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Education

RDC – Partnerships enhance program opportunities

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At Red Deer College, we are very proud of the breadth of more than 100 programs that we offer. In my column in June, I shared details about how we are launching seven new programs this academic year, which positively enhances the scope of our offerings.

While we often talk about programs at a high level, today I would like to share with you specific examples about what opportunities within our programs looks like for students on a day-to-day basis. This is the more personal side to our programming, because it involves the experiences, relationships and learnings that can have lifelong impacts on our students. The examples I will discuss are possible thanks to the strong partnership that Red Deer College has with Red Deer Public School District (RDPSD).

Last year, our two organizations entered into agreement that, in its most functional way, could be described as trading spaces to enhance learning opportunities. In September 2017, Red Deer Public School District began using a classroom at RDC for the new College High School, which provides an alternative site for high school students to complete their education here at RDC.

And starting in September 2019, RDC students in the School of Education will benefit from a dedicated, flexible learning space, as well as learning opportunities in the new Westpark Middle School, which is currently under construction.

But this partnership is about so much more than just spaces in which to learn. Thanks to our partnership – and under the leadership of Gloria Antifaiff, Dean of RDC’s School of Education, along with Della Ruston, Associate Superintendent, System Services with RDPSD, and Dean Pasiuk, Principal at Westpark Middle School – we had the opportunity to dream big. We collaborated to determine what the areas of need were, and we looked at creative ways we could work together to best serve our students of all ages.

We are so encouraged by the successes so far. With the College High School, students are taking their high school courses at RDC, and this offers them the opportunity they might not otherwise have had to attain their high school diplomas. These students may have left high school early and are now looking to complete, or the high school environment may not be the right fit for them to be successful in their studies.

Now, thanks to the College High School, they can complete their courses at Red Deer College, taught by a teacher employed by RDPSD, and they can become familiar with and confident in the College environment. While completing their high school courses, they are also exposed to what post-secondary education looks like, and this opens the door for many new possibilities for their futures.

As we look to the future starting next September, we are so excited for what the opportunities at Westpark Middle School will mean for our RDC students in the School of Education. The dedicated classroom space and immersion within the school setting will provide our students with a real-time learning lab in a safe, supportive environment.

Our plan for this space in Westpark Middle School is to deliver a required course that all Bachelor of Education students have to take in either their first or second year. This will allow them to become familiar with and comfortable in a school setting very early in their academic program. They will be able to start building a toolbox of strategies that will help them as future teachers, and they will learn how to interact with students and staff through their coursework and other potential volunteer opportunities. In addition, we are also exploring ways to incorporate this type of experiential learning into the Educational Assistant program.

This is a unique model within a middle school setting, and it is an example of workplace integrated learning, which will be an important part of RDC’s future programming as a comprehensive regional teaching university.

These positive learning opportunities are only possible because of our strong partnership and the support, dedication and commitment from both Red Deer Public School District and Red Deer College. We are all extremely passionate about teaching and learning, and this has been a wonderful opportunity for our organizations – located just across the street from each other – to partner for the benefit of our community members and our students.

Dr. Paulette Hanna is Vice President Academic at Red Deer College.
This column was first published in Red Deer Advocate on Saturday, September 29, 2018.

Calgary

Hidden Valley School Parents Rally for a New Playground

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Hidden Valley School Parents Rally for a New Playground

Contributed by Friends of the Hidden Valley School Society

The Friends of Hidden Valley School Society is looking to replace the 17-year-old outdoor playground directly behind the school as soon as possible, as the existing play equipment is soon to be at the end of its lifecycle. The society has been proactively raising funds for several years but they have a long way to go.

Now that they have a conceptual design and an estimated cost for the project, the hardest part is fundraising. The parent society has raised 32% of the $370K project to date. They will need to raise at least half of the project costs on their own in order to be eligible to qualify for any kind of grant funding support.

“Our non-profit parent society financially supports our students and their learning annually by supplementing initiatives such as math and reading literacy kits for classrooms, providing buses for field trips like swimming lessons and paying for residency programs so that all our students get an equal opportunity for enhanced learning opportunities” states Sarah P, Chairperson. Figuring out now how to financially support the school on an annual basis in addition to building a new playground takes an enormous amount of time and effort from a volunteer perspective. “There are a lot of moving parts to a project this size, and collaboration with stakeholders is key. We’ve done our due diligence by hosting community engagement with students, staff and parents to decide on what types of play equipment should be included in an inclusive playground.  Students, staff and external stakeholders have written letters of support in hopes of helping with seeking out external funding support.”

Friends of Hidden Valley School Society has teamed up with Parks Foundation Calgary for money management of the project. Through its Project Support Program (PSP), the Parks Foundation can issue tax receipts for donations made to the project.

Hidden Valley School is a K-3 French Immersion public school located in the heart of the community of Hidden Valley in NW Calgary. The school’s inclusive playground will have a direct impact on the 400+ staff and students at the school and 700+ children who live within the surrounding community neighbourhoods and utilize the playground outside of school hours. “Figuring out how to reach the greater community to support this project is the challenge. We’re currently hosting a raffle that anyone in Alberta can enter in hopes of raising $20K in support of the project. This fall we will host a silent auction and if everything works out, we are hoping to reach 50% of our fundraising goal by 2023”.

Replacing the school playground will allow students safe, continued use year-round.  As mandated by Alberta Education’s Daily Physical Activity (DPA) Initiative, the parent society will be supporting students in developing healthy, active lifestyles; increasing students’ ability to learn. For more information about the Friends of Hidden Valley School Society’s playground project visit the “Get Involved” section of the school’s website or check out their Facebook Page at @Hiddenvalleyschoolcalgary.

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Education

Talk of race, sex in schools divides Americans: AP-NORC poll

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are deeply divided over how much children in K-12 schools should be taught about racism and sexuality, according to a new poll released as Republicans across the country aim to make parental involvement in education a central campaign theme this election year.

Overall, Americans lean slightly toward expanding — not cutting back — discussions of racism and sexuality, but roughly 4 in 10 say the current approach is about right, including similar percentages across party lines. Still, the poll from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows stark differences between Republicans and Democrats who want to see schools make adjustments.

About 4 in 10 Republicans say teachers in local public schools discuss issues related to sexuality too much, while only about 1 in 10 say too little. Among Democrats, those numbers are reversed.

The findings reflect a sharply politicized national debate that has consumed local school boards and, increasingly, state capitols. Republicans see the fight over school curriculum as a winning culture war issue that will motivate their voters in the midterm elections.

In the meantime, a flurry of new state laws has been introduced, meant to curtail teaching about racism and sexuality and to establish a “parents’ bill of rights” that would champion curriculum transparencyand allow parents to file complaints against teachers.

The push for legislation grew out of an elevated focus on K-12 schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, when angry parents crowded school board meetings to voice opposition to school closures, mask mandates and other restrictive measures intended to prevent the spread of illness.

“All that that’s happening these days kind of goes against the longer history of school boards being relatively low salience government institutions and, in a lot of cases, they are nonpartisan offices,” said Adam Zelizer, a professor at the University of Chicago Harris School researching school board legislation.

What distinguishes this moment, Zelizer said, is the “grassroots anger” in response to school policies and the national, coordinated effort to recruit partisan candidates for school boards and local offices.

What started as parents’ concern about virtual learning and mask wearing has morphed into something larger, said Republican pollster Robert Blizzard, describing parents as thinking: “OK, now that we have the schools open, what are these kids learning in school?”

The poll shows 50% of Americans say parents have too little influence on curriculum, while 20% say they have too much and 27% say it’s about right. About half also say teachers have too little influence.

Kendra Schultz said she and her husband have decided their 1-year-old daughter will be homeschooled, at least initially, because of what friends have told them about their experiences with schools in Columbia, Missouri.

Most recently, she said, one 4-year-old’s pre-K class talked about gender pronouns. Schultz offered that and mask requirements as examples of how the public school system “doesn’t align with what we believe or how we would like to see our children educated.”

“I’m just like, you’re a little kid, you should be learning your ABCs and your numbers and things like that,” said Schultz, a 30-year-old conservative. “That’s just not something that me and my husband would be interested in having teachers share with our children.”

In Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in March signed into law a billbarring instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. Opponents, including the White House, have dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

The poll shows Americans are slightly more likely to say the focus on sex and sexuality in local schools is too little rather than too much, 31% to 23%, but 40% say it’s about right. The poll didn’t ask about specific grade levels.

Blizzard, who has been working with a group called N2 America to help GOP candidates in suburbs, said the schools issue resonates with the Republican base and can motivate voters.

In the Virginia governor’s race last year, Republican Glenn Youngkin won after campaigning on boosting parental involvement in schools and banning critical race theory, an academic framework about systemic racism that has become a catch-all phrase for teaching about race in U.S. history. His Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe, had said in a debate that parents shouldn’t tell schools what to teach.

The poll also shows Americans have mixed views about schools’ focus on racism in the U.S.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said parents and teachers alike are frustrated after pandemic disruptions and should partner to help kids recover. The efforts to predetermine curriculum and restrict teaching are getting in the way, she said.

“The people who are proposing them, they’ve been pretty clear … they just want to sow doubt and distrust because they want to end public education as we know it,” Weingarten said.

Parents of school-age children aren’t more likely than other adults to say parents have too little influence in schools. But there is a wide partisan gap, with 65% of Republicans saying that, compared with 38% of Democrats.

Michael Henry, a father of three in Dacula, Georgia, says he’s wrestled over what the right level of involvement is. It didn’t sit right with him, for example, that his 6-year-old was taught about Christopher Columbus in an entirely positive light. He says he’s reflected on “some of the lies” and “glorifications of history” in his own public school education and thinks race needs to be talked about more.

But ultimately, school curriculum is “outside my area of expertise,” said Henry, 31, an actuary who is also the acting president of the Gwinnett County Young Democrats.

“I have to do a lot of studying and work to be able to make informed decisions, and I don’t feel like parents generally have that kind of skill set” for curriculum, he said. “I think professionals should mostly be determining what the curriculum should be.”

Henry worries that new restrictions are “adding extra hassle for teachers, who already have a lot on their plate, to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.”

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AP Education Writer Collin Binkley in Boston contributed to this report.

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The AP-NORC poll of 1,082 adults was conducted March 17-21 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Hannah Fingerhut, The Associated Press

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