Welcome to Marilyn Bergstra’s Blog. To learn more about Marilyn, click on the links above.

Below you will find a selection of blogs that have been added over time.

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Your Tax Dollars and the Importance Behind Results Based Management and Accountability Frameworks for School Jurisdictions.

With growing deficits, tighter budgets and greater student need within the classroom, it is imperative that every dollar be accounted for and that impact assessments are performed in relation to student outcomes.

Alberta schools have provided great leadership in terms of educational reform. This is to be commended, as thinking outside the box offers opportunity to develop cutting edge programs that lead to greater student success. One such example is, the “Coaching” model at Edmonton Catholic. This comprehensive program has resulted in the highest graduation rates for Indigenous students anywhere in the province. Innovative practices such as this must continue if we are to ensure the long term success of students and of the economy.

Not surprising though, is the tremendous costs that are associated with any new design or program. Additionally, new programs are rarely evaluated for effectiveness and their respective results often go unchallenged or unknown. Given this reality,  new initiatives must be comprehensively assessed to determine if programs have met intended outcomes. This is essential to fiscal accountability. Hence, it is recommended that these types of  financial investments be assessed according to a set of three criteria that include:

  • an assessment of the program design (formative evaluation)
  • a review of the design implementation process (process evaluation)
  • achievement of short, medium and long term goals and objectives (outcomes evaluation)

This application would set a new standard and new direction related to school based approaches, provisions, and review of, program designs.  As such,  the analysis of formative, process, and outcome evaluations must become the standard practice for boards across the province. This will facilitate, among other things, evaluations that harness the statistical power of quantitative data in addition to important qualitative analysis and information,  delivering a standardized practice to guide and assess program development, implementation, outcomes, and cost effectiveness/efficiencies across Alberta schools.

As stated by the Treasury Board Secretariat with the Government of Canada, “Evaluation is the systematic collection and analysis of information on the performance of a policy, program or initiative to make judgements about relevance, progress or success and cost effectiveness, and/or to inform future programming decisions about design and implementation” (Canada, 2017)

The use of results based analysis is able to harnesses the power of data that is statistically grounded. Thus, it is an effective tool in assessing the power, strength and cost effectiveness associated with any new initiative. It provides the needed assurance that costly programs are deemed effective in order to  justify continued support. The evaluative process works to identify areas of weakness and serves to guide decisions about future programming. This is critical to ensure that tax dollars have been efficiently and effectively assigned and to assure that student results are maximized.

For this reason, I will be encouraging the adoption of this instrument for use by Edmonton Catholic Schools. As an industry standard for all publicly funded government institution, application of this commonly used tool will serve to make the district more fiscally accountable, but so too will it provide real time research information on the effectiveness of program designs, implementations and outcomes… all of which serve students and tax payers.

Results Based Assessments–Sample– Mandatory Vaccinations to Attend Public Schools in Alberta

 

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The Importance of Child Vaccinations and Keeping Students Safe: We Can’t Change the Minds of the 2% But We Can Save Lives.

I presented a Motion  to lobby government to implement mandatory vaccinations for all students attending publicly funded school (less those needing medical exemptions). Relevant vaccinations included the following: measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, tetanus, diphtheria and polio.

Motion Passed

If we don’t take action, things will get worse before they get better…

A long read but an important matter facing the majority of school students around the globe. In the link below you will find summary information related to vaccinations in addition to a global scan of current policies aimed at improving vaccination rates in populations.

Policy Analysis Increasing Child Vaccination Rates

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Savvy Student Consumers!!

Public Board Motion:

Re:         Financial Literacy Programming for School Curriculum

Motion: Passed

That the Board of Trustees lobbies government to develop financial literacy programming for implementation into the school curriculum.

Walmart advertisement: ‘the average family saves $1200 a year shopping at Walmart. What will you buy with the money you have saved?’

 Noted on receipts and verbally shared by salesperson at the time of purchase: ‘you saved $50 on your purchase today’”

Students today are bombarded by complex social media campaigns and commentary that affect perceptions and habits related to money management. Sophisticated advertisements targeting youth consistently reinforce that individuals deserve and need to have the latest and greatest gadgets, games, clothes, etc.  Messaging further stresses a right to immediate gratification in terms of collecting material possessions along with experiences; affordability is not a consideration. As a result, ‘buy now, pay later’ attitudes are increasingly becoming the norm among younger generations. Further, access to quick and easy credit means that attitudes and desires are easily translated into behavior.

Knowing the significant purchasing power of youth, media will continue to bombard students in sophisticated, intentional ways that promote the pervasive ideology associated with modern day consumerism, ultimately supporting attitudes that lead to unnecessary, irresponsible spending practices. The most logical resource/avenue available to combat the power of theses influences and corresponding behaviors is curriculum that equips students with financial skills to empower them to become savvy, critical, analytical and self-constrained consumers. Students need to understand fully the implications of carefree spending, critique and question subtleties in messaging that influence one’s spending habits, budget appropriately, and understand concepts such as affordability.   They need to understand consequences associated with credit/debt acquisition and the importance of long term financial planning.

The economic and psychosocial impact of poor financial management, at both the individual and population level, is tremendous. We cannot afford (pardon the pun) to leave another generation of youth graduate without a sound grounding in financial literacy given the life-long implications of poor financial decision making. We must successfully impart within all students the importance that money management will play in their lives. Assertions made by Edmonton Public School Board Trustee Michael Janz are indeed correct; financial literacy must be incorporated into the new curriculum. It is a modern-day solution to a profound and prolific modern-day challenges.

Additional cross -provincial support:

Ontario to Adopt Financial Literacy Curriculum

Importance of Financial Literacy

 

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Grad Ceremony Participation and Religious Education Credits… Religion Classes are Critical & Foundational to Catholic Education.

It is important that I set the record straight surrounding media commentary on my proposed motion to review district practices related to mandated Religious Education classes. Contrary to what has been reported, I must relay that at no time have I ever suggested that religion is not an important component of Catholic Education nor that I do not agree that it should be taught. Clearly, religion is essential to Catholic Education and is foundational to our existence.  What I did suggest, is that the district might benefit by exploring alternative means to encourage students to actively engage in religion class if we are to best enhance and grow student faith. My conviction, both then and now, is that religion should be inspired rather than tied to punitive measures; in our case, participation in graduation celebrations. I do not believe this mechanism accomplishes the ends that are intended.

What precipitated my motion was notice of a district high school student who was allegedly sick for 2 years. Although, he had completed all required credits to graduate he was unable to complete his religion class. Upon proof of illness to the district, the student was not provided assurance that the religious requirement would be waved such that he could graduate with his peers. With the student left wondering, I acted in the new year by way of a motion calling for the Board to explore alternatives to this practice. (Note: it is alleged that the requirement was waved for the student the week I submitted my motion)

Additionally, based on thoughtful review of differing legal interpretations and my own review of applicable provincial and federal legal statutes, it is my belief that mandating religion as a requirement to attend graduation celebrations may be contrary to the intent embedded within several constitutional Acts (Alberta Act, sec 17, School Act, sec 50(2), Alberta Human Rights Act, sec 4, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, sec 15). As such, I believe this puts Catholic districts in a libelous situation. Hence, my rational is three-fold: to seek non-punitive measures to encourage participation in religion class, to ensure that the district is protected from unwanted litigation and associated costs, and to preserve a strong public reputation for Catholic schools.

 

 

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Mandatory Vaccinations for Public School Attendance

Motion:

  1. I move that the board of Trustees lobby government to legislate mandatory vaccinations for all student’s in the public education system. Mandatory vaccinations will include the following: diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella. In extreme cases, whereby a medical doctor has advised that it is in the students best interest to forego vaccination on the grounds of medical complications, exclusion may be applicable. For example, while undergoing cancer treatment.
  2. I move that the Board of Trustees advance an emergent resolution to the ASBA that would call upon the provincial government to legislate mandatory vaccinations for all student’s in the public education system. Exclusions to the practice will be limited to only those extreme cases whereby a medical doctor has advised the child’s family to forego vaccination on the grounds of medical complications such as during cancer treatment.

Background: Surveillance Snapshot-Global Measles outbreaks 2017

As of January 2017, 500 measles cases have been reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region7.  17 deaths were reported in Romania alone in this same time period. Measles continues to spread within and among European countries, with the potential to cause large outbreaks wherever immunization coverage has dropped below the necessary threshold of 95%.6

The Michigan Department of Health and Human services had confirmed Michigan’s first measles case by March of this year6. From January 1 to March 25, 2017, 28 people from 10 states (California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Washington) were reported to have measles2.  Surveillance data published March 31st, 2017 by the Public Health Agency of Canada for epidemiological week 11, 2017, reported 10 cases of measles in Canada, resulting in an outbreak in Nova Scotia4. Since, this reporting period additional cases have appeared including one case in Calgary with warnings of potential for outbreak1.

From 2001 – 2012, the average number of measles cases reported across the United states on an annual basis was about 60. Recently, there have been more, which is of great concern to public health authorities. In 2014, there were 667 cases in the U.S.; the majority of people who got measles were not vaccinated6.

In Canada, measles has been eliminated since 1998. However, Canada will continue to see measles cases stemming from travel to countries where measles is present (endemic) or where there are large outbreaks3. Many developing countries continue to struggle with endemic levels of vaccine-preventable disease. Although such diseases have since been eradicated in the developed world, we grow increasingly at risk for outbreak through transfer from other countries particularly as vaccination rates continue to decline3. China and India alone reported 125,000 cases of measles for 20153. Outbreaks in Canada are linked to travellers to China, India and other regions around the globe.3

“Immunizations are the best way to protect our families and communities from the harmful, sometimes deadly consequences of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles,” said Dr. Eden Wells, Chief Medical Executive with the MDHHS6.

Measles is a vaccine-preventable respiratory infection that can result in hospitalization, pneumonia, encephalitis, and death. The illness initially presents with a high fever, red eyes, cough, runny nose, photophobia, and is followed by a red, raised body rash starting on the head and face that then progresses to the rest of the body. Individuals may be contagious for a few days before they present with symptoms, which increases the potential of exposing others to the infection.

Measles is a highly communicable disease. Vaccination is the best line of defense, and successful prevention and control requires that 95% of the population be vaccinated to ensure herd resistance within a population. Consistent with other childhood vaccines, the measles vaccine is highly effective and very safe6.

Rational:

Although I have provided recent data in relation to measles, outbreaks related to other preventable diseases have also occurred early into this year in Canada. This includes, but is certainly not limited to, a whooping cough outbreak in both Manitoba and Alberta as well as multiple cases of mumps within Edmonton Health Region. These vaccine preventable cases are the direct result of drops in vaccination rates within the population.

As most of these diseases are highly infectious, schools are optimal breeding grounds for epidemic level outbreaks. Couple this with the growing trend to not vaccinate; hence a loss of heard resistance within the localized population and we can logically conclude that our students are increasingly at risk.

Additionally, tremendous financial costs are associated with standard, “outbreak investigation practices”, “follow-up quarantine measures” and medical intervention should even a solitary case be reported.

In Ontario and New Brunswick, students are required to be immunized for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella. Vaccinations are a safe and effective preventative measure against several severe and potentially debilitating or deadly childhood diseases. I urge my colleagues to support this motion.

Media coverage

References:

  1. Calgary Herald. AHS issues warning after measles case detected in Calgary. Calgary Herald. April 2017
  2. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Division of Viral Diseases: Measles cases and outbreaks. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. April, 2017
  3. Government of Canada. Measles: Global Update; Travel Health Notice. Government of Canada. 2016, July. Retrieved from: https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/health-safety/travel-health-notices/98?_ga=1.238850304.1832843257.1487915580
  4. Government of Canada. Measles & Rubella Weekly Monitoring Report: March 12 to March 18, 2017 (week 11). Government of Canada. 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/measles-rubella-surveillance/2017/week11-march-12-18-2017.html#a1
  5. Irene Ogrodnik. Fact file: Are students required to get vaccinated in Canada? Shaw Media. 2013. Retrieved from:
  6. News Desk. Outbreak news today: Michigan: 1st confirmed measles case of 2017 reported. Outbreak News Today. 2017, Mar. Retrieved from: http://outbreaknewstoday.com/michigan-1st-confirmed-measles-case-2017-reported-11871/
  7. Press Release. Outbreak News Today: WHO update on European measles outbreak. Outbreak News Today. Mar 27. Retrieved from: http://outbreaknewstoday.com/update-european-measles-outbreak-46322/
  8. CBC News: Health. Whooping cough outbreaks in Canada tied to lower vaccine immunity. The Canadian Press. Nov., 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/whooping-cough-pertussis-1.3317431

 

 

 

 

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