Much Work Remains to be Done to Improve Classroom Conditions

Two years after the release of the recommendations of Alberta’s Commission on Learning, much work remains to be done to improve teaching and learning conditions in the province’s schools, says Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) president Frank Bruseker.

“When Alberta’s teachers first called for the creation of a commission to investigate classroom conditions, we were confident that the process would not only highlight critical deficiencies but also map out practical solutions,” said Bruseker. “The learning commission got many things right and now we are waiting for concrete action.”

Bruseker acknowledged that while improvements have been made in some areas, in others, education in Alberta continues to fall short. For example, while there have been reductions in class sizes in the elementary grades, class sizes continue to be a serious issue at the junior and senior high school level. “The government could solve this problem at relatively little cost by setting common-sense caps on actual class sizes and holding school boards accountable if these maximums are exceeded,” observed Bruseker.

On the issue of standardized testing, Bruseker criticized the department’s attempt to pass off its computer adaptive assessment initiative as fulfilling the learning commission’s recommendation that the government ensure that teachers have access to classroom assessment materials and practices. “The commission called for the government to develop and promote authentic, classroom-based performance assessment that reflected a broad range of learning processes and outcomes. Instead the government is planning to waste millions of dollars to have computers spit more multiple choice tests at students,” said Bruseker.

Bruseker also pointed to the need to ensure that teacher librarians, guidance counsellors and teaching assistants are available to help students achieve their full potential as learners. “The learning commission was quite clear that meeting the unique individual needs of students should be the first priority of our province’s schools,” said Bruseker.

“Alberta’s Commission on Learning created high expectations in the minds of the public and teachers,” concluded Bruseker, “While some progress has been made, Albertans continue to expect more for students and their schools.”