Teachers query support model

NANAIMO – Teachers' union concerned about a new method of supporting students.

The Nanaimo teachers’ union says the district’s new method of supporting students was rolled out without much involvement from classroom teachers and the majority are still struggling to understand it.

The district’s new approach to helping struggling learners hinges on providing support to these students at an earlier stage – before they fail – by making teams of specialists available to teachers who request assistance in their classrooms.

The model, called response to intervention, includes three tiers of intervention – support for an entire class, a group of students or an individual student with significant deficits in academic or behavioural development.

In January, the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association surveyed members to determine if the model is working and president Justin Green was troubled by the results.

More than 400 teachers responded and 80 per cent said they were not involved at all in the rollout of response to intervention – a concern considering these are front line workers charged with implementing the model.

“That to us was very troublesome,” said Green. “If you want something to fail, don’t tell anybody about it and just implement it.”

The survey also found 30 per cent of respondents had a good or excellent understanding of the model, and 74 per cent reported no change in supports to their classroom or students.

“Almost half noticed a decline in supports to students since implementation of the model,” said Green. “What’s becoming clear is teachers feel like they haven’t been listened to and they’re having something imposed on them.

“The problem is a decision made with a lack of communication has made this difficult to implement and created a lot of resentment.”

Moving forward, Green wants more conversation between teachers and senior officials on how to best make the model work.

“We have an amazing capacity within in the district and we do a number of things very well,” he said. “In the end, I would want something in place that supports teachers in supporting their students, whatever the model is.”

An employee in-service day on Feb. 1 included sessions explaining the model and the union is doing another survey at the end of the school year to see if there is any improvement in teacher understanding and involvement.

Jamie Brennan, school board chairman, said district officials had no opportunity to engage teachers last year due to job action. He said the district has spent a lot of money on implementing the model, so it cannot simply abandon it, but staff need to ensure it works better.