In all of the noise that was generated around the release of the report of the Task Force for Teaching Excellence, two notes did make an impact on the public. First, the notion of surprise that, within the last 10 years, no teachers had had their certificates cancelled due to incompetence. And secondly, the suggestion from the task force that teachers should be subject to five-year cycles of recertification.
Easily digestible and overly simplified, the two notes had a stickiness that provided good fodder for coffee shop chit-chat. I’m not going to rehash the arguments as to why the points are ill-informed, as that has already been done well in previous editions of this paper and in Great Teachers, Great Schools, the Association’s response to the task force recommendations.
Instead, as the start of a new school year is again upon us, I want to talk about the importance of teacher professional growth plans (TPGPs).
Currently, TPGPs work as a key component in the overall system of the Teacher Growth, Supervision and Evaluation policy that exists to ensure that teaching practice lives up to the Teaching Quality Standard. The policy is well-developed and based on a professional model. Each piece of the policy fits together nicely to ensure that teachers are respected as professionals, but that they are also supervised on an ongoing basis and that there are processes in place to evaluate those teachers who might not be performing at an acceptable standard.
If school boards or superintendents are concerned that they cannot remove incompetent teachers, they should not be blaming this policy. The policy is clearly written and fair. The provincial policy requires school boards to develop their own policies for teacher growth, supervision and evaluation. Most of the time, if superintendents fail to deal appropriately with underperforming teachers, it is because they are failing to follow their own policies! The ATA cannot be blamed for protecting the rights of teachers to due process.
We don’t need five-year cyclical evaluations to deal with incompetent teachers. The policy allows for a principal to evaluate a teacher at any time if there is reason to believe the teacher is not meeting the standard. For the rest of the profession, ongoing supervision and the completion and review of an annual TPGP should be sufficient to provide assurances of teaching excellence and for the maintenance of certification.
Because of its valuable role in providing assurance of teaching excellence, the TPGP process must be treated with importance by all teachers and administrators. The growth plan process calls on teachers to consider the standards outlined in the Teaching Quality Standard and reflect on their own practice to determine whether there are areas that need attention. It challenges teachers to improve in those areas where improvement is needed and to ensure that their practice remains current in light of constantly evolving educational research. It empowers teachers to continuously grow as autonomous professionals.
Unfortunately, the task force recommends significant changes that would fundamentally alter the TPGP process. Plans would be jointly developed with principals and would be aligned to school and district goals. The Association is pushing back on these recommendations because they would remove professional autonomy and would impose on teachers the inauthentic growth expectations of others.
The current planning process needs to be supported with a strengthened importance that continues to focus on individual professional learning needs. The best thing that individual teachers can do to help is ensure that their plans get the time and attention they deserve. ❚
I welcome your comments—contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.