DAN CEARNS, The Standard
KAWARTHA LAKES: Two concerned residents appeared before Trillium Lakelands District School Board trustees, at a meeting on Tuesday, May 9th, to ask the board to maintain the level of French language used in the French immersion program.
Earlier this year, parents received a notice which stated the TLDSB would be changing the formula for Grades 1 to 3 students to 60 percent of teacher instruction in French and 40 percent in English. This is down from the board’s current formula of 80 percent in French and 20 percent in English.
Heather Stauble started off her delegation by stressing the importance of French Immersion education. “French Immersion is for students whose parents do not speak French, including multilingual learners, so they can learn to speak French, read, write and do math in French and English. Fifty years of research shows us, early French Immersion is the most effective, accessible, inclusive, equitable and cost-efficient way of achieving this in both official languages,” she stated.
She then made the claim, only the board can set the degree of French instruction. “Policy decisions are made by the elected board of trustees. Under the Education Act, it is the board of trustees’ policy decision to establish; which has been done, or vary, the degree of French instructional time in a French Immersion program, using the guidance of the FSL (French as a Second Language) framework.”
She added, she has not seen any recommendation, in the FSL framework or from researchers, to lower “French instructional time for an entire program.”
Susan Verkuyl made her case, on why the board should maintain the 80 percent instruction rate. “The reasons given for the proposed reduction in primary French Immersion instruction, from 80 percent to 60, were due to weak literacy skills across the board; not specifically from French Immersion students, and for equity purposes. The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s 'Right to Read' report found parents, of students struggling with literacy skills, are often discouraged from having their child continue in French Immersion, rather than given the appropriate interventions and accommodations to allow them to stay in the program. They do not recommend reducing the amount of French instruction but, rather, they recommend school boards develop clear [and] transparent written criteria and processes, for referring students with suspected reading disabilities for psycho-educational assessment, based on the response to intervention. The criteria should ensure students learning in French Immersion have equal access to assessments. We know early intense Immersion is the most effective [strategy] for children to learn a language.”