Following up from my post on pedagogy and politics, here is an update on what is happening in New Brunswick. The best place for up to date information and contacts for the FSL Commission is at Canadian Parents for French NB.
Locally, Amanda Cockshutt sent a letter to the FSL Commission:
Dear Commissioners Lee and Croll,
As a parent and PSSC member, I have submitted my opinions on FSL programs in the province via the online forum as requested.
In light of recent alarming media coverage, including interviews with the president of CPF New Brunswick, the Minister of Education and authors of the Rehorick Report, I would like to extend those comments.
1. The Research: The research, as eloquently summarized in the Rehorick Report, clearly indicates that the most successful programs in FSL in the province are the early and late immersion programs, and that these students currently represent virtually all of the students meeting or exceeding the QLA target. Clearly, these programs are central to FSL acquisition and every effort must be made to increase the scope and enrollment in these programs.
2. The Misconceptions: Research clearly shows that there is no negative effect of EFI on English Language Arts performance by the Middle School level. Reviews of the Report Card Documents over the years indicate that EFI students routinely outperform Core Program students in ELA Assessments at the Middle School level. Arguments that students should have a basis in English before beginning in French immersion are fallacious should not enter into this discussion.
3. The Timeline: Achieving 70% French proficiency of grade 10 students by 2012 as outlined in the QLA is an unreasonable target (that cohort is currently in grade 6). Short term strategies to meet the needs of those students and those following them (currently in grades 1-5) would require significant remedial French and redirection of resources. A more realistic solution to the problem is to focus efforts on increasing the proportion of students across the province entering both early and late immersion in September 2008. If 75% of students were enrolled in these programs, the 70% outcome could realistically be expected by or before June 2018.
4. EFI is Streaming: No, it isn’t. Students are not chosen or screened for entrance into EFI. The choice remains in the hands of parents. If parents are not choosing the program, or the program is not available to their children, this is a failure on the part of the Department of Education. If the Core Program is not able to meet the academic needs of the children in the program, then fix that program. The ridiculous knee jerk response to pool the current EFI students with the Core students to boost the performance scores of the latter, is both short sighted and laughable.
The province of New Brunswick has two FSL programs: French Immersion and Core French. The former is highly successful, the latter is not. The Department of Education needs to preserve and strengthen immersion programs and fix Core French.
Dr. Amanda Cockshutt
The Minister of Education, Kelly Lamrock responded:
Thanks for your comments. I might take issue with Point #4. I have yet to meet a principal who has not agreed with the proposition that if a student in FI struggles, they are inevitably “dropped” into Core French due to a lack of student services in the FI context.
That is streaming, and the “success” of FI cannot be judged until we give thse programmes the tougher task of teaching all children — in other words, making the immersion experience universal. (I accept that this is your point about resources in FI).
I don’t think we’re that far apart — but no one has ever asked for a study on what resources and what mechanism of choice/assignment would be necessary to provide a universally-accessible immersion programme, and if such a large investment would in fact deliver the very result you propose. I think the reason no one’s asked for that study is that no one’s ever been serious about paying to fix the problem (even though Scraba says we will be mediocre until we do).
Until I get that answer, I can’t truly know if the current method of streaming is (a) right but underresourced, or (b) based on flawed assumptions that cannot be fixed by resources alone. Even put another way — if one simply made the immersion teaching experience universal, what would immersion look like?
As always, and respectfully, I welcome your thoughts on this more nuanced (but more probative) debate.
Hon. Kelly Lamrock
M.L.A., Fredericton – Fort Nashwaak
Minister of Education
I’m sure that there will be more to follow …