Alternative Schools Advisory Committee (Ottawa)

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Alternative Practices Improvement Plan - A Guide

Alternative Practices Improvement Plan - User Guide



February 9th, 2004



Executive Summary


This document outlines the purpose and suggested results of
the Alternative Practices Improvement Plan process, being developed
by the Alternative Schools Advisory Committee (ASAC) of the Ottawa Carleton
District School Board. ASAC is providing material to each Alternative
School about this process and is requesting that each school respond
by:

  • Indicating how they want to undertake the APIP evaluation
    in their school
  • Producing a stand-alone plan or identifying aspects of
    the school's "School Improvement Plan" that meet the goals of
    the process


This guide is intended to help schools understand the process,
what is expected and what resources are available. As well, some simple
examples are presented to give concrete help. The process is not intended
to be onerous; neither is it intended to be the basis for ranking or
judging schools. Instead, the plan is intended as a self-review for the
purpose of generating discussion and ideas. Each school comes with a different
history, culture and set of resources and needs to look at how best to
apply Alternative Practices to their situation.


Version







Version

Author
Date
Comment
0.1
Richard Deadman
December 2003

First draft
0.2
Richard Deadman

February 4th, 2004
Second draft, with more concrete details
on expectations, as well as examples.
0.3

ASAC Meeting - Feb 4th, 2004
February 9th, 2004
Feed back from the Meeting of the 4th. This is
the final draft before version 1.0 is released for implementation.





Background

This year the Alternative Schools Advisory Committee (ASAC)
is embarking on a campaign to strengthen the Alternative Program in the
Ottawa Board and to raise public awareness of the aims and availability
of the program.



Public awareness serves two purposes:



  1. Inform the public of the goals, methods and availability
    of the Alternative Program. The board will not support Alternative Education
    if parents do not support and demand it, and parents will not support
    Alternative Education if they do not know it exists and what it means.
  2. Start a dialogue within each school's community about
    the meaning of the sometimes confusing term "Alternative Education".
    Experience has shown us that a strong Alternative Programme requires continual
    education of and discussion with parents, families and staff.

Unfortunately, Alternative Education isn't always easy to
pigeon-hole and as staff and families "turn over", the Alternative Philosophy
and tenets can be forgotten. None-the-less, the board has given the Alternative
Schools a mandate to provide this educational program and it is incumbent
on us to make sure that we are providing the type of program families expect.
ASAC recognizes that constant re-examination is a necessary and good thing
and is spearheading a campaign this year to help schools rediscover the
Alternative Program, provoke discussions and strengthen their program offering.



The "Alternative Practices Improvement Plan" should be viewed in this
light. The purpose is not to set measurable goals against which schools
will be judged, but rather to act as a catalyst for discussions so that
each school can:


  • increase its internal awareness of the Alternative Philosophy
  • develop some plans to improve and strengthen the Alternative
    Program within their school




Goals

The Goals of the Alternative Practices Improvement Plan process
are:


  1. Each school will make new resource information available
    to families and staff about the Alternative Program. This can take the
    form of web pages, paper newsletters/flyers, video nights, workshops,
    etc.
  2. Each school will develop, through meetings including
    both staff and parents/guardians, some concrete steps that the school
    will take in the following year to strengthen the Alternative Program within
    that school. This plan will be simply documented as the individual school's
    APIP.
  3. The development of this improvement plan will foster more
    self-analysis and increase discussions of what it means to be Alternative.




Expectations

The "Alternative Practices Improvement Plan" can either be items
within the school's general "Improvement Plan" that are specifically targeted
at Alternative Education, or it can be a separate document which outlines
the plan for the following year. In either case, it should involve input
from both staff and families. The plan does not have to be a huge document
as long as it:

  • identifies the issue(s)
  • identifies the goal(s)

  • identifies the action(s)
  • sets a timeframe

The "Alternative Practices Improvement Plan" will be submitted to
ASAC before the end of April, 2004, so that ASAC can include them in
ASAC's annual report to the board. (The goal is not to police or grade
the plans but rather to show the board that the Alternative schools are
serious about Alternative Education and are working to strengthen and
improve the program). If the "Alternative Practices Improvement Plan"
is developed as part of the school's overall board-mandated Improvement
Plan, the school can either submit a copy of this to ASAC or a reference
to the School's Improvement Plan items  targeting Alternative Education.





Participants

Each school council can determine who will do the work and
who has the authority to approve it. Both the principal and at least one non-staff
member of the council should be involved, and the ratification can be by
groups such as an Education Committee or full council. Since different
schools have different situations, it is not the intension of ASAC to dictate
the best way for each council to prepare or approve the plan.


Timeframes









Step
Date
Name
Description

1
February 13, 2004
APIP Plan finalization

Essential the plan outlined in this
document. It should be agreed upon, by consensus, by ASAC.
2
February 13th - 27th

School Council briefings
ASAC will meet with representitives from each
Alternative School to introduce the APIP program. These representitives should
include the principal, a chair or co-chair of the council and a member of
the education committee.
3

February 27th, 2004
APIP notification to school councils
This will occur through board mail,
email and personal representations to school councils, as is appropriate.
4
Feb. 27 - April 30th, 2004
School councils prepare APIPs

The appointed participants at each school
will prepare the Improvement Plan, based on working groups or council sessions,
as is directed by each school council.
5
April 30th, 2004

Submission of APIPs to ASAC
Electronic submission to ASAC in a non-proprietary
format, such as text, html or pdf.
6

May 14, 2004
Presentation of APIPs to school board
APIP publication on ASAC web site and
submission in ASAC annual report. This ties in with School Improvement
Plans, which are required by early May, and the annual June ASAC report submitted
to the board.




Publication

ASAC will publicize both this guide and the resulting individual
school APIPs on the ASAC web site for the Alternative Community's reference.
The APIP reports will also be included a appendices in the annual ASAC
report to the school board, to underline the Alternative Communities commitment
to the program.



Examples

Here are three example plans that show how schools may want
to approach the APIP process. As these examples show, the plan does
not have to be a huge endeavor, as long as it shows some truthful analysis
and lays out an achievable plan to make some improvements next year.








School A



Authors:


Fred Smith, Principal
Maria Gomez, Parent, Chair of the Education Committee.



Approved by: 

School A's Education Committee, which was given authority
at the school council meeting of March 10th, 2004.



Identified issues:



  1. School has a problem with parents not understanding
    Alternative Education philosophy, and so they are not as supportive
    of the Alternative efforts of the staff as the staff would like.
  2. Some families have come to the school to avoid another
    school and do not embrace the Alternative philosophy. Some want single-grades
    and more competition.



Goal:




  1. Improve communication and discussion of Alternative
    Education philosophy among parents.
  2. Ensure that parents understand the philosophy of the
    program they have chosen.



Plan:




  1. Provide each family with a 1 page "introduction" to
    the school in the fall that briefly outlines the alternative philosophy
  2. Hold two video nights throughout the year to view videos
    from educators like Barbara Coloroso, Alfie Kohn or Neil Postman
  3. Look into getting the board's approval for a "letter
    of understanding" to be signed by all new families in the school.



Location:


The council and principal decided to include these items
into the overall School Improvement Plan for the school.










School B



Authors:


Patricia Souliman, Parent, Chair of the School Council
James Jarvis, Parent
Jennifer Sands, Principal





Approved by: 

School B's School Council, at a meeting on April 25th,
2004.


Identified issues:



  1. Some parents feel that the grades on report cards are
    negatively impacting their children
  2. Students want to participate in inter-school sports events,
    even thorough these meets give out prizes




Goal:



  1. Reduce the emphasis on marks by educating parents on
    the positive value of anecdotal reporting and giving them guides on how
    to discuss them with their children
  2. Allow students to participate in sports events while
    re-inforcing non-competitive attitudes




Plan:



  1. The council will pay for photocopies of the report cards
    to be prepared for parents who do not want grades coming home.
  2. Report cards will be sent home in sealed envelopes with
    a letter from the council suggesting ways to discuss them with your children.
  3. Remind parents that constructively critical comments
    on a report card are a good thing, since without them we wouldn't know
    where our child needs more support.

  4. Student will be allowed to take part in sports events,
    but will be chosen not based on talent but either by a random draw or
    by commitment to training.
  5. Results of individual students will not be announced
    to the school, but rather the whole team will be celebrated.



Location:


This is the plan.










School C



Authors:


Linda Lemieux, Parent
Jane Peters, Principal
Albert Korocova, Teacher





Approved by: 

School C's School Council (April 15th). Recommended
to the council by the Education Committee, which made the rcommendation on
April 10th, 2004.


Identified issues:



  1. Staff would like to do more child-directed learning,
    but many students do not have the self-control or basic reading levels
    to take on a more active role.
  2. Teachers do not fully understand the alternative philosophy
    or how to implement it within the classrooms.

  3. The teachers do not feel comfortable teaching a multi-grade
    and so they have largely disappeared.



Goal:


  1. Provide more training to staff in alternative matters.
  2. Implement some new activities in the school to gradually
    try out some alternative approaches.

  3. Have a willing experienced teacher set up a multi-grade
    classroom.



Plan:



  1. Staff and council need to hold more discussions to get
    a better idea of the aims of Alternative education and some ideas on how
    to apply it to conditions in the school.
  2. The council will pay for a supply teacher and conference
    costs to send a teacher to a local conference on alternative practices.

  3. Some experience alternative teacher(s) on staff will
    develop and present seminars to staff on topics such as child-directed
    learning for active kids and alternative assessment. Optionally, this may
    occur at a joint staff-council meeting.
  4. More intra-grade programs will be set up to allow older
    kids to mentor to younger children (i.e. reading buddies).
  5. Create a multi-age classroom with an experienced teacher,
    who can relate back to staff the lessons learned in handling an integrated
    curriculum and fostering more self-direction and tutoring.



Location:



This is the plan.




Process Evaluation


While the individual APIPs are intended more as self-reflection
tools for the board's Alternative Schools, the overall APIP plan will
be evaluated by ASAC to see it it meets its goals of fostering self-analysis,
increasing Alternative Practices discussion and improving the Alternative
practices within the board.

In the fall of 2004, ASAC will review the 2003/2004 APIP process
and determine:

  • Did the process substantially meet its goals?
  • Are schools working to implement the plans laid out in
    their individual APIPs?

  • What did ASAC learn?
  • How can APIP be improved for 2004/2005?



Support and Reference Material



  1. Lady Evelyn Alternative provides a "primer" about the school
    that introduces new parents to the aims and goals of Alternative education.
    The primer is available on-line in PDF format at http://www.ladyevelyn.ca/AlternativeFlyer4b.pdf
  2. Ottawa Carleton District School Board's Fact Sheet on Alternative
    Education: http://www.ocdsb.edu.on.ca/General_Info/Fact_Sheets/Alt_Elem.htm
  3. EQAO Guide to School and Board Improvement Planning - http://www.eqao.com/pdf_e/02/02P008e.pdf
    (PDF)

  4. Alfie Kohn Education Resource Website: http://www.alfiekohn.org
  5. Barbara Colorosa's web site: http://www.kidsareworthit.com --
    mostly information about caring schools and bullying.
  6. Writings by Neil Postman: http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Postman.html




© Alternative Schools Advisory Committee, 2004
http://www.asac-ottawa.org/