Province pushes charter schools for feedback

Some of Alberta's charter schools are not living up to their mandate, the province says.

Some of Alberta's charter schools are not living up to their mandate, the province says.

The schools, set up in the 1990s to provide more choice and to find new ways to deliver education, are supposed to teach other schools about innovative learning.

Part of the agreement was that the charter would do research on their own methods and pass it along.

Education Minister Dave Hancock said this week that that's not happening.

"The charter schools have either methodology or other rationale for being set up as a charter school, and if that can show and demonstrate better learning processes in certain circumstances for certain students, then we should be learning from that and improving the whole system," said Hancock.

He said if they follow through on research, the charters could be made permanent.

"Right now they have to reapply for their charter every five years," he said. "That's not satisfactory for them, so the question is as we go to a permanent structure, what's the raison d'etre, and what are the expectations?"

However, some charter schools worry they don't have the money or resources to research, publish and circulate the information.

Bill McGregor, chairman of Foundations for the Future Charter Academy in Calgary, said that while charter schools do break new ground, they don't have the wherewithal to pass on their experiences.

"To push any system into one box that says, 'you are now centres of research or centres of innovation,' when really our business is educating children … we honestly don't have the time to do that," McGregor said. "If that becomes required of us, then certainly Alberta government is going to have to find more dollars to put into education to allow us to do that."

Alberta Education is conducting an online survey about charters that will wrap up in the middle of the month.