ATA criticizes lack of transparency
Jonathan Teghtmeyer, ATA Associate Coordinator of Communications
As public consultations related to the Task Force for Teaching Excellence begin, the ATA is questioning the government’s stated commitment to transparency.
The task force and marketing research consultants Leger Group held the first of 14 public consultations in Vermilion, on October 1. The regional meetings and focus group conversations, along with bulletin board discussions and online survey, will gather public input to guide the task force’s recommendations to Minister of Education Jeff Johnson on the future of the teaching profession in Alberta. The task force is to provide recommendations to the minister by January 31, 2014.
Little information is available publicly about the task force. While all other initiatives, projects and reviews conducted by the department of education are usually documented on the Alberta Education website, any information on the Task Force for Teaching Excellence is currently housed on Leger’s website.
ATA President Mark Ramsankar is calling for a more transparent process. “It’s important that any changes the task force or minister wants to implement have the buy-in of teachers. If the teachers of Alberta don’t have confidence in the authenticity of the process used, then the outcomes will be met with skepticism.”
Information about the processes and procedures is not being made clear to educational stakeholder groups. During the Inspiring Education consultations, stakeholder representatives developed consultation materials, and groups were invited to send representatives and observers to the meetings. However, in the case of today’s task force, no input has been sought from stakeholders—the ATA and observers have been left out of meetings altogether.
Leger is responsible for selecting participants for all public and stakeholder engagement pieces and isn’t required to inform the ATA about the selection process. People who wish to participate in the consultations, including the online survey, are required to apply on the Leger website. Applicants are asked to identify any roles they have in the education system; age range; gender; city of residence; and to self-identify as Francophone or First Nation, Métis or Inuit, if applicable. Leger says it will select a random, representative sample of those who apply, but no information is provided about how that sample will be constructed.
Task Force’s assignment not posted by Alberta Education
The only place where the task force’s terms of reference are available publicly is on the ATA’s website. The terms of reference are broad. The task force’s stated purpose is to “make recommendations emanating from its examination of relevant, current research, consultation with Albertans and a review of current provincial legislation, regulations and policy framework.” The recommendations are to align with Inspiring Education and provide “legislation and practice that will enable and assure teacher excellence and that educators will be innovative and current in their practice.”
Strategic questions set out in the terms of reference include the following: “What should a code of conduct for Alberta educators include?,” “What mechanisms should be in effect to assure Albertans that all educators … demonstrate career-long competencies, quality practice and proper conduct?” and “How can we ensure entrepreneurialism is a trait in teachers?”
The task force will report to the minister with recommendations on significant matters, for example, provincial requirements for who can be authorized to educate and requirements outlining the roles of teachers, school leaders, superintendents, educational assistants, noncertificated instructors and school business managers. The task force will recommend mechanisms for assuring career-long competency, quality practice and proper conduct, and will look at the role of the ministry of education in directing postsecondary training in education. It will recommend changes to provincial legislation, regulation and policy related to educators’ roles, responsibilities, qualifications, certification, standards of practice, codes of conduct, preparation, currency of practice, supervision and evaluation, and employment contracts.
Ramsankar is calling on Johnson to institute an oversight panel similar to that for Inspiring Education. “A stakeholder working group, which worked well for Inspiring Education, is necessary to provide input to the process and to receive regular accounting of how it is working,” he said. “Stakeholder scrutiny is an important part of all credible academic research and must be included here.” ❚