By Dr. Pius Ryan, Assistant Superintendent, North Vancouver School District
"Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes time. Vision with action can change the world," - Joel Barker
I begin with this quote because it demonstrates the importance of planning. As a school district, we have a vision and values which are supported by our 10-year-strategic plan that comprises six strategic goals. These goals are:
- Expand the availability of best instructional practices and enriched curriculum.
- Develop and promote innovative and sustainable programs.
- Encourage the growth of collaborative, adaptive and personalized learning environments.
- Provide leadership in environmental education and sustainability practices.
- Nurture an inspiring and healthy work environment.
- Strengthen and expand reciprocal community relations.
These strategic goals guide the work that our school district does in all departments – whether it is in finance, human resources, facilities, information technology, communications, or learning services.
But how do we strategically plan for the educational components of our work?
And how do we connect this higher level planning down to the school and classroom levels?
History of educational planning in BC
Prior to 2016, educational planning was really more of a checkbox project with little depth. There were certain things we had to report on to the Ministry of Education, but it was more like filling out a report than it was a meaningful process.
Amongst provincial stakeholders, there was recognition that schools and school districts should be planning their educational priorities based on the needs of their specific school communities, and that these plans need to be dynamic and adaptable, changing as needs change. Consequently, in 2016 the Enhancing Student Learning Framework was put in place. This planning approach was created over two years in partnership with all educational partners at the Ministry of Education level. It is a very flexible framework that encourages staff, students and parents at individual schools to engage in ongoing dialogue about what they want to focus on as a school.
This flexible and open approach to educational planning was embraced, but it is also required direction in terms of how to move forward.
Educational planning in the North Vancouver School District
As a school district, we decided to start from the foundation. We asked, "What makes a great school?"
Staff, student, and parent representatives engaged in a joint committee process to determine what the North Vancouver School District considers to be a great school. It was decided that a great school is a vibrant learning community comprised of six attributes:
Based on these attributes, we created a framework for school district and school educational planning.
Four house posts of planning
The term 'house post' is significant in Indigenous culture. As the foundation of a stable home for people to live in, strong house posts represent a solid structure that withstands the forces against it. The house posts of planning are: 1) Vision to Goal Setting; 2) Planning and Implementation; 3) Monitor, Evaluate, and Adapt; and 4) Communicating Progress.
Three essential planning strands
Through our stakeholder working group, we identified three essential strands to inform and guide the school planning process: 1) Values and Vision; 2) Engagement and Learning; and 3) Collaboration, Communication, and Community.
To support our planning inquiry process, the North Vancouver School District is committed to the Pillars of Educational Practice: Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment and Social Emotional Learning.
We view these four pillars through a Universal Design for Learning lens. Universal Design is a framework for designing classrooms and curricula that enable all individuals to gain knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for learning.
- Universal practices/supports serve most students. This is when adaptations are made in the classroom, such as slightly altering instruction to meet student needs.
- Targeted practices/supports are focused on individual or group strategies. They build on universal supports but are more targeted. For example, providing additional reading supports to a group of students.
- Intensive practices/supports build from and add to universal and targeted supports. Intensive actions serve a much smaller portion of the student population (1-5% of students). Typically, these supports are highly individualized and specialized, such as specific support from an educational assistant.
Schools and the school district have been using these guiding principles to engage in the educational planning process.
How do we show our educational planning?
Educational planning is a collaborative process between staff, students and parents. Communicating this work also needs to be open and dynamic. To share the work, the Education Planning website was created:
Please visit this website to find out more about North Vancouver School District's educational planning framework, and to see the school district and schools' educational plans. The website is https://vibrantlearning.sd44.ca/