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James Dai: changes to Vancouver School Board's Accelerated Education Program upsets parents and alumni

These drastic changes will alter the way the program, which admits 20 students from across British Columbia each year, is run
jamesdai
Photo via iStock

James Dai and other parents and alumni of a long-standing accelerated education program jointly operated by the Vancouver School Board (VSB), BC Ministry of Education, and the University of British Columbia (UBC), are expressing their concern surrounding impromptu changes made to the program issued without warning and without following the proper channels. 

These changes, impacting operations of the joint University Transition Program (UTP), were seemingly implemented by the Vancouver School Board without consulting its other stakeholders for the 2023 school year, which, as anyone with school-aged children would know, has already started. 

Celebrating academic excellence in Vancouver

Founded in 1993, the University Transition Program is a two-year program created with “a shared commitment to academically gifted young people,” according to a 2003 UBC Thesis written by Daria Danylchuk, founder of the program.

Admitting 20 students, aged 13 to 15, of equal gender and geographical balance from across B.C. each year, students in the program participate in an expedited education that condenses a standard high school curriculum (spanning five years) in two years for early entrance to UBC.

To date, the program has successfully graduated nearly 500 students.

Dai is a UTP alum and planned to take his daughter to the second information session initially scheduled for October 2022. However, two days before it was meant to take place, he noticed that UTP had updated its website, noting the session was canceled.

Unexpected changes

According to Dai, just days before the second information session for prospective new UTP applicants was meant to happen, the Vancouver School Board, independently, without consulting other stakeholders, made two drastic alterations to UTP operations.

Firstly, it sent a letter on December 9, 2022, after the opening information night had already happened and two months after student assessments, which were also pushed back, to inform parents and guardians that the UTP Program Coordinator position would be eliminated and that VSB administration would be absorbing its roles and responsibilities.

It is crucial to note that both the information sessions and assessments are mandatory elements for applying to the UTP.

Additionally, as interpreted by Dai, the letter states that the previous open admissions process, meaning anyone could apply, would now be closed to the public and solely based on teacher referrals.

On top of this, the admissions process was also pushed back to March 2023, with no alternative or margin for error if this new, untested process doesn’t work.

A separate letter written by a UTP alum claims that, for the duration that the UTP has existed, admissions have never occurred in March but have always happened in October, with fixed dates for information nights and testing.

A key point concerns parents who may need to relocate or find suitable accommodation so their children can participate in the program. The letter states that the open admission process used over the past 25 years typically takes several months, meaning that the results of a March intake exam would only have offer letters sent out at the beginning of summer.

“This is unacceptable for families who need to decide between programs early in order to make logistical decisions about housing,” it claims.

A call for due process 

Dai claims that the primary concern is how the school board announced and conducted these changes, namely with a lack of transparency for all other parties.

Ultimately, he and others are not necessarily pushing back on the changes themselves but are instead asking for formal due process to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to raise their concerns before anything is finalized.

For example, clarifications surrounding how the teacher referral process will work for students attending schools outside the Vancouver school district, as well as next steps for if this new referral system – set to begin in April of this year – fails to fill student intake for September.

For more information regarding these changes, points of concern, and how you can help, visit giftd.ca.

The views expressed in this article are those of James Dai and are not shared by or associated with Vancouver is Awesome.

 

 

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