Q & A: New incoming standards are important to our profession

December 5, 2017
Gordon Thomas, ATA Executive Secretary

Question: I’m a principal and I’m hearing that I will need to get another certificate to continue working as a school or system administrator. What is this all about and how do I get one? I have a continuous designation — isn’t that enough?

Answer: We’ve fielded a lot of questions about the government’s plan to move from one to three professional practice standards. At the present time, to become a teacher you must possess a certificate of qualification as a teacher — a teaching certificate. To provide the basis for teacher preparation programs and to make decisions about individual teaching practice, the Teaching Quality Standard (TQS) was established and has served as a practice standard for the past 20 years. The TQS will be updated. So to be a teacher, you must possess a teaching certificate and you must continue to meet the TQS. None of this is new.

What is new is that, to be a principal or a central office teacher, you will need to possess a leadership certificate in addition to a teaching certificate. And to be the superintendent of schools for a board or the superintendent’s chief deputy, you will need to possess a superintendent leadership certificate in addition to a teaching certificate. These new practice standards will also need to be met, just as a teacher must meet the TQS. We are moving from one to three certificates and from one to three standards.

Details are not all worked out, but it is important to recognize that the education minister wants to require the completion of an education program to remain in the role of a principal or central office teacher. The leadership certificate will provide the right to practice as a principal or central office teacher anywhere in Alberta, just as a teaching certificate grants the right to teach in Alberta.

Your employment as a principal or central office teacher is a different matter — you can’t be employed in these roles if you don’t have a leadership certificate or a superintendent leadership certificate (if a teacher doesn’t receive a permanent professional teaching certificate, the teacher’s employment can’t continue). That said, the minister has indicated that incumbents will be grandfathered, that there will be a transition period and that leadership certificates may be earned at some point after a supervisory position is offered and accepted.

It is anticipated that an education program leading to a leadership certificate will be offered in communities across the province. The Association believes that the principles on which the program is based must ensure equity of access throughout the province so that the program is available to any teacher who wishes to enroll. The program would be the same wherever it is offered and delivered in a very flexible format. We will work with post-secondary institutions to ensure that the program is recognized for salary purposes.

This is a very important initiative for the teaching profession, and the ATA hopes to play a major role in program planning and delivery, given our responsibilities in relation to the profession. Classroom teachers are currently subject to a review of their professional practice if there are concerns about their teaching practice, and teachers who do not meet the TQS can lose their teaching certificate.

Once the two additional standards are in place, principals, central office teachers and the superintendent of schools (and chief deputy if there is one) of each board will also be subject to practice review and a principal, central office teacher or superintendent who does not meet the applicable standard could lose the right to practice in that role anywhere in Alberta.
These standards will provide a higher level of public assurance and professional control; they will also provide for equity across the profession. ❚

Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Gordon Thomas at Barnett House (gordon.thomas@ata.ab.ca).