School board accountability contract doesn’t satisfy teachers or board 

The Howe Sound School Board now has an accountability contract with the provincial government.

The document outlines several goals the district hopes to achieve including improvements in numeracy and literacy from Kindergarten to Grade 3 and increasing the number of students who go on to Grade 11 from Grade 10.

But even the school board admits the government’s plan is flawed and it is not convinced the contracts will be effective this year in the corridor due to a lack of consultation and support.

Howe Sound School Board superintendent Linda Rossler said board officials met with the government at the end of November last year giving them only a month to come up with their accountability contract.

There was no time for discussions with teachers or anyone else involved in the process.

Rossler is hopeful that just putting the goals in writing will help, but worries success may be limited, "in that we haven’t had a consultation process yet."

"Unless you have people on board willing to work towards that end then it is not going to happen. So we now have to go through the steps of backing up and saying OK this was the document, but what should it have looked like.

"Teachers are somewhat upset with this.

"We have to have teachers on board or it is not going to go anywhere."

Asked if she thought the process put the cart before the horse, Rossler replied, "a little bit."

There is also concern surrounding the government’s use of the Foundation Skills Assessment test results as the base line for improvements.

Many educators believe the test results do not accurately reflect student learning or achievement in schools but simply offer a "snapshot" of student achievement.

According to the FSA results, said Rossler, Howe Sound was five per cent below the regional average.

"I don’t believe for one minute that we are below average," she said.

"I think we are above average, so we are trying to move those scores in that direction.

"But they are somewhat artificial and what needs to happen now is we need to work with administrators and we need to work with staff to take a look at data and see what it does mean to us and what does it mean in terms of what we need to be doing for student learning and where should we be a year from now."

Accountability contracts are defined as the school boards’ public commitment to improving student achievement.

They are not legal documents. They are not signed and no-one knows yet what will happen to school boards that fail to meet their goals.

The contracts detail specific goals individual school boards have set to enhance student achievement. Goals may also be related to safety issues, an area the Howe Sound School Board is working on.

Other issues being looked at include the provision of alternative pathways to success, aboriginal student achievement or parent and student satisfaction.

"It’s a work in progress," said Rossler.

"What we will end up with at the end of this year is a baseline document that will help us do better next year. It is a starting place, that is all it is. There is nothing carved in stone."

But this does little to allay the concerns of teachers.

"We are fairly alarmed with the accountability contract that has been submitted from this district," said Marjorie Reimer, president of the Howe Sound Teachers’ Association.

"It doesn’t appear to have a clear overall focus. It is sort of a kitchen-sink approach.

"Most concerning to us are the targeted areas for improvement in our academic areas. Those do not appear to have come out of any accreditation work or school initiatives. They seem to be floating on their own, created from a vacuum and they do not have benchmarks."

Reimer is also concerned at the lack of consultation in the process citing a failure of a focus group she is part of to meet and discuss the contract before it was submitted.

There is also some confusion in its assembly, she said.

"There is evidence of haste and it appears to have been carelessly assembled," said Reimer.

"It is not clean. It is not succinct... Perhaps it was the best they could do but it doesn’t provide guidance to teachers or to the board."

Reimer is in discussions with the school board and hopes to have more input into the next contract. But she also said teachers are more concerned about teaching than they are about bureaucracy.

"I think it is one more hoop board officials will have to go through," she said.

"I don’t think teachers are going to put a lot of effort into it. We are focusing on our classroom and teaching."

To see a copy of the contract phone the school board at 604-892-5228. You can get a summary of it at: www.bced.gov.bc.ca/schools/sdinfo/acc_contracts/

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