Alberta principal survey seeks data on inequities in school system

Do have-not schools exist in Alberta? That's a question that one parents group hopes to answer with the help of school principals across the province.

Questions ask if school librarians, speech pathologists and dedicated music teachers are on-site

School administrators have until Nov. 18 to fill out a survey that seeks to identify what kinds of resources, dedicated specialists and custodial staff are or are not available to students at their school. (iStock)

Do have-not schools exist in Alberta? 

That's a question that one parents advocacy group hopes to answer with the help of school principals across the province.

Support Our Students Alberta wants to know if students in Grande Prairie have access to the same resources that kids in Medicine Hat do, for example. 

They've launched a survey for school administrators that asks a variety of questions, like those listed below: 

  • Does the school has a full-time specialized music teacher?
  • How many custodial staff are employed? 
  • Do students have reliable access to an on-site child psychologist? 
  • How much parent fundraising activity the school engage in?

"We thought we would do a better job of advocating for a fully-funded, equitable and accessible public education standpoint if we had some data from schools and principals and the decisions that they have to make with regard to the resources that they have," said Barbara Silva, communication director with SOS Alberta.

They hope to better understand how principals are budgeting their limited resources, and how they decide which programs and staff members to save or slash.

Data-rooted advocacy

Silva says the results of the survey will help identify where inequities in the school system exist, so that the organization can direct its advocacy efforts toward there.

"If we see that most schools do have specialized music teachers, then we can refocus our advocacy so we can hopefully fill gaps in other areas," she explained.

The point is not to identify individual schools that are making do with less, so the survey is anonymous, Silva said.

"We are not looking to criticize any one school or any one principal for the tough decisions they've had to make in resourcing their school."

The data collected will be compiled into a spring report that will compare regions to see where students may have access to more or less resources than others. 

Silva said her organization has been meeting with MLAs of all stripes to advocate for students, but so far all of their evidence has been anecdotal. 

"This allows us to come from a more place of research and data," she said.

"Ideally, the data we get will only strengthen our advocacy and focus it where the focus needs to happen."

An online link and a hard copy of the survey has been sent to school administrators throughout the province, and each has until Nov. 18 to complete the questionnaire. 

With files from The Homestretch