Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - August 18, 1972, Lethbridge, Alberta
10 THE LETHBRIDGE KESAID Friday, Augml IB, Westminster Elementary plans non-grading All Hint's missing is about MO students (tlic 16 teachers are al- ready there) and Lelhbridge will have an almost completely non- graded school at Westminster Kle- menlaiy. ]t .started in as a teacher- initialed special reading program, moved by last year to a compre- hensive non-graded language arts program and over this summer has added mathematics and phsyi- cal education to the non-grading system. During Hie coming year and next summer, the school's teachers will turn the social studies and art pro- grams into non-graded patterns, and in 1973-74, Westminster's full complement of Grade 4 to 0 stu- dents (all the school offers) will do away with grades. What does it all mean? The teachers arc eager to explain il they've spent more hours than they care lo count, many of them their own lime, in developing the new system. Non-grading does not refer in any way to marking a student's lesl papers. It refers to a system in which Ihe traditional year or of work are divided into a multi- tude of smaller goals. The fad that summer holidays divides achieving Goal 53 from starling Goal 5-1 is really meaningless. students will enter their school after finishing Grade 3, and leave il Ihrco years lalc-r to start Grade 7 in another school never having been in Grades 5 or (i. The- continuous learning proa'h, as it is often called, covers the same amount of work, but docs it in a much more carefully organ- ixed fashion. Ami at Westminster, now assist- ed by a three-year, grant from tho Alberta government and the public school board, organiza- tion has become the watchword. Ken Fisher, the school's new Vice-principal-cum-project director explains that the teachers are de- termined to change to a much more flexible education system. Team teaching, team planning and using individual skills of the teachers to the best-possible advan- tage are all parts of Westminster's continuous learning program. "Wo want to get away from the one teacher to 30 kids system, and work with as many teachers as necessary lo as many kids as we have Mr. fisher said. Elton Tnnnc, Westminster's prin- cipal, said Ihe program will give students Ihe opportunity "for in- depth study, as well as just enough study to gel by on. "We're establishing minimum objectives for the children entering Grade 4 what we believe they MUST have by Ibo time they fin- ish what is generally called Grade he said. "Hut beyond Ihe minimum there is the average level, where most of our students should end up, and further beyond that is the enrich- ment level, where our brighter stu- dents can get to before Ihcy leave us." Belli Mi-. Tanno and Mr. l-'islicr arc enthusiastic about the school's teaching staff and the amount of work they are doing to organize Ihe new curriculum system. Last summer the language teachers started from scratch to develop an entirely new language arts program, weaving logcther Die subjects traditionally separated into reading, spelling, speaking and all related educational skills. They used Ihcir curriculum last year, and so far il has proven it- self lo be (jffec'iive, II will be con- tinued Ihis car, as will the ing evaluation program .s'.arlc-l for il last year. As change; become they will be m.uln by the ill with a variety of specialists. This Miniiiujr, the school's math- ematics anil physical eduction teachers embarked on a crash pro- gram to revise the existing curric- ula in their areas to conform with the continuous learning, non-graded philosophy. The teachers have been spending every weekday at ttie school in meetings, in individual work and in a wide range of other activities, to complete the revision in time for the start of Ihe 1972-73 school year. Taking methematics as an ex- ample, the process is as follows. The teachers of the department start with the existing curriculum, to assess in general what material must be covered during three full years. They study various curricula, curriculum development methods, and study the theory behind sys- lems of leaching mathematics. They meet regularly lo begin devel- opment of, in the case of Westmin- ster's three-year math program, 279 "objectives." An early objective: "Given five numerals through trillions, the stu- dent can read them correctly with HO per cent accuracy." Another: "Given five multiplica- tion and five division problems not covered in basic facls, the student solves by using repeated addition or repeated subtraction, with !IO per cent accuracy." And: "Given five numbers, Ihe student can identify a minimum of four of them as prime or not prime, and give a reason for his choice." And No. 279: "Given a rectangu- lar prism, the student can compute volume and surface area." These are only mathematical be- havioral objectives: there arc also other types of objectives the stu- dents must meet. Next, the teachers must study various systems of testing students, and develop individual tesl patterns for every single objective the student tested on one objective at a lime, as well as in clusters of objcclivcs and general proficiency. Kurthor: the teachers must ac- riuire and catalogue a substantial library of books and other mater- for tho students, tu assist them in learning. Next: because the system must have a .slarling point, the teachers must establish a testing system for every student entering the school, so that they can sec which objec- he has already met (it any) and which he must yet seek. General evaluation techniques for (be whole program must be developed, and must be tested, so the teachers can constantly see how well their objective curriculum is working in terms of student learn- ing. And through it all, the teachers must develop co-ordinated study patterns for learning disability stu- dents, so they're not left behind or left out. The department of education's regional office consultants, the pub- WesSminsler teachers make plans, surrounded by education materials. lie school board's own specialists and previous continuous learning projects in other cities arc helpful but the teachers must take re- sponsibility for developing their own end results. Part of Westminster's over-all plan is to invite more people into the classroom from the community specialists who can give a per- sonal touch to a teacher's mini-pro- gram of, say, banking, could in- clude a visit from a city bank man- ager. There will be emphasis on getting high scores on tests, and more emphasis on taking eacli child as deeply as possible into a subject. So that the less-able and more- able, as well as the average, can succeed to the best of llieir oppor- tunity, the objectives are three-lev- elled and built much like a spiral staircase: there is always a step a bit beyond, but the whole thing can be held up by supports on only one side. The "one side" is the minimum objective list: 112 learning units. The average student is expected to learn a further 11T) 227 in all. And there are 52 more objectives for Ihe gifted students lo tackle. While this will take three years, there is no particular number of objcclivcs which be achieved in any one year, am! the slud'jnl's "report, card" will really be a thick booklet, pages long if he is suf- ficiently gifted lo complete all of Ihe objectives. (And that's just in math a similar system will be used in oilier subjects.) A student who is having prob- lems in learning certain objective methods may also be prescribed remedial studies by the teacher, which would also be recorded on the student's comprehensive report "It will mean a great deal of paper work, but it will be well worth one teacher said. "II will give the students a far better idea of how they are doing." And the teachers involved are keen: they all say they've Icanred more about cirriculum and about teaching through their special jobs than they could possibly have done without tho continuous learning changeover. Increased staff rapport is also obvious the teachers are not a number of individuals, but a co- hesive team of professional staff members. "There's a good feeling on this a teacher said. "We all un- derstand what's happening after all, we did it ourselves. We're proud of it, and we're proud to have worked with each other." They also say they've experi- enced very lil.Uc 'imposition from nbove" the school's administra- tors and the school district officials have not interfered. The staff has set ilself Ihe extra goal of developing a learning activ- ities centre, which would he ex- panded and updated constantly. It would include every imaginable book, pamphlet, mechanical aid, audio-visual aid everything which could help a student to learn more effectively. 'Hie systems, timetabling know- how, resource sources, record keeping programs, testing methods everything involved in Westmin- ster's continuous learning program will be rnado regularly available lo other schools in Ihu city and throughout Alberta.