P.E.I. cut teachers despite report's recommendations
Government continued with older teacher staffing model
A P.E.I. government report delivered in 2009 and never made public recommended no teaching positions be cut as school enrolments declined, but the province has cut more than 100 in the last three years.
The report, written by Gar Andrew, a former director in the Department of Education, was obtained by CBC News through a Freedom of Information request.
Andrew was also responsible for the current instructional staffing model, developed in 2003-04 and still used today by the Department of Education in determining how many teacher positions to provide funding for. The 2009 report was the result of a request that Andrew conduct a review and recommend changes to the model he developed.
The review noted student enrolments would decline in coming years, but called on government to freeze the number of teaching positions for six years. That would result in smaller classes, which the report says would have a positive impact on student learning.
There is little doubt that large class size has a detrimental impact on most student learning.- Gar Andrew, Instructional staffing model report
"There are numerous studies which conclude that reducing class size, particularly at the primary level, has a positive impact on student learning," Andrew wrote.
"There is little doubt that large class size has a detrimental impact on most student learning."
Writing in early 2009, Andrew said while average classes sizes for elementary grades were reasonably good, at the upper range there were "many schools where class size is unacceptably high."
'Quality of the teaching will succeed'
Despite calls in the Legislature for the report to be made public it never was, and its recommendations were never implemented. In the past three years 106 teaching positions have been cut.
Education Minister Alan McIsaac said the cuts were made for financial reasons, and there are other ways to improve student learning, rather than adding more teachers.
"The current thinking really is that the quality of the teaching will succeed in that much better than the class size area," said McIsaac.
"That's why we're looking at more professional development days."
The P.E.I. Teacher's Federation is calling on the province to follow through on the recommendations. Federation president Gilles Arsenault said three years of teacher cuts are straining the system.
"It's very hard for any school to have any flexibility in moving people around and trying to meet the needs of our students. It's not an efficient model," said Arsenault.
Peter Rukavina, president of the P.E.I. Home and School Federation, said class size is frequently cited as a concern by parents. He supports the recommendations of the Andrew report in principle, but says the report would be too dated to implement now. He would like to see a fresh attempt made to revise the instructional staffing model, but for the process to be more open this time.
"Let's talk about this out in the open, let's know what the limitations are, what the possibilities are, what the research tells us and do this in a collaborative way," said Rukavina.
"Involve parents in the process right from the beginning."
Arsenault said for three years he's been asking government to sit down with teachers to discuss changes to the instructional staffing model, but so far government hasn't been interested.
For mobile device users: See the instructional staffing model report here
Should the P.E.I. government reconsider its model for allocating teachers to schools?