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UCP education plan would change landscape for students, teachers

The United Conservative Party's education platform would, if implemented, bring about changes in the classroom for students, teachers and parents.

Wide-ranging plan would affect everything from exams to GSAs

Under a UCP education model young children would be tested more often to determine how they are doing in school. (weedezign/Shutterstock )

The United Conservative Party's education platform would, if implemented, bring about changes in the classroom for students, teachers and parents.

"It's time to bring common sense to education," UCP Leader Jason Kenney said this week in announcing his plan, which has a focus on improving student performance.

Here's a rundown of the ways the UCP education platform could have an impact.
 

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Grade 12 diploma exams

Right now, Grade 12 students' final marks are based 70 per cent on class work, and 30 per cent on a diploma exam at the end of the school year.

If Kenney becomes the premier, he wants to return to a 50-50 split between course work and the diploma exam. The previous Progressive Conservative government switched to the 70-30 split two months before the 2015 election.

Grade 3 provincial achievement tests

Provincial achievement tests are administered to all Alberta students in Grade 6 and Grade 9, according to Alberta Education.

The tests are a way to "determine if students are learning what they are expected to learn," Alberta Education said on its website.

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Kenney wants to see more assessment for younger students.

If UCP forms the government, Kenney said he would bring back Grade 3 achievement tests and implement language and math assessments for students in Grade 1, Grade 2 and Grade 3.

More teacher testing

The UCP wants schools and teachers to be more accountable for student performance.

Teachers are routinely assessed through ongoing professional development and "growth supervision evaluation," said ATA president Greg Jeffery. That allows teachers to identify areas where they feel they need more training.

The UCP wants to ensure teachers have expertise in the subjects they are teaching.

The plan also calls for expanding the ability of schools to bring in non-university educated instructors who have specific areas of expertise, to teach shop classes or trades, for example.

Charter schools

There are currently 13 charter schools in Alberta.

The number of charters was capped at 15 by the Progressive Conservative government when the legislation was adopted in 1994.

The UCP would lift that cap.

In 2002, the regulations were amended to allow a school to operate multiple locations under one name. For example, the Foundations for the Future charter school has seven campuses in Calgary.       

Such schools emphasize "innovative methods of instruction; opportunities for meaningful parental involvement; a safe, caring and responsive environment," according to the Association of Alberta Charter Schools.

Charter schools, which receive public funding, have the right to refuse a student for enrolment, and the boards are not publicly elected, Jeffery said.

Teachers in charter schools aren't required to be members of the ATA.

Funding

School boards are urging all parties to fund for increased enrolment. Rural school boards with declining enrolment are encouraging the provincial government to increase funding for rising transportation costs and infrastructure maintenance.

Urban school boards want parties to fund for increased enrolment.

The NDP has promised to fund for new enrolment.

Kenney has said he will review the current funding formula to ensure that rural schools have adequate resources to "deliver programs in an equitable way." Kenney also said he will do a comprehensive audit to determine what has happened to previous funding targeting class size.

Remove principals from ATA bargaining unit

The United Conservative Party has said taking principals out of the ATA would result in better school management.

Right now, principals and teachers are members of the ATA.

Jeffrey said currently it's less like a management-employee relationship and more of a collaborative approach to learning.

Principals are responsible for budgets and operation of their individual schools, and performance of teachers.

Gay-straight alliances

A UCP government would proclaim the Education Act (2014) and honour provisions contained in the act, such as the creation of gay-straight alliances.

It would not recognize the amendment to the School Act, passed by the NDP government in 2017, that prohibits teachers from telling parents their child belongs to a GSA.

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