Task force recommendations draw mixed reactions from teachers, parents

The Alberta Teachers' Association is denouncing a proposal to make teachers undergo competency reviews every five years, calling it a “direct assault” on their profession.
Education Minster Jeff Johnson says that no topic should be taboo when it comes to discussing possible changes. (CBC )

The Alberta Teachers' Association is denouncing a proposal to make teachers undergo competency reviews every five years, calling it a “direct assault” on their profession.

The recommendation is one of several contained in the report of the Task Force for Teaching Excellence that the ATA is objecting to.

Under the system proposed by the task force, teachers would have to prove they are competent at their jobs in order to renew their certification – and responsibility for that review would be taken away from the ATA.

“The teacher would receive annual feedback on his or her progress in qualifying for maintenance of certification,” the report states.

“He or she would prepare a dossier of evidence of effective teaching, aligned with provincial practice standards, to support a recommendation.”

The report, released on Monday, and would also allow people from the trades, fine arts and other professions to get teaching certificates without getting an education degree.

Recommendations draw mixed reactions

ATA President Mark Ramsankar has slammed the recommendations, saying they are unfair to teachers.

“It can be viewed very simply as a direct assault on teachers in the province and on the profession itself,” he said.

Ramsankar said there already is a process in place to evaluate teachers.

Mark Ramsankar of the Alberta Teacher's Association says the new guidelines are needed and will contribute to a more inclusive learning experience. (CBC )

"Teachers are under scrutiny on an ongoing basis by both parents, teachers, other teachers, principals," he said. "Teachers have to measure up to the teaching quality standards."

Alberta Liberal Education critic Kent Hehr agreed, saying the recommendations provide a new way for the province to control teachers and their union, who “are more in tuned with what goes on in the classroom than the education minister.”

“Sprinkled in with a handful of well intentioned recommendations are right-wing Republican-styled ideas that can only be interpreted as a direct attack on Alberta’s teachers and their association,” said Hehr in a release made Monday.

Recommendations find support from parents

Not everyone is upset by the report, however. Some parents have already spoken out in favour of the recommendation, saying it would give them more confidence in the system.

“I don't want to say too much about it, but I think there are teachers out there that definitely need to be kept an eye on, I guess,” said Mike Mah, who said he has had problems with one of his children’s teachers in the past.

“I have a lot of teachers in my family, but I think I'd be supporting [this] because … I think it's important that teachers are checked and evaluated every five years to see where they're at,” he said.

“With your children's education at stake, I think actually that is a very good idea,” agreed mother-of-two Crystal Nahaiowski.

Johnson promises further discussion

In a letter addressed to teachers in the province and provided to CBC, Education minister Jeff Johnson wrote, “While we have a solid foundation in place, we know there is always room to learn, grow, and strengthen our education system. We established the Task Force for Teaching Excellence with that in mind.”

According to Johnson, the task force was made up of 16 education specialists and included several experienced teachers.

“The task force recognized that teachers are the most important contributor to students' success, after parents, and I commend each task force member for sharing their expertise, advice and passion throughout this important project,” he wrote.

“We all want our students to benefit from well-supported, well-trained and motivated teachers who demonstrate excellence throughout their careers.”

Discussion in its early stages

Speaking Monday, Johnson said “This discussion is going to change education in the province.”

Johnson said the report's 25 recommendations would change everything “from how we recruit teachers and how we admit them and how we train them in the post secondaries, to how we give them professional development and resources and help in their job.”

In his letter to teachers, Johnson said some of the highlights include:

  • improved performance evaluation processes
  • an expanded teaching support system
  • increased time for teacher planning and collaboration
  • enhanced review process for assessing teacher conduct
  • introduction of a province-wide mentorship program for new teachers
  • recognizing teachers who meet the standard of excellence

"There shouldn't be any topics that are off-base, as there shouldn't be any topics that are taboo that we're not willing to discuss because it might be uncomfortable," he said.

Johnson said that no changes will be made until the public, the ATA and other provincial school boards have had a chance to formally respond.

“We would like to have all the feedback from everyone in July to we can take it and work it through the summer and the fall inside caucus.”


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