Meeting of Chairs of District School Boards with the Minister of Education and with Greetings from the Premier

Dr. Avis Glaze, Chief Student Achievement Officer for Ontario

December 14, 2006

Let me say that having been a Director and having been a Superintendent in Ontario for some twenty-two (22) years, I have had the pleasure of working with wonderful Boards of Trustees and some very special Chairs. Over the years we have talked so much about the role of the Trustee. When I was a young Superintendent we heard so often that Trustees were guardians of the public purse. Now I know in recent years so many of you see your roles, yes as guardians of something, but it is more than the public purse, or if it is still the public purse it is to what end? The whole focus on Trustees as Chief Instructional Leaders, individuals who create the conditions for learning, I think, is the essence of your role.

I want you all to imagine a future. A future where people speak matter of factly about how the drop-out rates and the achievement gap are inexorably shrinking. When record numbers of students are entering college and when professors are noticing how much more intellectually fit each year young men and women are. Image the palpable irrepressible hope emerging in especially our poor, or rural, or urban schools. All of these improvements result from a new candour, I believe, that has immerged in education and a willingness to see that historic improvement isn't just about reform, but something much simpler. It is a tough honest self examination of the prevailing culture and of the practices of our public schools, our publicly funded schools, and a dramatic turn towards singular and straight forward focus on instruction. A focus on what happens in the classrooms. You have made great strides in improving student achievement in recent years. We thank you very much and this is both at the elementary and secondary level. The whole issue of raising the bar and closing the gap continues to be of concern for us. We have seen students move in grades three (3) reading, writing, and math, as well as grade six (6) reading, writing and math. We have seen a reduction in the number of low performing schools from 19% three (3) years ago, to 5%. More and more schools are getting to 75%, although that is just one target. There was a time Chairs when people said, "oh Avis this can't be done". Now what I am hearing in the system is, "we can do better than that!"

Let me move quite quickly to the questions. You will notice that there are three (3) discussion questions. And what I would ask is that at each table select one (1) of those. Then we would ask you to use the microphones to share your insights. Not necessarily to ask questions but just to share your thoughts and insights with us in a general way.

Woman Speaker: We are a large growth Board, as you know, about 50% of our growth are children who do not speak English at home as a first language. We immediately thought maybe that's our problem but in fact when we looked across our Board there were many schools with high percentages of ESL students that were doing extremely well. So what we did was deploy staff who came together. Focused on it, deployed staff, went out and collected best practices and came back, created working documents and plans for students, rolled that out, for teachers and rolled that out into the system. This year our EQA scores were on an average of 8% higher than before. So we know its working and we are going to continue to do that. We know that all parents want their children to succeed and they are willing to support them, that is not the issue. The issue really gets down to how much money the family has and the ability to introduce their children to all different aspects of the community.

Avis: Let me just respond very quickly to the whole issue of socioeconomic factors chairs. It is true that throughout the educational literature we see such a strong relationship between the social class of parents and education achievement. However, we can show you schools and Boards that are overcoming those challenges placed upon students by virtue of social class. We can also show you even within your board, and we should bring a group of you together to show you this tool, the schools in similar circumstances that are doing well and those that are not. In other words we are removing those excuses about social class because poverty is not destiny.

Male Speaker: The first comment I wanted to make was that certainly in French language education we've often, certainly I as a chair of a school board have had the, initially our administration would come back and say well, "first of all the reason we have poor results is maybe because the children are coming into our schools they don't speak well in French, and so we are not making the progress we would anticipate" or to the effect that the parents do not speak French at home. It is really developing into a philosophy of excuses essentially. And not that they aren't real issues but. (Segment ended abruptly)