VICTORIA – Parents will have a greater role in school planning and decision-making, students will have more choice in school selection, and it will be easier for school boards to engage in entrepreneurial activities as a result of amendments to the School Act introduced in the legislature today by Education Minister Christy Clark.
"Our goal is to ensure the education system is focused on improving student achievement," said Clark. "Parental involvement is a big determinant of how well a child performs in school. Today's changes ensure that parents will have a more meaningful role in reshaping our education system and making it accountable for increasing student performance."
Under the amended legislation, school planning councils will be established in every public school in British Columbia this year. Each school will form a council made up of three parents, one teacher and the school principal to develop an annual plan for their school that includes goals and outcomes for improvement. School boards will use these plans to draw up annual accountability contracts that identify district strengths and challenges, and outline strategies to improve performance.
"School planning councils will ensure that parents will have substantial and ongoing input into policies and programs related to student achievement," said Reggi Balabanov, president of the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils. "This is a welcome opportunity for parents to work with teachers, principals and locally elected trustees to improve and increase performance and accountability at both the school and district level."
The new legislation will give students the choice to attend any school in the province provided space is available. The School Act was silent about catchment areas; amendments to the act require school boards to create them. These amendments ensure that students will be able to attend their neighbourhood school and will be given preference over students from outside the area. Individual children can now enroll in the educational program that works best for them.
School boards have repeatedly asked for the ability to engage in entrepreneurial activities. Boards will now be permitted to create entities through which they can provide consulting services, educational or administrative expertise or international education. Other amendments ease financial restrictions that have tied the hands of school boards, and will allow them to share administrative services with other boards, municipalities or corporate entities.
"We committed in our New Era platform to giving parents and students greater choice and flexibility in public schooling," said Clark. "Today, we are fulfilling our commitment by freeing boards to make decisions and dedicate resources according to the priorities of local students, parents and schools."
Terry D. Foster
Media Relations Officer
SCHOOL AMENDMENT ACT, 2002
The School Act is the over-arching legislation governing the structure, roles and responsibilities of the public school system in British Columbia. The school amendment act, 2002 introduces broad reforms to the School Act, all of which support the goal of improving student achievement.
Specifically, amendments to the School Act are intended to:
- Recognize the importance of parental involvement in how schools operate.
- Provide students and parents with more choice about the school they attend and the educational program they follow.
- Provide school boards with greater financial flexibility and enable boards to be more entrepreneurial.
- Ensure the system is accountable at every level for improving student performance.
- Lay the basis for the Ministry of Education's new accountability cycle.
- School planning councils:
- School planning councils are a key component of the annual accountability cycle.
- A council will be established in every public school in B.C. this year, providing a mechanism for parents to have real input and influence in their child's school.
- School planning councils - consisting of the principal, a teacher and three parents elected by the Parent Advisory Council - will examine how well their students are performing and develop an annual plan for their school that includes goals and outcomes for improvement.
- School boards must consult with a school planning council on the allocation of resources, matters contained in the board's accountability contract, and educational services and programs in the school.
- School boards will use these plans as the basis for annual accountability contracts.
- District Parent Advisory Councils:
- The School Act will now recognize district parent advisory councils as another avenue for parents to have input into the education system.
- District parent advisory councils exist in many school districts, although there has been no legislative requirement for them. Now, school boards must create a district parent advisory council if asked to do so by a parent advisory council. District parent advisory councils may advise boards on any matter relating to education in the school district.
Increased Choice for Students and Parents
- Amendments will provide students with the choice to attend any public school in the province provided space is available.
- The new legislation will require school boards to establish a catchment area for each school in its district. The amendment ensures that students will be able to attend their neighbourhood school.
- It is anticipated that the legislation will encourage schools to be more responsive to student and parent needs; for example, it might provide an incentive for a board to improve student choice in a school or to create a magnet school to meet a specific demand in a community.
Financial Flexibility for School Boards
- New funding formula:
- Amendments remove specific targets and caps; however, the ministry will continue to target aboriginal funds and cap adult education.
- Many of the strings that were previously attached to education dollars have been untied, allowing districts to allocate resources based on students' needs and local priorities.
- Generally accepted accounting principles will be implemented for school boards, as required by the Budget Transparency and Accountability Act and the government's New Era commitment.
- Entrepreneurial activities:
- School boards will be able to create entities to engage in a variety of entrepreneurial activities.
- This could include offshore schools, educational or administrative expertise or consulting services.
- The provisions are designed in such a way that school boards will not be liable for debt, obligations or acts of a company. Any liabilities would be confined to the corporate entity and not the school board and its taxpayer funded assets.
- A school board will be able to share administrative services with another board, municipality or corporate entity.
- Boards will have enhanced capacity to manage local capital decisions such as opening or closing schools, property disposals, spending for annual capital projects or entering joint-use agreements.
- Boards will be allowed to share proceeds from the sale of capital assets to which they contributed a portion of the capital finances. Boards now have an incentive to dispose of unneeded assets.
- School boards will be required to complete accountability contracts, as part of the accountability cycle, to hold all boards publicly accountable for student achievement.
- The minister may appoint a special adviser to assist a school board that appears unable to resolve financial, educational or other difficulties. Currently, there is no intermediate remedy to assist a board, other than letter writing and withholding funds or appointing an official trustee.
- The power of the lieutenant-governor to appoint an official trustee to replace a school board is expanded to include a risk to student achievement in the district. Currently, appointments are generally made for financial or process-driven reasons.
- The title "administrative officer" will be changed to principal, vice principal or director of instruction to recognize that principals are not simply administrative officials: they are leaders in their schools.
- A certified teacher must assess and evaluate the progress of every enrolled student. Currently, some students receiving an educational program - particularly those receiving distributed electronic learning - are not having their progress assessed by a teacher.
- A francophone education authority must employ a chief financial officer to ensure separate representation of financial and educational issues at the board of directors level. This will ensure greater fiscal accountability of the francophone education authority.
A New Accountability Cycle
The combined changes to the act create a new accountability cycle, which is a continuous process aimed at raising the level of student achievement throughout the public school system from kindergarten to Grade 12. This new accountability cycle will operate annually, and incorporates the best elements of the former accreditation process and fulfils government's New Era commitment to improve school accreditations.
The accountability cycle will function at the school, district and ministry levels. Each level will:
- Collect and analyse data, including scores on standardized tests like the annual Foundation Skills Assessment, grade-to-grade transitions, graduation rates, results of satisfaction surveys among parents, students and school staff.
- Review information, identify areas of strength and areas that need improvement.
- Develop goals, strategies and expected results.
- Implement strategies, monitor progress and revise as needed.
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