Our Minister of Education, Hon David Eggen, did something interesting this last week. He spent several days with teachers, Principals and system leaders at the Alberta Teachers Association uLead event in Banff. He also offered a workshop and spoke on a panel (with the Minister from New South Wales) about the future. He spoke about the sovereignty of the profession and the work of school boards. He spoke of equity and rationalized his campaign for LGTBQ community as part of this equity struggle. He is clearly passionate about the role and a compassionate man. He deserves to be successful.
But I have doubts – about his focus, his capacity to be bold and about the speed at which he is willing to work. I have five suggestions for bold, aligned and creative actions which would show courageous yet relevant leadership for our schools:
- Immediately announce the end to the Grade 3 SLA’s and the end of the Provincial PAT’s before the next election. Move to a sampling system of outcome assessment, rotating across all subjects, not just maths, literacy, and science. Withdraw from PISA, TIMMS, and other international assessment and demonstrate faith and commitment to rich accountability and the profession. These actions will signal both our confidence in our work as well as a recognition that standardized testing has little to do with the work of schools and teachers
- Rescind the Ministerial order related to curriculum. It's a nonsense and gets in the way. Adopt a “less is more” approach to curriculum and partner with the specialist councils of the ATA to secure curriculum development. See the work as simplifying the curriculum while enabling the work of the profession to reflect local conditions. Focus not on workforce competencies but on a broad, liberal education and creativity.
- Reduce the number of school boards, which are no longer able to engage in meaningful collective bargaining. Move to regional boards. End the requirement that Superintendents, appointed by Boards, should also require the approval of the Minister. Why does a population of less than 5 million need so much infrastructure and so many "sunshine" leaders?
- Transfer full responsibility for the profession – certification, review, discipline, and recertification – to the profession. Treat teachers like Doctors and elevate their status.
- Reduce the size of the Ministry from its 700+ personnel to no more that 250, signaling that the role of the Ministry is to support and enable, not to manage and control. Stop it getting in the way of the work of schools.
We need to recognize that the infrastructure of control and accountability was built for a different time. It is time to change. Be bold, Minister. Do this work now.