Alberta education system success & what “choice” is all about.

Read Hunter’s latest post at Out of the Dark “My Kid, My Choice.” It is great news that a Canadian province like Alberta can show the rest of the world how to improve the education system — by not simply jiggering with statistics on drop-out or high school graduation rates resulting from no-fail and social promotion policies like those found in Ontario. What I find interesting though is how progressives and teacher union types are trying very hard to dismiss this success. For more on that I’d recommend reading the comments on Hunter’s thread, as well as my my recent commentary on merit pay for teachers.

Endnote: Hunter’s source is from Kevin Lubin’s column in the National Post entitled “Alberta schools apple of U.K.’s eye.”

11 thoughts on “Alberta education system success & what “choice” is all about.

  1. See this very interesting new 2-part documentary from the UK on Alberta schools:

    http://www.teachers.tv/videos/autonomy-choice-and-competition (Part I)

    and

    http://www.teachers.tv/videos/collaboration-professionalism-and-accountability (Part II)

    Choice is a part of the story but there is much more to it.

    Alberta requires that all schools follow the Alberta curriculum, but they have some latitude in how to do so. Alberta curricula are very similar to Ontario’s at the elementary level: Fountas & Pinnell reading, spiral math approaches, Writers’ Workshop (Lucy Calkins) etc. Unfortunately Alberta outcomes do not make a good supporting argument for more rigorous and sequential teaching of the foundation skills:-(
    I’d love to see a documentary on how (if) they make total inclusion work.

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  2. The province that year to year is always 1st or 2nd in the dropout rate has a lot of explaining to do. Charter schools are a tiny % of the overall picture in Alberta.

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  3. Thanks for the link Sandy and for noticing I had forgotten to provide a link to the article. All I know is that we are very happy with the choices we have. We sent our oldest to a different school for junior high than the one closest to us, it was no problem, as a matter of fact, the bus stopped right at our house to pick him up.

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  4. The unions view how the unions are structured and how they function as their business and their business alone. Unless you pay a membership fee, roughly $1000 per year, it is nobody’s business but theirs. They call their one-size-fits -all system equality. There is next to zero interest amongst teachers in “alternative structures”. Yes, to the teachers, people who propose to weaken the teacher unions or blame teachers for even 1% of the problems in education, those folks are known as ‘teacher bashers’. There is no harm in outsiders having an opinion about labour management relations but they ought not to confuse that with having a say in things. Recent Supreme Court decisions have tended to consolidate union influence in contested areas. For example, Dwight Duncan now knows he cannot impose a ‘social contract’ the way Bob Rae did. He would lose in court. The Supremes have also said “unions can raise and spend as much money as they want and spend it on anything they want. It is only THEIR business.

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  5. Except that unions take considerable public funding as well. So it’s not just their business.
    From the Min. of Finance Public Accounts for 2009-10
    http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/budget/paccts/2010/10vol3bi.pdf See pages 123 on

    ONTARIO SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS’ FEDERATION…………………………………………………………….$1,200,000
    OECTA (ONTARIO ENGLISH CATHOLIC TEACHERS ASSOC)…….$1,119,500
    ELEMENTARY TEACHERS FEDERATION OF ONTARIO (ETFO)……………………………………………………………………$1,870,942
    DES ENSEIGNANTS FRANCO-ONTARIENS (AEFO)………………$1,261,412
    ONTARIO TEACHERS’ FEDERATION……………………………….. $3,453,705
    CANADIAN TEACHERS FEDERATION…………………………………$157,350

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  6. I suspect the whole “teacher basher” routine is more the mindset of the more bitter, chip-on-their shoulder subset in the profession, rather than the norm. Certainly my acquaintances in the profession don’t rely on such hyperbole and, as we’ve discussed already, Doug’s worldview is only his and not reflective of much beyond that.

    As to the public not having a say in things that’s true only to the point when actions of the teacher unions begin having a negative influence on kids; at that point it does become a matter of public concern. Using kids as bargainning chips does put it into the public realm so suck it up.

    Doretta

    Thanks for the link; apparently they’re not quite so autonomous as some claim.

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  7. That provincial money was very recent and spent 100% on PD, the feds took on temporary staff to handle it. It has a Sunset provision. The feds are not supported by the province. That was a one off situation.

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  8. As has been pointed out several times, teacher unions have a powerful effect for the positive in education results. In the USA, the states where everyone is a compulsory member have very high scores but the states here union membership is voluntary have very low scores.

    The USA is being outcompeted by a group of nations who have very little privatized education, but have high quality public systems using qualified unionized teachers.

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  9. Yes I know the money was for PD, apparently. This was not a one-time thing. It happens year after year. Money also goes to the principals’ associations, school boards associations, and others as well. Who knows what they do with it? The issue is accountability. Unions take in millions from their members-fine. They have to be accountable to them. It’s up to the members to decide if they are or not. But when they take public money they better be accountable to the public for it.

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  10. To be frank I oppose it from the union side. It seems they are dealing with “the government” but the government is one particular party and it makes both look as if they are in kahoots. Doesn’t really pass the sniff test if you ask me.

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  11. No doubt we’d have to know who the people are extolling the influence of teacher unions are . Ditto those claiming that only “qualified unionized teachers” are capable of doing an excellent job. I suspect this is more a case of his/her personal opinion than objective analysis.

    Care must always be taken when differentiating between fact and opinion.

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