May 5, 2014 3:15 pm

Recommendations by teaching task force slammed by ATA

EDMONTON – An Alberta task force on teaching has released a report which includes recommendations to update practice standards and enforce recertification.

The Task Force for Teaching Excellence – the 16 member task force assembled last September – came forward with its report on Monday.

There are 25 different recommendations that fall under three categories: the teacher, the leader, and the education system.

The recommendations include updating practice standards for teachers and the education system as a whole, along with principals and superintendents; as well as looking at new ways to recruit teachers, and looking beyond just high school grades and towards university achievements.

There are also recommendations around conduct and certification.

WATCH: The President of the Alberta Teachers Association responds to a task force’s report into teaching in Alberta and the recommendations.

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The task force said the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA) should no longer review the conduct of teachers when complaints are brought forward. The task force said there was great public concern about that process.

Instead, if the recommendation was accepted, complaints about teachers would be handled by the Education Ministry.

Recommendation 20 reads: “That the practice review process for addressing issues of teacher and school leader conduct be significantly revised to assure greater openness, transparency, timeliness and efficiency.  The Task Force further recommends that the practice review process for all teachers an school leaders be assumed by the Minister of Education.”

“As soon as we start talking about potentially dismantling the Association through removal of regulatory obligations, it creates an unstable scenario within the province,” said ATA President Mark Ramsankar.

The task force also recommended that teachers need to be recertified every five years. It said there should be a review process put in place and that the reviews should be led by the principals.

“The Association has a process in place for that,” said Ramsankar. “We’ve been a big part of that all along.”

“Teachers are under scrutiny on an ongoing basis, by both parents, other teachers, principals – and with that in place, teachers have to measure up to the teaching quality standards, and we agree with that.”

“When we’re talking about taking that out and have the government being responsible for it, how will it look? Will they be responsible then for governing 40,000 members?”

The ATA is calling the report “an assault on teachers” and lacks transparency and legitimacy.

“The politically driven recommendations have the potential to seriously undermine the culture of education in Alberta, a global leader in education,” said Mark Ramsankar. “This seriously undermines teachers’ trust in and relationship with this Progressive Conservative government.”

The ATA says some of the recommendations strip teachers of “fundamental employment protections” and “fail to recognize fundamental differences between policing and reviewing teacher professional practice.”

Ramsankar added that the ATA is calling on Premier Hancock to immediately clarify the position of the government on the task force recommendations.

The minister says the findings are just recommendations at this point. A public review process and feedback will be done, and then the province will decide on how it will move forward.

“We’ve received the report, but we haven’t as a government accepted all the recommendations,” said Education Minister Jeff Johnson.

“So the plan now is to go to the public and to go to all those associations to get their feedback before we take this inside and digest it.”

“There’s some exciting things in here that we may be able to implement virtually immediately. There’s some other things that are going to take more time,” he added.

Albertans are invited to share their feedback on the Task Force report online by June 5.

Johnson said it was too early to speculate if the recommendations would result in legislation in the fall.

The province says the report comes after input from about 3,000 Alberta parents, students, teachers, educational leaders and others. The input was gathered through an online survey, discussion boards, written submissions and 14 regional consultations.

“Our government’s commitment to teaching excellence is unrivalled anywhere in Canada,” said Johnson. “Alberta is leading the way in ensuring that its teachers have the resources, supports and structures necessary to achieve professional excellence. This report and its bold, forward looking recommendations are a reflection of our determination to ensure that Alberta remains in the top echelon of education systems anywhere in the world.”

With files from Tom Vernon, Global News

© Shaw Media, 2014

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