Is the DSBN Academy going to be like a KIPP school?

A Google search indicates that a lot has been written about the recent decision by the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) to approve a Grade 6 – 12 school (to be called the DSBN Academy) for disadvantaged kids from families where no one has ever graduated from a post-secondary institution. Here also is what Hugo at The Education Reporter has written — as well as here and here. Now, while I haven’t read anywhere that it will be based on the U.S.  KIPP model  — Knowledge is Power — it sounds like that is the DSBN rationale.

KIPP schools are unapologetically post-secondary preparation schools for children and youth who would not likely make it otherwise. And, they apparently are very successful.  In fact, I have written very positively about KIPP schools before.  However, there are some major differences between KIPP schools and what will be the DSBN Academy.

For example, KIPP schools, as far as I understand them, are within specific communities.  So, the problem with the DSBN Academy is that it will be in Welland. Meaning, that kids will have to be bussed from Grimsby, Fort Erie, St. Catharines, Thorold, Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake — all huge distances from Welland. Like special education, that will mean a two to three-hour round trip by bus each and every single day — miles and miles from their own communities, friends and family.

Instead, then, why doesn’t the DSBN simply implement the proven Pathways program as suggested by Brock professor, Kevin Gosine, in this Standard article. What is especially positive about Pathways is that it can be implemented in each and every neighbourhood school. I mean, it is hardly fair to parents and taxpayers to provide special programs and services at only one school when there will be hundreds, if not thousands of kids, not able to participate.    

But, the major problem it seems is that the DSBN did not hold public consultations, and I mean public, not just with stakeholder groups that were in favour of the concept. As many regulars here know, I nearly ran for public school board trustee in the Ontario, October municipal election and even when I didn’t, I followed things very carefully. I heard nothing whatsoever about a possible DSBN Academy. The DSBN administration is now claiming that “Project Connect” was openly discussed at all-candidates nights. Well, who would ever connect “Project Connect” to a new school? No one who didn’t know anything about it, that is for sure.

Well, a newly elected Niagara-on-the-Lake trustee by the name of Jonathan Fast, has put forward a motion for the DSBN to cancel the DSBN Academy approval — and, according to this Niagara Advance editorial,  that vote will be this coming Tuesday. Will the decision be rescinded? I doubt it because far too many decisions have already been made and certain reputations are at stake. However, given the political pressure, one never knows. Stay tuned!

Use “Pathways” program in all school boards!

Read the “Pathways to Education” website and this questions and answers in the National Post and one thing immediately comes to mind. If this program is so very successful, why on earth is it not being implemented in every school in Canada?

Right now, for example,  it is only available in six locations:  Regent’s park, Lawrence Heights and Rexdale in Toronto, Ottawa, Kitchener and Verdun in Montreal.

The program is said to consist of four support pillars: academic (tutoring four nights a week), social (mentors), financial (a $4000 grant towards post-secondary education) and advocacy. But, from what I understand, although there are teachers and other professionals involved in the academic, social and advocacy parts of the program, the success of this program is the dedicated volunteers who do the tutoring and mentoring in the evenings and on weekends.

Just how successful is the approach? Well, in Regent’s Park, for instance, since the program was implemented in 2001, the dropout rate has been reduced from 56% to 10% — which is a significant result. Moreover, absenteeism has dropped by 50% while college and university enrollment has increased from 20% to 80% — with the majority being the first in their family to attend post-secondary.

Therefore, as I said at the start of this post, with that kind of success rate, why is the Pathways to Education program not available everywhere there is a need to reduce drop out rates, thereby providing the opportunity for kids to succeed?