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Making Good Schools Better
Do you remember a favourite teacher who encouraged your budding talent, a textbook that opened your eyes to a fascinating topic or a field trip that stimulated a lifelong passion? Perhaps it was a club or sport that fostered your confidence and revealed the leadership qualities that shaped your career. Our early school experiences lay the foundation for who we become in our adult lives. For those of us who achieve success, school is generally a positive experience. But for many children, school is a struggle. Some may battle language challenges, some may leave home hungry, while others may lack self-esteem because of abuse or neglect.
Vancouver's public schools welcome students of all backgrounds, and increasingly, those backgrounds are diverse. As the district has grown, so too have the demands placed upon it. We educate children from the poorest postal code in Canada as well as those from exclusive neighbourhoods. Over 57 languages are spoken in our schools. And children with learning disabilities, physical challenges and behavioural problems are now integrated in our classrooms, requiring unique and personalized programs.
The diversity that exists in our district means we must tailor programs to accommodate a broad range of needs while ensuring a stimulating educational experience for all children. Our curriculum covers not only the basics, but also the interpersonal skills and technological aptitudes required in today's world. We need updated equipment, facilities and resources to meet these growing expectations. All this at a time when public funding for education is stretched to the maximum.
Changing With the Times
The Vancouver School Board was created in 1886 to provide quality education for children of the new settlement of Vancouver. Over the years, the District has grown from a single school at the corner of Pender and Jackson to comprise more than 109 elementary and secondary schools, 3,400 teachers and 55,000 students. Along the way, we have become one of the most respected school districts in North America. Our students are continually placed in the top ranks of national and international competitions in academic, arts and athletics. Some examples where our students have excelled are the Canadian Math Challenge, the West Point Bridge Competition and the BC Festival of the Arts.
Enriched Opportunities for Children
Over the past two decades, hospitals, universities, libraries and other public institutions have responded to budget pressures by creating foundations that raise money to support their expanding roles and responsibilities. The Vancouver School District is reaching out to individuals and organizations to strengthen our funding base and ensure that all children have the opportunities they deserve to explore their full potential.
School is a place where children not only learn about the world around them, but also about their role within it. Here they shape their values and views on life. Along with their family's guidance, school teaches children to value cultural diversity, respect the opinions of others and work cooperatively towards mutually beneficial goals. This is where they first learn to become socially responsible citizens in a broader community.
Recognizing the crucial role the educational experience plays in personal development, the Vancouver School Board is committed to working with parents and teachers throughout the district to foster responsible citizenship among all students. We promote four aspects of social responsibility that are essential to both a harmonious school environment and an inclusive civil society: contributing to the classroom and the school community; solving problems in peaceful ways; valuing diversity and defending human rights; and exercising democratic rights and responsibilities.
Enriched funding for our social responsibility initiatives will allow us to expand our Focus on Bullying Program, involve more students in Leadership Training and launch a Grantmaking Program where students can experience the rewards of supporting a worthy cause.
With your support, our schools can strengthen programs that instil compassionate values, encourage a culture of collaboration, and foster leadership and accountability in the next generation.
Connecting Students with Community Leaders
Connecting Students with Community Leaders
Observing adult role models is one of most important ways children learn. The Vancouver School Board provides some opportunities for students to meet leaders in the arts and sciences through community programs, but the contact is limited and only available to a few classes.
Meeting accomplished writers, painters, musicians and sculptors fosters creativity and encourages aspiring artists to pursue their talents. The Artist in Residence Program allows students to collaborate with visual and performing artists on short plays, dance routines, paintings or musical performances.
The Scientist in Residence Program introduces students to opportunities in biology, chemistry and physics. By working alongside a leading scientist, students experience the curiosity and passion that fuels discovery and innovation.
Imagine a child's future without the ability to read and write. How many opportunities will they have? How many doors can they open?
Literacy is central to a rich and fulfilling life. Reading and writing allow us to explore complex ideas, communicate our thoughts and feelings and give shape to our experiences. Effective communication is central to success in the workplace and to participating effectively in a democratic society. And of course, it essential to learning in school.
However, according to the BC Ministry of Education, 28% of Grade 10 students across the province did not meet expectations for reading comprehension in 2002. Moreover, an estimated 40% of adults in BC have difficulty reading and writing. The reasons for these figures are complex and varied, but the consequences are clear: Literacy BC reports that high unemployment rates, substance abuse, dependence on social assistance and incarceration are all associated with poor literacy skills. In school, students with literacy difficulties are more likely to fall behind in their schoolwork, be disruptive in the classroom and eventually drop out.
The Vancouver School Board is committed to teaching every student to read and write to the best of their ability. By combining the latest proven techniques in fostering literacy with the expertise of our highly trained teachers, we are succeeding. For example, last year 96% of our Grade 4 students met or exceeded expectations in writing ability.
Despite this success, the Vancouver School District faces a number of challenges in promoting literacy. More than 60% of the student population speaks English as a second language. We accommodate students with a wide spectrum of abilities and unique learning styles. And many of our schools must contend with issues of poverty, cultural barriers and lack of home support for students.
The Vancouver School Board has a long history of supporting literacy initiatives and offering programs that that go beyond traditional classroom instruction. We also have a strong relationship with Dr. Clyde Hertzman and UBC's Collaborative Early Literacy Program which focuses on literacy and learning assessment.
Our goals are to strengthen our innovative Early Literacy Project, now used as a model program across BC. Supplementary funding is needed to support professional development for team teachers, acquire program resources, train staff in using assessment tools and assist with the development of home-school partnerships.
The Foundation also plans to fund the Grade 4-8 Pilot Literacy Project, which bridges literacy learning that has taken place in the primary years to later intermediate and secondary experiences. We also want to establish aFamily Literacy Program and High School Literacy Awards in Vancouver schools.
Enhancing School Facilities
To realize their full potential, students need dedicated and skilled teachers, innovative programs, involved parents and expert school leadership. They also need safe, nurturing places in which to learn, and modern facilities where they can excel.
Research shows that when students participate in fine arts activities, they develop a heightened aesthetic awareness, learn more effectively and score higher in their academic work. The Vancouver School Board supports a range of curricular and extra-curricular fine arts programs, but not all schools have the equipment and facilities they require.
To increase opportunities for creative expression, we will support the expansion of fine arts facilities and programs across the District. With contributions from our partners, we will fund practice rooms, performance and exhibition spaces, stage equipment, instruments, art materials, costumes, field trips, competitions and travel expenses.
When we think of sports, we envision health and fitness. But involvement in sports offers students vital skills that complement physical well-being. An ability to communicate effectively, a commitment to teamwork, and a bolstering of confidence are just some of these additional skills.
In addition to regular physical education classes, the Vancouver School Board provides 30 extra-curricular leagues for sports ranging from basketball and soccer to wrestling and table tennis. Altogether, more than 20,000 students play on over 1,000 teams throughout the city. As well, most schools also have informal intramural sports teams.
To maintain the calibre of these extra-curricular sports programs, funds are needed for field renewal, gymnasiums, sporting equipment and uniforms. With your support, the Vancouver Public Schools Foundation will be able to provide these funds, helping to ensure that students are physically and socially healthy as they step forth into adult life.
You Can Help Our Schools
Whether you are a VSB graduate, parent, former teacher, employer, service club or community member committed to public education, the Vancouver School Board offers many opportunities for involvement. Besides the projects mentioned earlier, we have other projects across the district that may be of interest to you. We would be pleased to meet with you personally to discuss how you can enrich educational programs for the next generation.
For more information, please contact:
Vancouver School Board
1580 West Broadway