The framework agreement between the province and the Alberta Teachers’ Association (imposed by the Assurances for Students Act in May 2013) is in effect until Aug. 31, 2016. One of the key issues identified by teachers was the need to address the conditions of practice that limit or prevent teachers from providing the best service to their students. Part C of the framework was included by the province as its effort to “reduce teacher workload and improve teacher efficacy.”
What progress has been made?
There are multiple levels in the framework. Section C1 requires Alberta Education to consider tasks initiated by them. Their first report was issued June 30, 2013, and was underwhelming.
Since many initiatives are directly mandated by Alberta Education, leadership here is critical toward an overall approach to conditions for professional practice. On numerous occasions officials have been asked to provide further information and direction beyond the June report. This is something the new minister will have to address.
School-jurisdiction-initiated tasks are addressed in section C2. Every district is required to have a joint teacher/board committee that must meet at least twice a year to discuss workload and efficacy. These committees vary widely in structure, process and progress. Teacher chairs will be meeting in late October to discuss successes, strategies and future action. Look for an update in November.
Officials from the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) questioned the evidence of excessive teacher workload. In response, the government agreed to commission a comprehensive third-party study meant to capture the ebb and flow of work over a complete school year. Part C3 describes this commitment.
More than 3,700 teachers and administrators were randomly selected in June and agreed to participate. Each teacher will complete a one-week diary in each of 10 months from September to June, which will provide more than 37,000 weeks of data if everyone completes the entire study.
This data would be irrefutable. The study itself requires time for teachers to do — in addition to their already busy workload. However, generating data with this reliability is critical to informing both the government and ASBA of the reality of a teacher’s day. If you were chosen to participate, please continue with this important work.
Part C4 provides the structure for the Teacher Development and Practice Advisory Committee (TDPAC), consisting of nine teachers named by the ATA and nine people appointed by the minister of education. The committee is intended to advise the minister on matters that support or define the role of the teacher and the profession. Its first task was to review the Task Force for Teaching Excellence and make recommendations to the minister.
Time for teachers to participate in personal professional development activities is required in section C5. Within the current allocation (that is, no new days should be added), teachers should be provided with some time for their own activities. If you have questions about your PD, please contact a staff officer in the ATA’s Professional Development area.
Part C6 requires each jurisdiction to have a teacher board liaison committee to facilitate communication.
Principals are usually required to be in schools well before the start of the school year. In recognition of principal workload, part C7 provides each school-based principal with at least two paid leave days, with payout in June if they can’t be used.
Parts C8 and C9 address existing instructional time clauses for teachers. Part C9 ensures that these clauses are preserved for the life of the framework, while Part C8 allows jurisdictions and teachers to amend these clauses on a pilot basis to try other configurations.
The most prescriptive part of this section is C10, where those districts (largely rural) that do not have any limits on instructional time are required to schedule teachers with a maximum of 907 hours per school year. This provision takes effect Sept 1, 2014, and continues until the end of the framework. There is a process in place whereby districts can request exceptions for those schools where it is difficult to reach 907 hours. Exceptions were requested for 66 schools, and approximately half were granted by an exceptions committee, comprising representatives from the ATA, ASBA and government.
The framework document has processes that have the ability to impact teacher workload in a positive way. However, teachers must be ready to press for accountability from the minister and government if conditions for professional practice are not sufficiently
addressed in the manner imposed by the government. ❚