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Trustee looks to improve on student learning

By Randy Thoms Jun 7, 2023 | 3:13 PM

Fort Frances trustee, Mike Walchuk (in white), discusses the idea of an ad-hoc committee to look at student learning, June 6, 2023.

A Fort Frances trustee would like an ad-hoc committee to look at student achievement.

Mike Walchuk has long expressed concern about the test results from provincewide testing.

He notes that in 2022 of the 63 English boards, the Rainy River District School Board ranked 57th in grade 3 reading, 55th in grade 3 writing and 56th in grade 3 math in the number of students meeting or exceeding the provincial standards.

At the grade 6 level, the board stood 57th in reading, 53rd in writing, and 54th in math.

In the tests written by secondary students, only 41.6% meet the standard in the grade 9 test, putting the board 43rd out of 57 in the province.

Walchuk says the last time the board ranked at or higher than the provincial average was in 2012. It was equal to the average in grade 6 math.

He is also concerned with the board’s graduation rate, which at 73% is the second lowest in the province.

“I think the issue needs to be examined, and the conversations that we can have in the ad hoc committee can be freer and more open than we can at the board table. We can ask questions that are more appointed and have a better conversation and discussion about it. I just think that this is an issue and a topic that’s just so glaringly stark, not just with our individual board results but with the regional results, that it’s something that I think we need to address further. So that’s why I was proposing this,” says Walchuk.

Student trustee Charles Watts feels one of the reasons students may not do well is because of the remoteness of our communities and schools that may not necessarily create a drive for students to do well in school.

“Because there are lots of things that you can do in a remote community without needing a diploma at all. People get jobs at Atikokan without graduating for like 23, $24 an hour. So if you can get a job without getting a diploma, then why shouldn’t you?” says Watts.

Walchuk says it is not an exercise to point fingers at teachers, but others worry about the perception it may have.

Kathryn Pierroz says it is not her place as a trustee to review what’s happening in the classroom.

“I can’t support something that may have the perception of devaluing our students and our staff and the intent of the board as a whole. I believe that the intent behind this motion, and I’ve always believed that the intent behind (it) comes from a good and just place. However, I can’t accept it or support it the way that it is currently written,” says Pierroz.

Chair Jeff Lehman feels it takes the board into an area it is not mandated and borders on micromanaging.

However, he suggested trustees not make any decision until the board has had time to understand the effect of new education legislation.

“We still haven’t heard from the ministry about Bill 98 Better Schools and all of the implications that’s going to have with student success. We haven’t heard from that yet, and that’s still coming. So as a board, we need that time. We can’t be racing into an ad hoc committee that I believe is bordering on extreme operational issues. We can’t be racing into that when we still have all of this unknown stuff from Bill 98 Better Schools,” says Lehman.

Trustees narrowly voted to hold off on forming any committee until November.


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