||Volume 12, Number 5, March 2000|
Where is accreditation going?
by Mike Lombardi
School accreditation continues to be a major concern for BCTF members. They question both the overwhelming workload and the usefulness of the present accreditation process.
During this past year the ministry concluded a review of the accreditation program, including the appointment of a provincial Accreditation Review Committee. This committee, which included BCTF representatives recommended changes to the existing accreditation process. One of the key themes of the report was the need for the development of a teacher workload reduction strategy for the accreditation process. One of the significant recommendations of the committee was that in each accreditation cycle, (i.e., over six years) each school be allowed to convert up to six days of instructional time to non-instructional time for accreditation purposes. The ministry rejected this recommendation.
In response to the continuing frustration of teachers about the accreditation process the January 2000 BCTF Representative Assembly recommended the following:
1. That the RA recommend to the 2000 AGM that teachers do not actively participate in the accreditation process as it is presently constituted. Active participation means such things as:
- sitting on the school steering committees.
- chairing the accreditation committees.
- participating in school accreditation subcommittees.
- writing any or all of the report.
- sitting on external teams.
- Non-active participation means such things as:
- responding to questionnaires.
- submitting information to the Accreditation Review Committee.
2. That the RA recommend to the 2000 AGM that BCTF and local support be given to those teachers who have begun the accreditation process who wish to:
a. resign from their respective positions, or
b. continue in their positions until their tasks are completed.
Proposed refinements to accreditation
On February 7, 2000 the deputy minister of education forwarded a letter to all superintendent’s outlining refinements to the B.C. Public Schools Accreditation Program.
Specifically the ministry is proposing the following changes to the internal accreditation process:
Teacher workload expectations
It is expected that teacher participation in the internal process of accreditation will not require more than five meetings, one hour in length and one non-instructional day. Teachers who serve as members of a school self-assessment committee would be expected to contribute a maximum of 10 hours toward the process before accessing any funded release time. Any time spent on accreditation tasks beyond this time would be accommodated through funded release time. The ministry will also continue the practice of authorizing a sixth non-instructional day in the school calendar and one of the purposes of the day will be for accreditation activities.
Evidence gathering expectations
Evidence will be gathered from the following sources:
— Evidence provided from the ministry for school use (foundation skills assessment results, provincial exam results, grade-to-grade transitions, and Grade 12 completion rates).
— Evidence gathered from the school (report card information, attendance records, and parent/teacher surveys).
— Teachers in school will not be expected to design or compile parent surveys and districts will be assisting with survey activities.
The ministry has also indicated that they will be proposing changes to external processes in April 2000.
BCTF response to refinements
The BCTF has forwarded the following response to the refinements to the accreditation process:
- We are pleased that the ministry has listened to some of the concerns of teachers regarding school accreditation and we look forward to more discussions about further refinements to the program prior to the AGM.
- School staff expectations for the internal accreditation process should not exceed five hours of meeting time and one non-instructional day.
- The BCTF expects that any time spent by teachers (including co-chairs and members of the internal team) on the accreditation process over the five hours meeting time and one non-instructional day, should be provided through funded release time from school accreditation funds.
- We are pleased that the ministry will be providing a sixth non-instructional day (implementation planning day) in the provincial school calendar, which will be available for accreditation purposes.
- We are very concerned that the announced refinements to the accreditation program do not deal with the external process. It is not possible for us to assess the extent of these proposed workload reductions for teachers without complete information about the expectations of both the external and internal process. We question the value, time, and cost required for participation this process. We have urged the ministry to announce decisions about changes to the external process prior to the March 2000 BCTF AGM.
- We have asked the ministry to reschedule the local orientation sessions for schools which will be participating in the accreditation process next year until after decisions are made about the revised external process. We have asked for the sessions to be moved from February to March/April 2000. This schedule will allow participants at the sessions to become familiar with all aspects of the accreditation program (both internal and external).
- The BCTF has acknowledged that the proposed refinements to the internal process address some of the workload concerns of teachers, however they also move school accreditation in a dangerous new direction. The proposed refinements in evidence gathering and analysis are based on a narrow set of quantitative data. This is not the information that most teachers would choose to use to set school-wide goals for continuous school improvement.
- We have also again requested that the ministry authorize the piloting of the BCTF STAR process as an alternative to accreditation.
The STAR process is a school self-study framework that promotes ongoing school growth and development through goal-setting, action planning, implementation, and facilitated review process.
Where to now?
We will continue to meet with ministry officials prior to our AGM to discuss further refinements to the accreditation process.
We will urge the ministry to publish a revised and complete accreditation policy framework prior to the our AGM. This information will assist our delegates in debating the two RA recommendations on accreditation.
Mike Lombardi is the BCTF’s director of the Professional Development Division.