Saturday, May 10, 2014

In the last 10 years, not one Alberta teacher has had their certificate cancelled?

Jeff Johnson's Teacher Task Force correctly states that the current system has the Ministry of Education and the Alberta Teachers' Association sharing the responsibility for assuring teaching excellence and addressing issues of conduct.

Recommendation 19 of Johnson's Task Force calls for the separation of conduct and competence reviews.

This is a peculiar recommendation because conduct and competence reviews are already separate. The Alberta Teachers' Association was quick to notice this:
The task force also demonstrates a clear lack of understanding related to current conduct and practice review processes. First, it calls for the separation of the functions which are indeed already separate. Second, it uses the term practice review in a recommendation that is meant to deal with conduct. Finally, it calls for greater openness, transparency, timeliness and efficiency without demonstrating an appreciation for the processes already in place.
Had Johnson's Teacher Task Force actively engaged the Alberta Teacher's Association, perhaps this could have been corrected before being published.

On their website, the Alberta Teachers' Association outlines how Professional Conduct and Practice Reviews work.

The Alberta Teachers' Association has a Code of Professional Conduct that stipulates minimum standards of professional conduct of teachers, and together the Alberta Teachers' Association and the Ministry of Education work to ensure that all teachers consistently meet the requirements of the Teaching Quality Standard.

Johnson's Task Force writes:
In the past 10 years there have been no cases in which a teacher’s authority to teach (i.e., teaching certificate) has been cancelled due to incompetence. Given the province has over 40,000 teachers, the Task Force found this statistic almost inconceivable.
I have a couple thoughts on this one.

Firstly, do we judge the success of our K-12 education system by the number of students who drop out or are expelled? If a school could actually report that they had a 100% graduation rate, would we indict them for not having enough drop outs?

Of course not.

In fact, teachers, schools, school boards, and governments alike use high school completion rates as a badge of honour.

It makes absolutely no sense to judge the quality of our teachers by how many quit or are fired.

Secondly, the Alberta Teachers' Association publishes a monthly News Letter that highlights reports from Professional Conduct and Practice Reviews. Like every month, April's newsletter summarized hearings where teachers were found guilty of unprofessional conduct (see #5, 6 and 7).

Disciplinary action can include, but is not limited to, monetary fines, suspension from membership of the ATA, and/or teacher certificate suspension or cancellation. Just this last month, the ATA recommended that the minister of education cancel a teacher's certificate (see #6).

Thirdly, let's be careful that this doesn't become a lose-lose, witch-hunt for teachers. In this case, Johnson's Task Force argues that not enough teachers' have lost their certification due to incompetence.

But what number would be acceptable?




At what point would Johnson's Task Force state that too many teachers are losing their certificate due to incompetence? There isn't likely to be a right answer because this deficiency model is borrowed from failed management systems like "stacked ranking".

Stacked ranking is a management model that forces a certain percentage of employees into fixed categories such as top performers, good performers, average, below average and poor. Statistically, Johnson's Task Force might find this more conceivable, even though it has a large responsibility for the downfall of one of the largest corporate giants in US history.

In 2012, Vanity Fair published a scathing indictment of Microsoft, chalking up their use of "stack ranking" as a major contributor to their epic downfall:
At the center of the cultural problems was a management system called “stack ranking.” Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees. The system—also referred to as “the performance model,” “the bell curve,” or just “the employee review”—has, with certain variations over the years, worked like this: every unit was forced to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, then good performers, then average, then below average, then poor. …

For that reason, executives said, a lot of Microsoft superstars did everything they could to avoid working alongside other top-notch developers, out of fear that they would be hurt in the rankings. And the reviews had real-world consequences: those at the top received bonuses and promotions; those at the bottom usually received no cash or were shown the door. …

“The behavior this engenders, people do everything they can to stay out of the bottom bucket,” one Microsoft engineer said. “People responsible for features will openly sabotage other people’s efforts. One of the most valuable things I learned was to give the appearance of being courteous while withholding just enough information from colleagues to ensure they didn’t get ahead of me on the rankings.” Worse, because the reviews came every six months, employees and their supervisors—who were also ranked—focused on their short-term performance, rather than on longer efforts to innovate. …
In August 2013, Washington Post's Valerie Strauss wrote a post titled Microsoft's lesson on what not to do with teachers where she details why American Education Reforms that ranks and sorts teachers are poisonous to a school's culture, are a raging failure and has sunk teacher morale to its lowest point in 25 years.

By November 2013, Microsoft had abandoned stack ranking in favour of a more collaborative model that encourages growth and innovation, but thanks to Bill Gates, American schools are stuck with it.

Education Blogger Sue Altman, otherwise known as EduShyster, wrote a post titled Saved by the Bell Curve where she writes:
So let me get this straight. The big business method of evaluation that now rules our schools is no longer the big business method of evaluation? And collaboration and teamwork, which has been abandoned by our schools in favor of the big business method of evaluation, is in?
In September 2013, I wrote a post about 3 potential problems with Jeff Johnson's Task Force before the Task Force even officially started.

 At that time I speculated that Johnson's Task Force may be seduced by America's misuse of a junk science called Value Added Measurement.

Eight months later, and it's only been days since Johnson's Task Force released its analysis and recommendations, and already there is a call from the Canadian Media to adopt faulty America Education Reforms that would (mis)identify the bottom 5-10% of teachers via Value Added Measurements and fire them.

It makes little sense for a high performing jurisdictions like Alberta to borrow failed education reforms from lower performing nations like the United States. Alberta got where we are by leading the way, and for some reason we are now turning around to follow those who are trying to catch up with us.

No wonder the Alberta Teachers' Association sees Johnson's Task Force as an assault on teachers and is requesting an investigation that will determine whether the education minister interfered with the Task Force's work.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Follow by Email