English Parents' Committee Association (EPCA), Montreal, Quebec
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Press Release November 22, 2019 Bill 40

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Montreal, November 22, 2019
The English Parents Committee Association (EPCA) is denouncing the paraphrasing used by the Minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge in the National Assembly yesterday on the comments made by EPCA Vice-President Katherine Korakakis during the parliamentary commission on Bill 40.

The Minister of Education used Ms. Korakakis’s statement in his own context. “The Minister of Education used my name to try and promote his bill in the National Assembly in the wrong context,” said Vice-President Katherine Korakakis.

“EPCA is not in favour of Bill 40 and if he had listened through the entire proceeding he would have understood our position as clearly as the other Members of the National Assembly on the Culture and Education Committee.

EPCA sees no added value to student success or to our community with this bill. It should be withdrawn and all education stakeholders should have a voice in the future of our extremely successful public education system,” concluded the Vice-President.

Annual General Assembly

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Notice

English Parents' Committee Association

Annual General Assembly

(This event is by Invitation-only)


Date: Saturday, November 30th, 2019
Location: 2599 Blvd Alfred Nobel, Saint Laurent, QC H4S 0A9
9:00am Meet and Greet Breakfast
10:00am Annual General Assembly
12:30 Lunch
14:00 Strategic Development Session
On the needs of Parents’ Committees of Québec

A Vital Task for the National Assembly

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Notes for remarks by

The English Parents Committee Association

Regarding Bill 40

To the

Committee on Culture and Education

National Assembly of Québec

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The English Parents Committee Association demands high performance from our schools, teachers and administrators. As parents, our two prime concerns about any given education policy come down to:

1. Will it increase the graduation rate of Quebec schools?

2. Will it make our graduates better equipped to deal with the world?

EPCA is disheartened to see that the government put all its attention and resources into producing a bill that targets neither the quality of education nor the graduation rate in Quebec.

We have, however, taken note of what the government hopes to achieve with this bill, and we would like to offer some comments about these goals, as well as suggestions that might make this bill more effective at achieving its stated goals. In this process we hope that the bill may be amended to make improve educational outcomes.

1. Regarding the government’s goal of providing autonomy for schools and proximity to the community in decision-making: we appreciate and applaud the minister in wanting to bring the parents closer to the decision-making process. However, there are several aspects of the new model that raise concerns and problems for us, and may indeed undermine the stated intention of proximity to the community:

a. The new model provides no specifics regarding representation on the service centre Board of Directors of special needs, elementary, high school and vocational communities. Each of these sectors has its own characteristics and distinct needs and should be represented by parents involved with them. We believe the bill would be more effective if it is amended to specify this aspect of representation on the Board. At a minimum, it is urgent to ensure that a parent of a special needs student is included on the Board.

b. The new model, by contrast, provides very specific criteria for the community representatives who will replace the existing elected commissioners (i.e. one each from the financial sector, sports and leisure, human resources, etc.). We see it as highly unlikely that the people with these backgrounds are likely to step forward spontaneously to run for these positions, particularly in rural areas. Better that the criteria for community representatives be made less specific, and that these representatives be vetted and nominated by the community they serve.

c. For community representatives, there is also no provision for the cost of running a campaign, which will limit the pool of candidates to those who can afford this cost. Better that there should be clear provisions for reimbursement of campaign costs. This way, the diverse range of a community’s interests can be reflected in its representatives.

d. The parents in the territory of a service centre should form the electorate for the parent members of the service centre Board of Directors.

e. The parent members of the Board must also be members of the parent committee of the service centre. While other Board members are supported by their respective organizations and associations, parent representatives are lone agents in this new model. However, as members of parent committees, parent representatives would benefit (in terms of communications, proximity to other parents), and be able to provide more effective representation. 

2. Regarding the government’s intention to reduce bureaucracy, we fear that the outcome will be more likely a hollowing-out of the education system. This bill removes intermediaries between parents and the ministry that have helped us in the past to refine and play a more effective role in the governance of our schools. When there is consultation on new decrees by the ministry, it will fall to the Governing Board to do much more of this work, to go through documentation and articulate their responses. We believe it is important to maintain the existing consultative process through parents committees, as well as Governing Boards. Both parents committees and Governing Boards are being put in a position to fail, asked to do more without the resources or compensation to do this work effectively. 

3. Regarding the government’s intention to remove politics from education, we see the likely outcome as removing democracy from education.

a. While the English sector retains elections at large for community representatives to the service centre Board of Directors, this electoral process is enfeebled and attenuated. The school electoral list for the English minority previously used for this vote must be maintained, and it should be easy to get onto this list; a matter of showing up, identifying and voting.

b.We would have hoped to see the elections integrated with municipal elections, for example, and otherwise reinforced and helped to reach out to the community, rather than narrowing the base of the electorate and limiting the representativeness and legitimacy of these bodies. It is not too late for this Assembly to modify these details of the bill to retain and reinforce the community outreach of this electoral process that has historically been an important event in the English-speaking community. 

4. We come now to the government’s intention to save $45 million over the next four years. In our view, this saving is on the back of parents. The elimination of school commissioners and elections to make these savings will mean more responsibilities for Governing Boards, for example, but there is little recognition of what this means for the individuals in this volunteer ecosystem. We are all working in the system that educates Quebec children, from the Minister to the rookie parent on the local parent committee; but I ask you who are here today at this committee: how many of you could do your jobs effectively if you were working on a volunteer basis and paying your own expenses, your own babysitting costs? If you expect more from this part of the system, you must provide it with adequate resources and compensation.

To conclude, we note that this bill has not emerged from any white paper or clear intention to improve education in Quebec. It offers no metrics that matter to us, such as improving the graduation rate and the quality of education.

The existing School Board system is a community-based intermediary between the school and the Education Ministry, and an important institutional support to parents; and we see the new service centres proposed to replace them as having uncertain legal status, with leadership clearly answerable to the ministry before parents, teachers or administrators. Without amendment, this bill is a disaster for our schools and the communities they support.

We encourage this Assembly to look long and hard at this bill, and to be ready to amend it in the interest of the quality of education in Quebec. 

10 tips to help your teen get smart about tests

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Choose the summer program that’s right for your child

Choose the summer program that’s right for your child


Here's how you can help your child succeed on tests and make sure that tests are tools for learning at school.

by: GreatSchools Staff
Your child is used to taking tests, but beginning in high school the results carry higher stakes. Tests may determine whether your child progresses from algebra to geometry, graduates from high school or is admitted to the college of her choice. It’s no wonder parents worry that their kids are test-stressed.

You can help your child learn to take tests and use tests to learn with these 10 tips:

1. Monitor your child’s progress on homework and classroom tests.
It may seem obvious, but good study skills are the best test preparation. It can be challenging to keep track of your tween or teen’s progress in school. Your child is learning to be independent – a good thing – and may resist your efforts. And you don’t want to get so involved that you’re the one doing his homework. How much supervision you need to provide depends on your child’s age, maturity and how he’s doing in school. Find out the best times and ways to contact his teachers (Email makes this a lot easier!) Check in with them regularly for feedback and ask how you can help your child at home.
Learn more: Read Study skills for middle school and beyond and How to take great notes on GreatSchools.org.

2. Help your child learn from tests.
Go over tests with your child to see if there are concepts he still doesn’t understand and give him a pat on the back if he did well. Ask your child if he knows how he was able to achieve the grade he got or how he can get a better grade next time. If he gets an 80% on an essay test and the teacher’s only comment is “good job,” that’s not much information. What was good? What does he have to do to get 100%? Many teachers use “rubrics,” or scoring guides, to show students the difference between A, B and C work. Rubrics can break down a more subjective area, such as writing, into components that students can more readily understand.
Learn more: Read more about the use of rubrics in middle school in this article on Middle Web, a resource for teachers and parents.

3. Talk to the teachers or principal about how test results are used.
Ask how the teacher uses test results to adjust her lesson planning or methods of instruction. Does the teacher go over tests after handing them back so that students get a chance to learn from them? Ask the principal how the school uses standardized tests to improve learning and instruction, and how achievement gaps between groups of students are being addressed.

4. Find out how students are prepared for standardized tests.
Do they understand the purpose of a test? Is preparation a separate activity, done in the last week or two, using old editions of the test? This focus on the superficial features of test-taking is what gives test preparation a bad name.
Students should be given some classroom tests in the same format as the standardized test they will take. “We’re not talking about getting old copies of the test,” says Dr. Christopher Tienken, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in New Jersey and a professor at the Rutgers University Graduate School of Education. “If a test format calls for a written response, you shouldn’t be seeing only multiple-choice tests.”
Good teachers integrate the test-taking skills and strategies into their instruction on a regular basis. For example, the skills needed to successfully answer questions on a reading comprehension test – time management, understanding the question being asked and distilling the main point of the passage to be read – are those your child will need to complete assignments in many classes in the years ahead.
Learn more: Read What’s so bad about teaching to the test? on GreatSchools.org.

5. Find out what other ways the school assesses students.
Tests don’t give a full picture of your student. They don’t measure her ability as an artist or creative thinker. For this reason, some schools also use portfolio assessment to evaluate students. Students collect samples of their story drafts, research projects or lab reports into portfolios. The student’s reflections and evaluations of what she has learned are part of the portfolio, which she presents to classmates, teachers and in some cases, parents or community members. Portfolio assessment is not widely used because portfolios are more time-consuming to grade than standardized tests. A number of colleges also accept academic portfolios for admission. Whether or not your child’s school uses a variation of portfolio assessment, she should be assessed on more than test results. Your child should be given a range of assignments, from research papers to creative writing to science projects to help her become an engaged learner and to practice skills that tests may not reflect.
Learn more: Here’s a description of portfolio assessment from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Research and Improvement.
Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, is one college that allows students to skip the SAT and submit a portfolio. Applicants have to send in four samples of graded work from their junior and senior years in high school, including teacher comments.

6. Help your child learn the questions to ask before the test.
The path to a good grade shouldn’t be a mystery. At the beginning of the school year or semester, the teacher should make clear how students will be graded.
Some teachers give points for homework, quizzes and projects and add them up to calculate a grade. Others count only major assignments. Some reward effort, which makes hard-working students feel better but should also be a warning flag: Grades from teachers who give lots of credit for effort don’t give an accurate picture of the skills students have mastered.
Before a test, your student should know the specifics: the test format, the scope of material covered, whether he needs to show his work for math problems and whether he’ll be penalized for guessing on a multiple-choice test. If a teacher isn’t providing enough information to help your child prepare, make an appointment to speak with the teacher, and if you need to, talk to the principal.

7. Before the test, go over strategies with your student.
•   Remind him to do the following:
•   Preview the test before he starts work on it, noting the number of points for each question. Then, he should quickly figure out how much
    time to spend on each section.
•   Read the question carefully so he understands what he is being asked to do. On a multiple-choice test, a question that asks “Which of the
    following does not…..” has a far different answer than “Which of the following does….” Talk about how the answers would be different if
    your child is asked to:
•   Compare (identify similarities and differences)
•   Contrast (show differences)
•   Summarize (give a concise account without detail)
•   Prove (support a point of view with facts)
•   Answer the easiest questions first. Then go back to the tougher ones.
•   Make educated guesses on multiple-choice questions. If points are deducted for guessing, it’s better to leave an answer blank than to make
    a wild guess. But if your child can eliminate one or more incorrect answers, or if there is no penalty for guessing, it’s a good idea to guess.
•   On questions that require matching, he should read all the items before he writes any answers so he can get an idea of all the possibilities.

This is less time-consuming than going back to erase and change an answer.
•   For short-answer questions, keep in mind that the teacher has something specific in mind from the assigned reading or her lectures.
•   Know that first impulses are usually correct, so be careful about going back to change answers.
•   Use all of his time. If he finishes, he should check his answers. If he’s checked the answers once, he can cover up his answers and think
through the question again to see if he should rework his answer.

Learn more: Read Timed writing: techniques for success from the College Board.

8. Remember that all tests are tests of reading ability.
If your student struggles with tests, talk to the teacher about whether she may have a reading problem. She may be able to read individual words but struggle with the advanced reading skills middle and high school students need to summarize, analyze and predict. Keep books, magazines and newspapers at home to encourage your child to read, and let her see you reading, too. Older children still look to parents as role models, even if they aren’t quick to admit it!
Learn more: Read Get ready for middle and high school reading and Get ready for college reading on GreatSchools.org.

9. Help your child get physically and mentally prepared.
Try to make sure your child has a well-balanced diet and is well-rested. Make sure he knows how the results of a test will be used and encourage him to take it seriously. Talk to him about any fears he has about a test if he seems overly anxious. But then remind him that the test is only one measure of what he can do.
Learn more: Check the GreatSchools.org Healthy Kids guide for healthy food and fitness ideas.

10. Learn more about tests.
Find out what a test is designed to measure. Don’t draw conclusions from a single test score and question any decision the school makes about your child based on a single test. How your child feels physically on test day or the way she feels about the teacher can affect her results.
Tienken says that his district has moved away from using a single test to determine a child’s placement in a program for gifted students or in a particular class. A student’s past achievement, current report card and test scores are now taken into account before a decision is made, he says.
“Parents should ask, ‘What are your criteria for student placement decisions?'” Tienken advises.
If your child’s results on several different tests are relatively consistent, you should pay attention and discuss any worrying trends – as well as newly emerging talents – with the teacher or counselor.
When looking at your school’s test scores, assessing whether the school’s scores have improved or declined over time is more useful than looking at the results of a single test.

Choose the summer program that’s right for your child

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summer program

Setting your priorities first will help you sort through the specialty programs and camps to find the best ones for your child.


by: GreatSchools Staff

As any busy parent knows, summer isn’t what it used to be. It often means replacing the routine of school and after-school care with a patchwork of camps, lessons, temporary child care arrangements and family vacations. It’s also a chance for your child to learn and grow by sampling a new activity, developing her talents and becoming more independent.


Making the right choices for your child is a balancing act, says Dr. Judith Myers-Walls, a child development expert at Purdue University. “You have to balance your needs with your goals to give your child new experiences and your child’s needs.”


Camps come in all shapes and sizes

In many communities, there is an abundance of choice. There are approximately 14,000 camps in the U.S., according to the nonprofit American Camp Association, which accredits about 2,400 of them. The programs are operated by private companies, local parks and recreation departments, and nonprofit community or religious organizations. They fall into these general types, although there are programs that combine a number of elements:
Special interest programs
These focus on a sport, the arts, science or technology. They can be half-day or full-day programs and are often called “camps” although they don’t involve camping.


Day camps
These can be a good, relatively low-cost introduction to camp for younger children. They typically include the hiking, swimming and crafts programs of a traditional camp without the overnight stay.


Sleepaway camps
Ranging from very rustic to downright posh, these overnight camps typically offer a two- to eight-week-long outdoor experience for a range of ages that includes sports and arts and crafts. Many offer a one-week option for first-time campers. Some sleepaway camps focus on a particular activity, such as music.


Camps for children with special needs
The Americans for Disabilities Act requires that camps make accommodations, such as wheelchair ramps, for children with special needs. But there are also a number of camps especially tailored to children with learning or behavioral problems, chronic illness and developmental disabilities.


Here’s how to get started finding out what’s right for your child and family.

Consider your needs — and your budget
If you need full-time care for your child all summer, the costs can quickly add up so you’ll want to first consider your overall budget.
Many day camp programs end early in the afternoon or only last a few weeks. That means working parents need to include the cost of after-camp child care or babysitting in their planning. The cost of summer programs varies widely. The most recent estimate from the American Camp Association is that the average day camp costs $324 a week. But camps that are operated by local governments or nonprofit organizations often cost less. And there are plenty of camps that cost more.

“But the fee does not equate with equality,” says Ann Sheets, executive director of the American Camp Association, which accredits day and sleepaway camps.

Miriam Silver, a mother of an 11-year-old boy in Sebastapol, CA, has sent her son to a city-operated day camp several summers that costs $125 a week, much less than the national average.

“It’s at a beautiful lake with hiking trails,” she says. “They get dirty. They get independent. He doesn’t usually canoe. He doesn’t fish. But he does that week.”

The average cost of a sleepaway camp is $768 a week, according to the ACA. If you’re considering sending your child away to camp, you’ll need to factor in transportation to camp for your child and for you, if you’re planning to visit.

No matter what program you’re considering, be sure to ask about scholarships and financial assistance, because many camps offer them.
Once you’ve figured out your overall budget, you’ll need to ask at each camp you consider what the overall fee includes.

Does it cover snacks and meals?
Does it cover materials, such as arts and craft supplies, and all the activities the camp offers?
Are you required to buy a camp uniform or sports gear?

Cost-cutting tips
Sometimes you have to get creative to stay within your summer budget. You may want to pool your resources with a few other parents to hire an energetic teenager for the after-camp care you need. Or you might want to join with a small group of other parents who are able to stay at home for a day or two at a time to create your own day camp. You can provide a fun yet inexpensive week by combining a trip to the lake, an outing at a science museum, story hour at the library, baking projects that incorporate math lessons and a nature walk or two. Trying this low-cost alternative might help you save for a week of the soccer camp your child has been begging to attend.

Consider your child’s needs
There’s general agreement that most children are ready for sleepaway camp by the time they are nine or 10 years old, but every child has a different temperament and developmental timetable. Is your child comfortable staying overnight with friends or relatives? Is he excited at the prospect of camp? Talk to your pediatrician or your child’s teacher if you’re not sure your child is ready.

Your child may have loved her day camp last summer, but that doesn’t mean she’ll want to go year after year. Children’s needs change as they grow, and your 10-year-old may have developed interests that make a special interest program in volleyball or dance a better option than day camp or sleepaway camp.

Summers can be even trickier for parents of teens, who may want more free time than their parents are comfortable allowing. Many campers “graduate” to become counselors-in-training or junior counselors, a great way to combine the experience of camp with the responsibilities of a job.

Consider your goals for your child
Summer is a great time for your child to sample new activities, and there’s likely to be a summer program that includes just about any you can think of, whether it’s video production, yoga, rock-climbing or songwriting.

Whatever new experience you’d love to introduce to your child, experts advise that you involve him in the process of choosing, whether it’s the type of camp or the length of his stay. It’s a way for a child to retain a sense of control, and also a way to head off homesickness if he’s heading to sleepaway camp.

“The child needs to buy in and have some choice,” says the ACA’s Sheets.
Myers-Walls, the Purdue psychologist, also advises parents to involve their children in planning for summer. But that doesn’t mean you don’t push them a bit, she says.

“As a parent you may say ‘my child is afraid of any spider in the house’ and I know a nature experience is going to make her a little uncomfortable,'” she says. “That doesn’t mean you don’t do it. You’ll just want to look for ways to make your child less uncomfortable.”
You can help your child feel more at home outdoors by giving her some practice. Plan a family weekend at a nearby campground this spring or help her organize a camp out with friends in her own backyard.

Do your homework
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices to those that fit your needs and budget, talk to other parents, check the local newspaper, library, parks and recreation department and community organizations like the YMCA to find out about your options. There are camp fairs in many metropolitan areas where you can meet representatives from summer programs in your area.
A Google search will show you that there are many camp advisory sites on the Web. They are free and can be helpful in showing your range of choices. But remember that sites often make money by selling advertising to the camps they list, and their recommendation isn’t a substitute for you doing your homework.

"Going to any Web site is just one part of choosing a camp,” says Sheets.

Check the ACA Web site to see a list of the organization’s accredited camps. A camp on this list has met the organization’s extensive list of standards for its site, staff, health and safety, food service, programs and transportation.

However, some very good camps choose not to apply for accreditation, acknowledges Sheets. Those with long waiting lists, for example, don’t feel they need to go through the extensive process, which costs a camp money and staff time.

In any case, you’ll want to see if the camp is a good fit for your child. Your best sources of information are the director and parents whose children have been there. Ask the camp director for references if you don’t know parents whose children have attended.
Many camps post lovely pictures on their brochures or Web sites, but parents still need to ask detailed questions about the facilities.
“I’d be particularly interested in where the kids are sleeping,” says Sheets. “I’ve slept in cabins, in tents and out under the stars. They’re very different experiences.”

You’ll also want to see if your child will be happy with the camp’s culture. If the brochure emphasizes the sports program, for example, a parent should ask what specific activities make up that program.

“There are great camps that are extremely competitive,” says Sheets. “And great camps that are not.”

Plan now for next year

The best time to visit a camp or program is when it’s in session. While it’s too late for that this year, you may want to factor a camp visit into your vacation plans this summer.

Bring your list of questions, talk to the director, take in the scenery, but most of all, watch the way the staff treats the campers and the campers treat each other. That will help you get a head start on your planning for next year.

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