Friday, June 6, 2014

Teachers don't need surveillance -- they need support

Jeff Johnson's Teacher Task Force was suppose to be about supporting excellence in teaching, but it has become nothing more than another layer of bureaucratic surveillance that will ultimately undermine public confidence in Alberta's already excellent teachers.

If Jeff Johnson's Task Force had done their job properly, they would have made a critically important recommendation: Teachers don't need surveillance -- they need support. 

But if I was Jeff Johnson, I may want to distract the public from funding cuts in public education by creating my own Task Force that focuses on teacher quality.

For this school year, the Alberta Government cut school board budgets by $14.5 million even though 11,000 new students entered Alberta's schools. This will lead to all sorts of problems for teachers' working conditions including larger class sizes. Alberta Teachers' Association President Mark Ramsankar describes the problem aptly when he said, "a Ferrari still can't perform on a gravel road." Ultimately, great teachers make great schools, but great teachers can’t do it alone – they require the support of an equitable society.

Now Johnson is saying that the status quo with the Alberta teacher discipline process is not an option. This comes before the Task Force has even finished collecting input -- which leads me to wonder why the Task Force is even bothering with collecting input when it would appear that Jeff Johnson's mind is already made up. It also has me questioning the independence of Jeff Johnson's Task Force.

Education policy expert Michael Fullan writes about Jeff Johnson's Task Force:
You don't develop a profession or an organization by focusing on sticks and carrots aimed at individuals. All high-performing entities develop the group to focus collectively and relentlessly on quality work linked to high expectations and standards. If you don’t base policies and strategies on purposeful group impact you inevitably end up with low yield results along with gross distractions.
Take the recommendation that has drawn the most press, implementing a process that would require teachers to be assessed to maintain their certification. Of course the intent is to get rid of incompetent teachers, but the action is akin to scorching the lawn to get rid of weeds. 
It is disingenuous to say you put students first and then put teachers last, and yet that is exactly what Jeff Johnson and his Task Force are doing with their misinformation campaign.

Ultimately, Jeff Johnson and his Task Force get it wrong because they see teachers as a problem when they should be seen for what they truly are: an opportunity.

1 comment:

  1. Joe, Canada is way behind the rest of the world in the race for blind compliance by students. By implementing learned helplessness in teachers we can help students discover they live in a random dangerous world where one's only hope is to align oneself with power in whatever form it comes. That will help speed up the process...

    (Slow handclap.)


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