Collaboration, Professionalism, and Accountability

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    • 00:07

      NARRATOR: Alberta, Canada's oil and gas producing province,is the most successful English speakingregion in the international education rankings,significantly outperforming both the UK and America.Education Secretary Michael Gove claimsit's because of Alberta's culture of autonomy for heads

    • 00:29

      NARRATOR [continued]: and choice for parents.But what do Albertans themselves put their success down to?Alberta, like all Canadian provinces,

    • 00:50

      NARRATOR [continued]: is responsible for its own educationsystem, controlling funding, the curriculum, assessmentand accountability.The province is divided into 62 separate schooldistricts, one of the largest of which is Edmonton.

    • 01:11

      NARRATOR [continued]: Today, Edmonton Public School Boardis announcing its annual results.Though there's been a small blip at diploma level,there's a refreshing openness.

    • 01:21

      SPEAKER 1: Now, we saw mixed results for the diploma exams.Students demonstrated strong resultsin the science-based subjects and French language arts,but we acknowledge they did not do as well in math,social studies or English.

    • 01:34

      SPEAKER 2: What sorts of things doyou think need to be done to fix this problem?

    • 01:39

      TANNI PARKER: Thank you very much.We're not sure what we need to be doing,and we're going to build on what we heard the Ministertalk about.So the first part of our plan is to get a focusgroup of our English 30-1 teachers,bring them in, work through the exam responses with them,find out where it is that we needto be providing additional professional development

    • 01:59

      TANNI PARKER [continued]: or additional resources to support them.So that's the first step of our plan.

    • 02:04

      NARRATOR: In Alberta, children aretested in the core subjects.But their core subjects are maths, science,English and social studies, whichincludes geography and history.And in Edmonton, students are tested in reading and writingevery year.

    • 02:23

      JIM DUECK: Administration of Edmonton Publichas information that's coming to them every single yearon how students are doing.That to me is a very important innovation,because what often happens and what I oftenhear about is that in other jurisdictions where you onlyhave the three, six and nine being tested,

    • 02:44

      JIM DUECK [continued]: teachers try to avoid three, six, and nine because they feelthe pressure and they don't want to try to be involvedin teaching in that area.Well, when you have assessment going on every single year,then that kind of pressure, if you like,is being distributed throughout the entire system.

    • 03:07

      SPEAKER 1: Superintendent Schmidtwill be taking a look at the resultsto determine how we could help more students achievethe acceptable standard and the standard of excellenceon their diploma exams.

    • 03:19

      NARRATOR: There's a strong cultureof collective responsibility and targeted supportfor students and teachers.It's bound up with the belief that the underlyingcauses of educational success and failurehave to be explained so the public can understand what'sreally going on in their schools,and there's accountability at all levels.

    • 03:40

      EDGAR SCHMIDT: The longer students are with usin the long-term, we see that they actuallydo better and better year over year.Just over three years ago we had a decline in our results,bordering on significant declines,and that was when the Provincial Ministry of Education

    • 04:03

      EDGAR SCHMIDT [continued]: formally requested some very specific informationabout what our plans are to address that particular drop.

    • 04:11

      SPEAKER 3: Kids are writing now in the school--

    • 04:13

      EDGAR SCHMIDT: We talked extensively with principles,with teachers about what was going on.And people really came together to say,OK, let's take a serious look at this.

    • 04:25

      NARRATOR: In 1993, Alberta introduced its own teacherquality standard, a benchmark whichsets out the standard which all teachers are expectedto maintain and is a vital link in its accountabilityframework.

    • 04:39

      MARC PREFONTAINE: It wasn't developed by governmentand passed down.It was developed by the education community.People sat around tables, many tables,and talked about what they thoughtwas important in terms of what qualities a good teachershould possess and be able to demonstrate in their practice.That's how we arrived at that teaching quality standard.The policy in terms of how it's usedwas arrived at in the same way.

    • 04:60

      MARC PREFONTAINE [continued]: People sat down and talked about how thiswould be used in the province.They talked about the fact that a teacher hasprofessional autonomy and responsibility,and that should be respected.They talked about the role that the employer would have,or the supervisor would have.They talked about the role that government should have.Those agreements were arrived at collegiatelyand collaboratively, and then they

    • 05:20

      MARC PREFONTAINE [continued]: were unfolded and implemented inside of the province.If an individual cannot demonstrate those competencies,then at that point an application would come to meor to the Alberta Teachers Association,depending on the category of school within which you arein Alberta, a request for that individual then to losetheir certificate, and so then that matter would be

    • 05:42

      MARC PREFONTAINE [continued]: adjudicated.

    • 05:43

      SPEAKER 4: So I guess a differentiation was justtheir approach to the task.

    • 05:47

      SPEAKER 5: Yeah, and how they chose to represent it.

    • 05:50

      NARRATOR: Alberta's provincial governmentlays down the curriculum content and teaching standardsacross the region.But each local district employs its own principalsand teachers, and through its superintendentinfluences the culture and priorities of its schools.

    • 06:08

      ANGUS MCBEATH: Well, I think Edmontonhad done a tremendous job of building confidencein the parents of Edmonton that we were a good school system.We shut down or stopped the creation of charter schoolsbecause people didn't feel they needed them.And I think we put a big dent into private education,because I'd say the three biggest private schools

    • 06:30

      ANGUS MCBEATH [continued]: in this area of the world shut down and askedto join us instead.

    • 06:36

      SPEAKER 5: This is Nigel's class.

    • 06:38

      NARRATOR: A key moment in Alberta'ssuccessful transformation was Angus McBeath's promotionto superintendent.

    • 06:45

      SPEAKER 5: And then Tanta Rose said, if I had--

    • 06:48

      ANGUS MCBEATH: When I became superintendent,I tried to build on the decentralizationculture, the school choice of an alternative program culture.

    • 06:58

      SPEAKER 5: Does it matter that she's Jewish or not?Does it fit with the story?

    • 07:01

      ANGUS MCBEATH: And I tried to layon the culture of laser-like focus on teaching and learning,and I believe a lot of that exists today.

    • 07:10

      KEVIN BASSOON: Go.Period one.

    • 07:14

      NARRATOR: Alberta prides itself on the professionalismof its workforce.Teachers are contracted to the district and can request a moveor be moved to any school in the district-- and in Edmonton,it's a buyer's market.

    • 07:31

      KEVIN BASSOON: OK, people the bell's rung.You're late.Let's go.

    • 07:33

      GINA MACKECHNIE: To get a continuous contract heretakes three years.I'm still not continuous.In September, I could be completely out of a jobnext year.I don't know.

    • 07:43

      SPEAKER 6: So they wait three years for you?

    • 07:45

      GINA MACKECHNIE: What happens is,is you get a temporary contract and thenyou have to be recommended by the principalfor a continuous contract.--and 90 degrees.So there's been some teachers thatwill be on a probationary year for seven years.And in that case, it's just eitheryou haven't been lucky like me, or youhaven't been in the right place at the right time.

    • 08:06

      GINA MACKECHNIE [continued]: I still haven't quite figured it out yet.

    • 08:07

      SPEAKER 6: Or maybe that's their way of basically--

    • 08:10

      GINA MACKECHNIE: It might be their way.

    • 08:11

      SPEAKER 6: --making up their mind until you'regood enough at the job.

    • 08:13

      GINA MACKECHNIE: Yeah, I totally agree with that, I justdidn't want to say it.It's like your leg kicking back.Think about reflex is gross.If I stood here and went like this,how many degrees did I just turn?

    • 08:25

      STUDENTS: 360.

    • 08:26

      GINA MACKECHNIE: 360.We all know that, right?Your principal is looking.What else can you bring to the school environmentother than just your teaching ability?So right now I coach volleyball.Our practice tonight will go to 5:30.It's a quiet expectation.Not everybody does it, but I tell you the onesthat do do it are noticed.

    • 08:48

      NARRATOR: Angus McBeath's laser-like focuson teaching and learning is now central to Edmonton's districtculture.Principals, deputies and middle managersall receive regular training in how to personally help teachersimprove their teaching.Gina's head of department, Kevin Bassoon on the right,

    • 09:08

      NARRATOR [continued]: is learning about classroom observationwith his line manager, Brad Burns.

    • 09:13

      KEVIN BASSOON: We're now going to go into a math 10-C class.

    • 09:18

      SPEAKER 7: Most of you are finished with your percentage.So remember, if you know what each one of these piecesof paper is worth, I want you guysin partners or in your groups to determine if you can usethem to reduce these fractions.Can you show an equivalent form of 8 over 10with the fraction tiles?

    • 09:36

      BRAD BURNS: Did you guys find this pretty easy?Is this a easy review for you guys?

    • 09:40

      SPEAKER 8: I'm pretty sure we did this in grade 6, so yeah.

    • 09:43

      BRAD BURNS: Now what are you guys listening to?

    • 09:45

      SPEAKER 9: Huh?

    • 09:45

      BRAD BURNS: Who is it?

    • 09:47

      SPEAKER 9: Modal Technique.

    • 09:48

      BRAD BURNS: Who?

    • 09:49

      SPEAKER 9: It's Modal Technique.

    • 09:51


    • 09:52

      SPEAKER 8: I don't know, some rap stuff.His songs are really intense.

    • 09:55

      BRAD BURNS: OK.Now, do you find intense music helps you concentrateor distracts you from it?

    • 09:60

      SPEAKER 9: It's kind of distracting with these kids.

    • 10:02

      SPEAKER 8: We're kind of just done.

    • 10:04

      KEVIN BASSOON: I thought it was an interesting wayto present fractions.Students would have a little bit more funor engagement with moving things around,as opposed to just drilling and killing them.

    • 10:17

      BRAD BURNS: Yeah.

    • 10:18

      SPEAKER 7: OK, so can you show with your fraction tiles--

    • 10:21

      ANGUS MCBEATH: I was in 7,000 classrooms as superintendent.I visited classrooms.I wasn't there to assess each teacher's performance.I was assessing the head's performance.And so I would ask the head questions like, what are wegoing to see in this room?When we're going to walk into this classroom,what are we going to see in there?

    • 10:42

      SPEAKER 6: So you were testing whether the head knewteaching skills?

    • 10:44

      ANGUS MCBEATH: Yes.I wanted to know what the head knew.And then after we left the room I'dsay, what did we see in this roomand what didn't we see in this room?And what are you going to do now to work with this teacher?So I was out inspecting the qualityof the heads in terms of their workin supporting teaching and learning.

    • 11:06

      ANGUS MCBEATH [continued]: So I was in 7,000 rooms and I did have the data with me,the achievement data for each school and each classroom.And so if I thought the principal was draggingtheir heels or was not making the effort I thoughtthe children deserved, then I put the heat on them

    • 11:27

      ANGUS MCBEATH [continued]: without apology with the view to I needed to turn up the heatand they needed to get moving.

    • 11:36

      BRAD BURNS: There seemed to be a lot of demonstrationof understanding through disengagement.Though it required a lot of prep,at what point do you scrap that and move onbecause your students are understanding?

    • 11:50

      KEVIN BASSOON: So moving forward?

    • 11:51

      BRAD BURNS: Yeah, as opposed to staying with it because you'vespent time prepping it.

    • 11:57

      KEVIN BASSOON: Yeah, marrying a lesson, so to speak?

    • 11:59

      BRAD BURNS: Yeah.So again, that would be my question for her.And that's one thing with this math 10 combinedcurriculum, is where it used to be streamed in two different,now they're all in one class.And that differentiation is huge to bring everybodyto that level of understanding that's required.

    • 12:20

      BRAD BURNS [continued]: So that's what I really noticed in her class isbeing in the combined class, how vastly differentthe students were learning within the same room, and someof the challenges to that.And so I'd be looking to Alicia for some clear strategiesto keep that gap from widening.

    • 12:39

      ANGUS MCBEATH: We wanted to improve achievementfor Edmonton, I said, for all 82,000 kids.Well, Angus, when are you going to stop pushing us?I say, I'll tell you when.When the parents of kids come to my officeand say, my kid reads too well, will you quit it?I said, when parents come and demand

    • 12:59

      ANGUS MCBEATH [continued]: that their children do poorer in school, I will quit it.But guess what?I said, I haven't had one parent in my office yet,and they're welcome, telling me to back off.

    • 13:15

      NARRATOR: In Alberta, there's no streaming or settinguntil students are 16.

    • 13:21

      SPEAKER 7: If you compare a two-year-old witha 14-year-old, obviously--

    • 13:26

      NARRATOR: Elementary and junior high schoolsall insist on mixed ability teaching, whichis why high quality differentiation is crucial.

    • 13:35

      JIM DUECK: I have had maybe 50 countries come and visitwith me to learn about Alberta.When we sit down and we talk, we findthat inevitably those particular countriesare streaming students at a very young age--grade four, grade five.

    • 13:55

      SPEAKER 10: Line up the decimals?

    • 13:57

      SPEAKER 7: Line up the decimals, absolutely.Line up your decimal place, adding and subtracting,and follow it--

    • 14:01

      JIM DUECK: That's one of the featuresthat we have found in those countrieswhere their performance surprised them-- no,shocked them-- because they didn't expect it to come outas low as it was.That they had streaming at a very young age,and therefore many students were notbeing challenged to a sufficient degreeas they're moving through the system

    • 14:22

      JIM DUECK [continued]: and culminating with grade nine as the PISA year.

    • 14:25

      ANGUS MCBEATH: Some teachers wouldhave wished we'd streamed-- particularlyteachers in what we call junior high schools, whichare children around grade seven, eight and nine.Some teachers would wish we would stream there,and there would be some elementary teachersthat wish we would stream.We have resisted the pressure on us to stream.

    • 14:47

      ANGUS MCBEATH [continued]: And in high school, we would resist anymorepressure to stream, because I think we stream enough.

    • 14:56

      NARRATOR: When Gina couldn't get a teaching job in Edmonton,she taught in England for three years,rising to deputy head of maths at a secondary schoolin Suffolk.

    • 15:05

      GINA MACKECHNIE: Check again.Question number four is way off.

    • 15:08

      SPEAKER 11: I know, because it's bigger.I always went with the smaller numbers.I forgot to go to bigger numbers.

    • 15:11

      GINA MACKECHNIE: OK, you need to go.Do you know which ones you did then?

    • 15:13

      SPEAKER 11: Yeah.

    • 15:14

      GINA MACKECHNIE: OK.I didn't do anything after school in England.When we got together, it was in order to relax.It was in order to, OK, that's over.Thank goodness.That was a really hard lesson.Have a cup of tea or go down to the pub and have a pint.We celebrated Christmas together as a department.We would have the schools, and then wewould have our department.So if we measure the guy in-between here, let's

    • 15:35

      GINA MACKECHNIE [continued]: measure that angle.

    • 15:36

      SPEAKER 12: How do you do that?

    • 15:37

      GINA MACKECHNIE: Whereas here when we get together,it is more to work collaboratively.So last night Alicia and I, after our volleyball practice,sat around for an extra half an hour talking about fractions,which is not a thing to do, I think.You don't sit around with your friends and talk fractions.Whereas in England, we would go and talk about our family,or where did you go on the weekend.

    • 15:60

      GINA MACKECHNIE [continued]: And when you say "socially," that's exactly what it was.

    • 16:02

      SPEAKER 12: 28?

    • 16:03

      GINA MACKECHNIE: Perfect.OK, so we know it, let's write 28 on the inside.Good.Now, if it was 360 all the way around but Ididn't want this section, what would I do with it?

    • 16:11

      SPEAKER 12: Cut it out?

    • 16:13

      GINA MACKECHNIE: Yes, exactly.You would cut it out.Now, what do you mean by cutting it out?

    • 16:16

      SPEAKER 12: Oh, would I take away 28 from 360?

    • 16:18

      GINA MACKECHNIE: Perfect.In England it was not a ton of, well,how are you going to teach this lesson?We did that in department meetings, absolutely.But it's not something that I wouldn'ttext message my department head and say,hey, what do you think about this, whereas I would do thatto Kevin now.

    • 16:34

      SPEAKER 13: Do they have calculators for this?

    • 16:37

      GINA MACKECHNIE: Constant communication.I will be sitting in my room while my students are writingan exam, emailing to Kevin in the next door saying, OK, well,what did you do for this?Not quite 180.If I went all the way around, what would it be?

    • 16:47

      SPEAKER 14: 360.

    • 16:48

      GINA MACKECHNIE: You're so smart.So take 360, and then subtract out--You want to have as many people collaborate,tell you, inform you, help you, provide resources,and then you do the same for them.145, excellent.Once you get bored of it, somebody will take your placeand you know that.

    • 17:04

      SPEAKER 15: Neth rushed into the courtyard--

    • 17:06

      NARRATOR: Another key factor is the school curriculum.

    • 17:08

      SPEAKER 15: --what's all this, Neth snapped.

    • 17:10

      NARRATOR: The same body is responsible for the curriculum,exams, and textbook procurement.Each are interlinked, and yet again,collaboration with teachers is central to all three processes.

    • 17:23

      SPEAKER 15: --drew a picture of the tile squares he had made.

    • 17:26

      DEBBIE DUVALL: We have a really strong curriculumthat is research-based and has input from teachers.The second thing is that we have resourcesthat are built to support the teachingand learning around those outcomes.

    • 17:42

      SPEAKER 15: The one with four on each side had 16 tiles.

    • 17:44

      DEBBIE DUVALL: We have provincial exams that alignwith that same curriculum.They're not written about outcomesthat come from anywhere else or that somebody thought wasa neat question.They're blueprinted right back to that curriculum,and they're making people accountable.Those results mean a lot.They're in the public domain.

    • 18:07

      DEBBIE DUVALL [continued]: Parents know how schools are doing.They make us accountable.

    • 18:12

      GINA MACKECHNIE: Downstairs in the principal's office--they may not like that I am telling you this.And I might get in trouble for telling you this as well--but they're looking at my results.They're looking at my results after my first unit exam,after a mid-term, all the way up until theyhave to write their final exam or their diploma course,and then they're looking at it after.How many A's did I have?How many B's did I have?

    • 18:33

      GINA MACKECHNIE [continued]: How many people succeeded, and so on and so forth.And that goes per semester, two or three times--and I don't know what it is, it depends if you'rein the limelight or not.But it's something that we are all accountable for.Why is this person failing?What can you do to make sure that this person is notfailing anymore?

    • 18:54

      GINA MACKECHNIE [continued]: And a failing here is a 50%.

    • 18:58

      DEBBIE DUVALL: It is a really tight system,and all the cogs work together.It's all really tightly connected.And if you take one of those out,it's not going to function as well.

    • 19:13

      NARRATOR: So, how could Alberta's success storybe transferred to the UK?Angus McBeath is typically blunt.

    • 19:21

      ANGUS MCBEATH: The government shouldstart teaching all parents in Britainto expect their children to be well served.They should look at their working class resultsand say, those aren't good enough, and admit it.You have to have had the brutal honestyaround how badly you're doing.I know governments don't like to tell people how bad it is.

    • 19:45

      ANGUS MCBEATH [continued]: So I think the only way you can changeBritain is to start embarrassing people with the ugly truth.And the ugly truth is, the poorest are getting screwed.And guess what, the taxes are raised for all children, notjust the rich.The taxes are raised for all kids, not justthe middle class.

Collaboration, Professionalism, and Accountability

View Segments Segment :


Alberta, Canada, has the most successful public education system in the English-speaking world. Interviews with Alberta's teachers and school administrators examine the how and why of their achievement.

Collaboration, Professionalism, and Accountability

Alberta, Canada, has the most successful public education system in the English-speaking world. Interviews with Alberta's teachers and school administrators examine the how and why of their achievement.

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