Reading and Viewing:

For an interesting perspective on the art of wandering, click here to read Sean Nosek’s blog.

Click here to read Chris Kennedy’s post, “Less But Better.”

And for an example of a true revolution in education related to student discipline shared with me for a laugh recently by a BICS parent while I happened to be writing this post, click here.

A New Beginning?

In January of 2005, I started my teaching career at Bowen Island Community School.  It was a temporary assignment, just six months, teaching Grade 6-7.  After leaving BICS, I taught Grade 5 for several years at Ridgeview Elementary School before returning to BICS as vice-principal in 2010 to carry on my teaching career and begin my career as a school administrator.  Now, in January 2015, I have the honour and privilege of leading BICS as principal.  So, in many ways, BICS has been a place of beginnings for me.

But will the change of principals at BICS be a new beginning for the school and, if so, a beginning of what?

At first thought, it might seem ungrateful and naïve to suggest that the school will carry on just fine without the thoughtful guidance and inspirational leadership of BICS’ now retired principal, Jennifer Pardee.  But so much of Jennifer’s work at BICS was to create a shared vision for the school involving students, educators and the community and to build capacity in staff to pursue innovative approaches to teaching and learning.  So, while Jennifer will be deeply missed by the BICS community, professionally and personally, much of her leadership has been to foster conditions for continued success after her retirement.

Over the years, I have heard BICS described as a “moving school.”  A moving school is one that has very clear priorities and where there is buy-in from staff to develop and implement strategies and tactics to achieve those priorities.  In other words, a “moving school” is an improving school.  Current research, insights from experience, as well as technological innovation, have created many opportunities for schools to move forward on several key initiatives.  At BICS in recent years, there has been a greater focus on social and emotional learning, aboriginal education, self-regulation, and a restorative justice approach to student conduct; there is increased access to digital technology, and our school iswell on its way to an inquiry-based approach to learning where students practise and develop critical thinking skills and mindset.

We are certainly not at the beginning stages of any of these initiatives but they will each continue to guide the work we do for years to come.  I will use this blog space, as Jennifer and I have done over the last several years, to write about our school’s progress.

So there is much to be continued, but there are other changes on the horizon in BC education; there are new beginnings.  The BC Ministry of Education has released a new curriculum, currently in draft form, that BICS will transition to in coming years.  The curriculum is a major redesign that articulates what students are to know and understand in a way that supports inquiry-based learning (I have written on this aspect of curriculum here), and will change the way student learning is communicated with a focus on three core competencies – Thinking Competency, Communication Competency and Personal and Social Competency (I have written on this topic here).  Our school is well-positioned to transition to this curriculum as we have been focusing on many of its core elements – inquiry, critical thinking, flexible learning environments – for years.

What students need from their education to be successful in a rapidly changing world and insights into how people learn means that the vision for BICS will continue to evolve as we strive to provide students with the most relevant and effective learning experiences we can.  But as the BICS staff is deeply invested in many initiatives, at this time of transitioning principals, at this time of a new beginning for me, consistency for the school in pursuing the initiatives in which we are immersed, in doing them as best we can, is needed.

Change is certainly upon us at BICS, but change is nothing new in a moving school.