Awaiting final results of the province’s operational review, newly elected public school board trustees are looking to divert funding to improve math instruction and bolster resources for increasingly complex classrooms.
The new Calgary Board of Education was sworn in Friday. A chair and vice-chair will be elected as part of an organizational session, with the first board meeting set for as early as Tuesday.
But with Education Minister David Eggen in Calgary discussing local issues this week, trustees are keen to connect with the province and get to work.
“The message from parents and teachers has been clear — we need more resources and we need sustainable funding allocations to address the short- and long-term needs of our students,” said Lisa Davis, newly elected in wards 6 and 7.
“I am sure the new board will be eager to see the results of the minister’s operational review and how it might help put more resources into classrooms.”
The CBE board has five new trustees, with only two incumbents returning. It’s change that Eggen says he’s excited about.
“I have many new trustees to meet. I’m looking forward to having a good conversation with all of them,” Eggen said this week after a curriculum announcement at a southeast school.
“A lot of them ran for change, change for the better. So I’m really looking forward to working with them for that.”
The CBE came under fire this spring after implementing a series of changes to bus routes, bell times and transportation fees creating longer commutes and higher costs for many students. An increased number of students in alternative programs were also taken off of yellow buses and forced to ride Calgary Transit, sometimes two buses and a train, at a cost of $700 a year for a youth pass.
CBE officials blamed the province’s new Bill 1, An Act to Reduce School Fees, as the reason they had to make so many changes. But the province argued it provided enough funding to make up the shortfall and ordered an operational review of the CBE’s finances.
Eggen confirmed this week the review is ongoing and should be complete sometime this fall.
Althea Adams, newly elected in wards 3 and 4, is eager for a complete set of recommendations in the review so that funds can be diverted from administration to the classroom.
“We have very high hopes for this review, how money is being spent, and how well resources are actually being used. And I hope that it is very thorough and detailed.”
Adams says she wants better support for learning in the classroom, particularly in math, where CBE students continue to struggle.
Earlier this month, CBE officials released 2016-17 student results for grades 6 and 9 provincial achievement tests and Grade 12 diploma exams, showing math scores to be consistently lower than other core subjects, with little to no improvement from previous years. More than 25 per cent of students in grades 6 and 9 failed the exams, unable to achieve the acceptable standard of 50 per cent.
“We need more resources to fix math. We need to start digging into this right away,” Adams said.
Eggen agreed, explaining that he has provided development opportunities for teachers and introduced calculator-free portions to the grade 6 and 9 provincial tests. Starting in November 2018, a show-your-work portion will be added to high school math diploma exams.
“Clearly, there is room for improvement and we are taking this head on,” Eggen said.
“We need to work on basic computational skills. And I want to focus on the best math, not old math or new math, the best math… But absolutely, there will be changes. We’ve had dialogue with thousands of Albertans for their input.”
Mike Bradshaw, the new CBE trustee in wards 12 and 14, heard from many parents during his campaign that the CBE has to do a better job of teaching math skills, and that should include improvements to curriculum.
“Math literacy is incredibly important,” Bradshaw said.
“Once the new curriculum comes into schools, we have to make sure teachers are working toward that.”