Company Reports - Regina Public Schools
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Regina Public Schools
Regina Public Schools Offers Personalized Education for all Students
Regina School Division No. 4 of Saskatchewan rises to the unique challenge of educating a diverse student body for the demands of the twenty-first century, while respecting the cultural and social differences and individuality of the vast spectrum of students they educate. Through advanced technologies, ever-evolving curriculum and a commitment to educational diversity, Regina Public Schools (RPS) makes a difference in Canadian education.
Julie MacRae serves as the division’s Director of Education and CEO, and she describes the division’s educational ambition as such: “We are in the process of developing a more personalized, individually engaging curriculum that connects with the student more effectively, but we are also expanding the ownership of education across our community so that our continuous improvement includes the city we serve.”
Serving over 20,000 students across 43 public elementary schools, nine public high schools and three faith-based associate schools, RPS inspires and educates their sweeping student body by focusing curriculum, infrastructure and operations around four priority areas: ‘Higher Literacy and Achievement’, ‘Equitable Opportunities and Outcomes for All’, ‘Smooth Transitions into and Through the System’, and ‘Effective Governance of Our System.’
INCLUSIVE EDCUATION AND CULTURAL INTEGRATION
While Regina Public Schools offers an environment bursting with opportunities for student involvement, expression and success, their diverse and growing immigrant population is challenged by inevitable cultural divide, that the division hopes to bridge. Additionally, a growing First Nations and Métis student population further requires focused efforts. “For the first time our continuous improvement strategy will be specifically targeted for achievement in improving graduation rates for all our students and specifically our First Nations and Métis students, which will improve our grad rate overall. While we have always had these generalized aims, this is the first year we are trying setting a numerical target and specific timelines for such achievement,” She says.
RPS is also focused on the achievement of new Canadian students, many of whom’s first residence in Canada is in Regina. Faced with the daunting challenge of having to learn English in addition to their native language, some of these students have, in the past, been sent to schools outside of their community. This move isolated from their friends and neighbours, so Regina Public Schools’ new initiative will guarantee the opportunity to go to school in their home community – by keeping them in their own neighbourhoods and by moving their teachers to them.
MacRae explains, “We are moving from a centralized instructional model to a decentralized model, which results in more integration for these students. In order to normalize their experience we will educate them in the schools in their neighborhood, essentially so they don’t have to travel.”
The results of such an initiative will mean everything in terms of maintaining these students’ cultural integrity. “Our aim is not assimilation, not in any way; we aim to make all students a vital part of their school community,” MacRae says.
TEACHING INNOVATING TECHNOLOGY
The division owes much of its ability to offer personalized student education in many ways, to the power of technology. “Technology really allows us to personalize education for students, and to put tools in their hands that allow them to explore things personally relevant to them,” says MacRae. “Since technology is ubiquitous in their home life, it really helps as a means for student engagement at every level.”
Regina Public Schools’ classrooms strive to be more akin to elite techno-hubs of the future. Smartboards, netbooks, and other mobile devices have helped make technology available to all students, regardless of where they attend school, or their family’s financial circumstances. All teachers have laptop computers and all schools have access to computers through a multitude of computer carts and school-division wide wifi connectivity.
“From an instructional perspective, technology allows teachers to replace blanket skill and drill strategies with individualized curriculum – only putting drills in the hands of students who need extra practice with those things,” MacRae says, “It basically allows us to differentiate instruction to try and meet students at their skill level.”
This sort of differentiated technology can make a measurable difference to at-risk and special needs students, who respond well to the individualized curriculum technology can make more accessible. “These advancements have been a real game changer for our challenged learners, especially the introduction of touch technology, which has had great effects on our students with learning and physical challenges” she says.
EDUCATING FOR A GREENER TOMORROW
In addition to advanced technology, the division strives to set an example on the sustainability front, by instituting green technologies that make a difference to the way they educate, and to greater community in which Regina residents live. In fact, the RPS Board recently passed a policy that detailed the frame work around their sustainability measures that incorporate both education components and infrastructural changes.
“We have put some sustained effort into creating programs that teach conservation, teach about sustainability and teach respect for each other and for the environment. We have also inventoried our practices around that,” MacRae says. These practices include designing all their new buildings to LEED Silver standards. “This is essentially an environmental certification program that speaks to the issue of sustainability and reducing environmental impacts, and energy efficiency in facilities.”
Examples of this environmental thinking at the school level include the elimination of herbicide use, more energy efficient lighting systems, storm water retention and an ongoing solar panel project at one high school. The solar panels are used to warm water in several bathrooms and provide an operational cost savings that is given to that high school’s environmental club for ongoing and future projects.
REGINA’S FUTURE EXPANSION
While Regina Public Schools has already had a significant impact on the rich cultural immersion their students experience on a daily basis, they are now expanding their curriculum to fulfill the needs of those students more focused on an education that prepares them for life and careers beyond high school graduation. A new program titled ‘Campus Regina Public’ will begin in September 2012 and will offer a comprehensive designated skills and experiential training centre for all students interested in high demand skills and technical training.
This career focused, dual credit education experience will offer programming in aesthetics, cosmetology, video game application design, electronics, social justice and law. “We are creating opportunities that meet the needs of all our students who would like to have access to some more innovative career focused educations,” MacRae says.
Regina Public Schools’ dedication to cultural inclusion, environmental stewardship, student-focused and accessible curriculum through advanced technology and community integration will have their students at the forefront of tomorrow’s workplace, both in Regina, Saskatchewan and wherever their futures take them.