Scrolling through Twitter, I came across an interesting
Tweet from a former colleague and mentor that seemed to sum up some of my
recent thinking about education in our province. As someone who is both
immensely proud of teaching in Alberta, and someone who has been to several conferences
over the past several years (both locally and internationally) one thing is
abundantly clear – Alberta teachers are respected, world leaders in education.
One prominent international researcher, Pasi Sahlberg, has
been at the fore of identifying
the excellence of teaching and learning in our province. In presentations
in Alberta, Sahlberg has pointed out Alberta’s standing based on the OECD PISA results.
In the 2015
PISA results (the most current published results, with the 2018 results
expected to be available beginning December), Canada and Alberta’s worldwide
rankings are as follows:
Reading – Canada 3rd (Alberta
#2 province). If Alberta were considered
a country, they would rank #3 in the world.
Mathematics – Canada 10th
(Alberta #3* province). If Alberta were
considered a country, they would rank #14 in the world.
Science – Canada 7th (Alberta
#1 province). If Alberta were considered
a country, they would rank #2 in the world.
I don’t mention these results to debate the merits of
standardized testing, or the legitimacy of OECD or PISA, but to rather to provide
context that there is data to support the “eye test”. I have engaged with
international visitors who have come to ULead, an Alberta-led education conference,
to learn from and with Alberta educators. I have also had the pleasure of
hosting and envoy of educational leaders from Singapore (a country that
routinely ranks at the top of PISA) who came specially to the Calgary Board of
Education to tour our schools in action. They are coming to our province to see
the things we’re doing right, and there is plenty to see.
What many might not know is that Alberta Teachers are designers of curriculum, not merely deliverers of curriculum. Sounds like a
subtle difference, but it’s not. In Alberta, teachers work with a series of
curricular outcomes set forward in the Alberta Programs of Study. From there
they organize them in sequential, patterned ways, always mindful of “hooks”
that will ensure engaged learning throughout the series of planned sub-tasks
and accompanying assessments. The design also allows for personalized learning
to accommodate different learning styles, and inclusive accommodations for
students with mild/moderate and complex learning and social/emotional needs.
results for Fish Creek School tell only part of the story of our teachers
and their students. What you see in our Provincial Achievement Test results is
the culmination of years of hard work by our entire staff – to a person.
Literacy and ELL support and intervention starts in kindergarten through
collaboration with teachers and the joint CBE Early Learning Team, and
continues through the grades with allocated supports organized and managed at
the school level.
Included along with the daily work of our teachers is the
delicate dance of assisting in management of the well-being of our students.
Emotional considerations such as anxiety, stress, and managing peer relations
are all taking place within real time under the influence of an ever-expanding
digital influence. With all of these considerations, Fish Creek School and
Alberta teachers continue to set the standard for education on the world stage.
JFK famously said “children are the world’s most valuable
resource and its best hope for the future” and we can all agree on this. As the
sun rises on a new day, it’s important to recognize that the work that Alberta
teachers are doing is ensuring that our most valuable resource is set up for
success. Let’s ensure we keep our collective focus on our most important
Provincial asset – Education.