Education Minister Jeff Johnson has announced the establishment of a Task Force for Teaching Excellence. The task force has a broad mandate to review provincial guidelines, conduct public consultations and report to the minister by January 31, 2014, on future directions for legislation related to teaching and other education professions. The task force will be chaired by NAIT President Glenn Feltham and will include a number of members from the Inspiring Education steering committee.
“The task force will make recommendations on how we can better support Alberta’s teachers to ensure every student has the best chance at success,” said Minister Johnson on the announcement.
Alberta Teachers’ Association President Mark Ramsankar is welcoming efforts to improve supports for teachers but is raising concerns on a number of issues.
“Alberta has one of the best education systems in the world, and international experts who study our system consistently point to our excellent teachers as one of the most important contributing factors,” said Ramsankar. “Unfortunately, that excellence is being hampered by inappropriate class sizes and inadequate supports.”
Ramsankar says that you can enhance teacher excellence all you want but “a Ferrari still can’t perform on a gravel road.”
Ramsankar is also expressing concerns about the lack of consultation that occurred with the Association in the development of this activity. The Association and the teaching profession will be directly affected by the work of the task force, but the Association was not asked to name a representative to the task force, and the only active teacher member of the committee was selected unilaterally by the minister.
“A key piece of developing the supports teachers need has to include listening to teachers,” said Ramsankar. “We look forward to hearing how the voice of teachers and their professional association will be included in this process.”
It is expected that the recommendations of the task force will be brought to the Teacher Development and Practice Advisory Committee (TDPAC), which was established by last spring’s legislated settlement. When teachers were asked to accept the government’s offer for a provincial framework in the spring, a big selling point was the inclusion of this advisory committee, which would advise the minister on exactly the same issues that the task force is being told to investigate. More than half of the TDPAC members are certificated teachers recommended for appointment by the Association; the Association will name one of these members as chair of the TDPAC.
The TDPAC is also mentioned in the comfort letter from Premier Alison Redford, in which she states that, “The ATA will have strong representation on the Teacher Development and Practice Advisory Committee, and any major legislative, regulatory or policy shifts regarding the profession and teaching will be vetted at that committee prior to Government consideration.” The comfort letter also says that “government will commit not to proclaim any legislative changes that affect the core statutory protections afforded to teachers.” Based on these commitments it is expected that any changes recommended by the task force would not come into effect until September 2016.
The task force consultations will include a series of eleven regional public consultations, an online survey and an online bulletin board. The Association will keep members apprised of details on the consultation process as they become available. In the meantime, members can register their intent to participate by visiting http://legerweb.com/TeachingExcellence/.
Click to see the terms of reference for the task force and biographies of its members.