ALBERTA
05/05/2014 02:52 EDT | Updated 07/05/2014 05:59 EDT

Alberta Teacher Competency Task Force Review Called 'Direct Assault'

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EDMONTON - A proposal being eyed by the Alberta government to have teachers independently evaluated and disciplined is an attack on the profession, says the head of the Alberta Teachers' Association.

"It can be viewed very simply as a direct assault on teachers in the province and on the profession itself," Mark Ramsankar told reporters.

Ramsankar was responding to a new government task force report delivered Monday on improving teacher performance.

The report says the system of evaluating teachers and ruling on accusations of professional misconduct is not working.

The main reason, it said, is because the Alberta Teachers' Association — or ATA — is in a conflict of interest because it oversees teacher performance as a professional organization but also has to protect teacher interests as a union.

"There are insurmountable conflicts of interest created when professions strive to concurrently serve two masters through a single organization," says the report.

The task force was chaired by Glenn Feltham, president of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

It said that numbers suggest having the ATA resolve complaints against teachers is not working.

"In the past 10 years, there have been no cases in which a (teaching certificate) has been cancelled due to incompetence," it noted.

"Given the province has over 40,000 teachers, the task force found this statistic almost inconceivable."

Ramsankar said the data was being cherry-picked. He said none of the cases went that far because sub-par teachers either received help early on to correct their behaviour or left of their own accord.

"Approximately 25 per cent of teachers leave within their first five years of their experience in the classroom," he said.

Education Minister Jeff Johnson said while the report is going to have some detractors, that's no reason not to proceed.

"I'm not as concerned about what's right for an organization as I am what's right for kids," said Johnson.

He stressed the 25 recommendations are now going to be reviewed by government over the summer while it collects feedback.

The task force recommends that the Department of Education take over hearings on allegations of teacher misconduct.

It suggests that school principals take over teacher evaluations with an eye to teachers effectively having to recertify every five years.

The report said no regular ongoing teacher evaluation process exists under the ATA.

But Ramsankar said teachers are evaluated daily.

"Teachers are under scrutiny on an ongoing basis by parents, other teachers (and) principals," he said.

"With that in place, teachers have to measure up to teaching quality standards."

Principals are also part of the ATA, so the task force suggested that may mean having to take the principals out of the organization if they are to conduct the evaluation reviews.

Opposition NDP and Liberals said the government is penalizing teachers for failures in funding and support.

"The government has severely under-resourced education, and they're using this (task force) as a tool to attack the very people who are part of building a fantastic education system that the government loves to brag about," said Liberal Leader Raj Sherman.

"This is an outright attack on teachers," added NDP education critic Deron Bilous.

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