The provincial government is making changes to the graduation program as it finishes its new curriculum. (Pixabay file photo)

Grad program changes for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows high schools

More Indigenous education part of curriculum overhaul

Beginning in September 2019, B.C. students entering their final years of high school will go through a new graduation program.

“Students will learn to look at the world in different ways, including Indigenous perspectives,” promises a government press release. “They will be encouraged to take ownership of their learning and personal growth.”

The new grad program will aim to focus on students developing foundational skills like reading, writing and math, while helping them build a range of other competencies that employers and post-secondary institutions are looking for, such as creative and analytical skills, entrepreneurial skills and leadership.

Students will choose from a range of new course options in areas such as environmental science, web development, digital media, engineering and robotics. Many of these new courses are already on offer in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows high schools, as well as locally developed courses, explained Shannon Derinzy, assistant superintendent for School District 42.

“There are a whole lot of new courses in the new curriculum, and schools and teachers have to decide what they want to offer,” explained Derinzy.

She added it will ultimately be up to students to decide what new courses will continue to be offered – if 24 or 25 don’t sign up for electives, it will not be a viable class.

Grades and university application have been an ongoing discussion as part of the graduation program, and there will still be student assessment via standardized provincial tests.

Students will be required to write three new mandatory graduation assessments – numeracy in Grade 10, and literacy in grades 10 and 12. The results will be reported as stand-alone items on student transcripts. They will replace course-based provincial exams, and will instead evaluate essential numeracy and literacy abilities developed across many areas of learning and grades, rather than content knowledge from one particular course.

Derinzy said they are “a little more robust” that the provincial exams, based on course work. But they will be standardized, and all students will take them during the same week near the end of June.

The new Grade 10 numeracy assessment was successfully implemented during the 2017-18 school year and is being written again this year. Beginning in the 2019-20 school year, Grade 10 students will write both a numeracy and a literacy assessment. Starting in January 2021, a final literacy assessment for students in Grade 12 will be added.

Students results will be reported on a proficiency scale starting with “emerging,” then “developing,” “proficient” and the highest level being “extending.”

Derinzy said most universities will assess students based on their course percentages when considering admissions. Grades 10-12 students will continue to receive report cards with letter grades and percentages for all courses, and still be required to complete at least 80 credits for graduation.

The emphasis will be on graduating students who can solve problems and continue learning.

“I would say overall people are pretty excited about it,” said Derinzy. “The new grad program is what educators have been asking for, for a long time.”

Parents won’t find their children’s classrooms unrecognizable from when they graduated. The core subjects are still there – math, science, English and social studies.

“You still have to teach some content, but the emphasis is on skills,” said Derinzy.

Two new career education courses are being introduced, giving students an opportunity to explore career pathways, and develop the skills needed to manage their career and life transitions.

“All students deserve to graduate with the necessary skills and competencies to help them continue learning and excel in the jobs of tomorrow,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Education. “We’re pioneering important changes in classrooms today to make sure all students have the opportunity to explore where they want to go in life and build bright futures for themselves.”

Read also: Local educators work on English…

Indigenous knowledge and perspectives are woven across all grades and areas of learning.

“Education is a key part of reconciliation, and we know that it’s crucial for Indigenous knowledge and history to be embedded in the learning that happens in the classroom for the benefit of all students,” said Fleming. “We’re committed to improving results for Indigenous students and increasing the presence of Indigenous languages, culture and history throughout all subject matter in B.C. schools.”

Several new Indigenous-focused courses will be offered starting in September 2019, including Contemporary Indigenous Studies 12 and B.C. First Peoples 12. In addition, 17 Indigenous languages have been approved to be taught in B.C. schools and six more are in development. Teachers are being supported to include Indigenous content, both historical and contemporary, into all subject matter.

The new K-9 curriculum was implemented in September 2016, followed by Grade 10 in September 2018.

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