Superintendent of Schools – For me it was a teaching assignment at Mount Royal Collegiate in Saskatoon. I actually had one more class to take over the summer before graduating but I got a job teaching. It was only going to be a one-year teaching assignment while the regular teacher I would be replacing was covering for someone else who was away on a year-long leave. That morphed into spending 22 of the next 25 years working in the public education space. One year I worked in the private sector (wanted to see what life was like in the “real world”) and two years working in the post-secondary sector.
Last week I was very lucky to be able to help out at the RVS booth at the recent University of Calgary career fair. For three hours, I spoke to prospective teachers who were graduating this spring from the U of C. I had the opportunity to brag about the great things going on in RVS, what drew me to RVS (twice), and how we support our early career teachers. I answered questions about how people can apply and what prospects look like. I must say it was great to be at the RVS booth as we had a steady stream of students interested in what we have to offer. Thanks to Meghan, Shannon, and Roel for letting me join all of you.
The following night I had the pleasure of attending the ATA induction ceremony for over 100 teachers who are part of the RVS family and are either new to the profession or new to Alberta. I wish I could have stayed for the full evening but it was a chance to say a few words and get to learn about many of our new teachers. Each school created a short video to help introduce the new teachers. These videos were quite amazing and kept the crowd laughing. I’ve asked for the DVD so I can watch the other half of videos I missed. Key messages I shared with the group (but also apply to our entire RVS team): we are in this together and on the same team; keep learning and growing; okay to take risks and innovate; collaborate with others; invest in yourself; take care of yourself; and thank those who helped get you here!
In that spirit – thanks to Mr. Richard Turcotte who was my grade 6 teacher and teacher-coaches Dan Boyer, Al Andrie, and Ivan Tam who made such a positive impact on my life. I am a teacher today because of all of you.
Superintendent of Schools – As – sur – ance (noun) 1. A positive declaration intended to give confidence; a promise 2. Confidence or certainty in one’s own abilities.
Shortly, a number of senior RVS leadership staff will meet with Alberta Education staff to review our Annual Education Results Report (AERR) as part of Alberta Education’s Assurance Model Pilot. Our AERR is like a report card on how we are doing as compared to our 4-year plan, which say what we are doing (https://www.rockyview.ab.ca/publications/2015_2019_2). We connect our goals (Learners are engaged, supported and successful) to Alberta Education’s priorities. We report out on how we are doing using Alberta Education’s survey data, our own survey data, achievement and diploma exam results. Want to see what our AERR looks like? Check it out here -> https://www.rockyview.ab.ca/publications/2015_16_digital_aerr
Our AERR is provided in a digital format. As part of the assurance pilot we have flexibility and streamlined requirements with the expectation that we demonstrate strong stakeholder engagement in order to inform local priorities. The AERR is a summative piece that describes the previous school year. All that is in the AERR has actually been discussed earlier in the school year. We (and by “we”, I mean our amazing Communications team) take the disparate pieces of information and combine them into one place – our digital AERR.
The AERR is an accountability tool to ensure Boards are reporting to the public about student achievement along with successes and challenges. It is meant as a tool to provide transparency, while used for continuous improvement.
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with various leaders to gather information about the various strategies and actions underway to help achieve the goals in our 4-year plan. It was an invigorating two days of meetings because we have so much going on. People want to make a positive difference for our learners and are dedicated to helping achieve our goals. At the Jan 26th Board meeting, we will provide a high-level overview on progress made toward the goals and outcomes. I encourage you to read that report, that will be posted here after the Board Meeting: https://www.rockyview.ab.ca/publications/accountability-reports
Here is my assurance statement – I can assure you that RVS staff is working very hard, with extreme dedication, to empower the potential of our learners. In my visits to schools or when people are here at the Ed Centre, I see RVS staff committed to engage and support learners so that the learners can be successful. Our 4-year plan is alive through the actions of our staff making the learning real, visible and for everyone. Anyone visiting on of our schools will see that they serve as a living, dynamic, ongoing poster for our 4-year plan in action.
Superintendent of Schools – Like many families, my family is a very busy family with everyone hustling to different events. In the fall and winter my family is consumed with hockey. Hockey practices, games, skating on the pond, skating treadmill appointment, hockey fundraising activities, getting skates sharpened, weekend tournaments, checking out the latest gear, spring hockey tryouts, etc. The same can be said for most families, but you can substitute soccer, basketball, dance, swimming, piano, language learning, skiing, dirt biking, 4-H, sledding, etc. for hockey.
It is challenging because it seems like all activities are asking youngsters and families to commit to only one activity. Specialization is commonplace and the days of kids playing multiple sports, while skiing recreationally and learning the piano are gone. Now that said, we are guilty as we allow ourselves and kids to get sucked up into the vortex of hockey in the fall & winter and baseball in the spring & summer.
Despite the busy schedule, we try and make the time to eat together most evenings. It remains the best opportunity for us to have conversations, check in with each other, and see what else is going on in our lives. I’ve recently engaged in another opportunity for discussions with the boys, the captive audience hockey road trip.
As we have two boys typically heading off in different directions for hockey, we have to divide and conquer. Both of the last two weekends I’ve been out of town with one of the boys at different hockey tournaments / away games. The drive to and from the event provided me the opportunity to talk with my boys. My car is the low-tech vehicle in the family, so there is no TV, videos, satellite radio, Xbox and Wi-Fi to distract us. This past weekend we listened to a story on CBC about the US election and it spurred a great conversation about democracy, political organizing, voter turnout, media, and more. We would not have had that conversation if not traveling in a car for an extended period. The previous weekend, as we drove down Hwy 2, it was talking about ranching, which neither my youngest nor I know much about. We were engaged in a conversation based on what we saw while driving. It was a place-conscious inquiry project where we just talked and on a few occasions had my son open up my phone to find out some information that furthered the conversation. Visiting towns that are new to us provides more opportunity to talk about what industries are in that town and why, the age of the hockey rink, and why it is where it is, how we develop an appreciation for things that are different and so much more.
We are fortunate that friends of ours always volunteer to drive their kid and their kid’s friends to and from events. The kids are older and often it means going out on a Saturday night at 11 pm (or later) to pick up a group of kids. I asked them why they do it and they told me, just like my hockey road trips, it creates an opportunity to talk and learn about what is going on in their kids’ lives and the lives of their friends. No need to stalk their Instagram account or SnapChats, the kids talk in the car. The adult can ask questions and while their own child typically rolls their eyes, other kids in the car will chime in and respond. They describe it as a direct pipeline into the lives of their kids.
So, the next time you are heading out to drive the kids somewhere, take the long route, turn off the radio (or put it on CBC), pretend you forgot the phone charger, and see where the conversation takes you.
Superintendent of Schools – As the holiday season rapidly approaches I want to take a moment to share my appreciation for the fantastic people that make up Rocky View Schools. I have gained my appreciation by travelling throughout RVS and chatting informally with people, watching the countless tweets showcasing the great things going on in schools, attending community and school events, visiting schools, quiet conversations with students, observing the efforts of our staff, and living in a community within RVS.
What do I see? People who care, people who go above and beyond, people making a positive difference in our communities and with our youth. Whether it is a secretary, teacher, grounds person, education assistant, assistant principal, HR recruiter, afternoon caretaker, community volunteer coach, school tech and countless others – I see people who dedicate themselves to serve others. That is just how we roll in RVS. It is in serving others that we get our greatest rewards.
Our RVS team consistently puts others first. I see staff put students and their families ahead of themselves. I see the products of countless volunteer hours donated to make our schools an amazing place for learning, as well as a warm, welcoming and inclusive environment. I see our staff helping students contribute back to our communities and to the world. I smile with pride when I see our kids volunteering, raising funds for those less fortunate, finding their voice to identify injustice, and/or celebrating all that is right in the world. In most cases, it is with staff’s leadership, guidance, and support that the students are able to demonstrate their own leadership in our global society. Our staff models what it means to serve others.
As we reach the winter break, I want to say “thank you” to our entire RVS family. You make a difference in the lives of children, their families, your colleagues, and your communities. Thank you for all that you do. Thank you for welcoming me back into the RVS family with such kindness and concern for my family. Please be safe over the holiday, take the time to recharge your own batteries and try and do something for yourself and your family over the break.
Superintendent of Schools – Today the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released the results of the 2015 administration of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). PISA is a two-hour standardized test that attempts to assess the competencies of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics, and science. It is administered in 70+ countries / regions. This version of the assessment focused mostly on science but also measure literacy and mathematics as well.
PISA is not without controversy. Canada and Alberta traditionally has done quite well on the tests and these results are often cited by jurisdictions around the world where results are strong. It is often one of the measurements used to compare provinces and countries. In Alberta, the government states that “Alberta participates in international studies of achievement, along with other provinces and countries. These include: Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).”
Recently the Alberta Teacher Association voted to urge the Minister of Education to withdraw participation in PISA, TIMSS and PIRLS. Here is some background on the issue as described by the ATA:
“The PISA ideology accepts that economic imperatives, growth and competitiveness are the primary aims of schooling, and assures that student achievement in math and science are used as the key indicators of the future economic health for a region or society. It fails to recognize that the role of education is much broader and includes (among a host of other responsibilities) the nurturing of social cohesion in rapidly changing complex societies, passing on our diverse cultural heritage and the promotion of civic engagement and citizenship.
The real issues affecting society at this historical moment are the rise of societal inequalities, the need for greater social cohesion among polarized perspectives, and the collective actions necessary to combat climate change and its impact on local and global economies.”
Canadian students are doing well on these international measures. We remain a very high performing system across the globe. Alberta continues to be a strong performer and the results demonstrate there is no need to panic. In science, Alberta (if it was its own country) would be the 2nd highest performing jurisdiction in the world. Our reading and math results are strong too. Reading remains very high overall and our math results continue to tell the story that we have work to do in that area. In science, overall, performance for girls and boys were equal which is good. In reading girls outperformed boys and in math the boys outperformed girls.
We need to empower and support our classroom teachers continue to provide effective classroom practice to improve overall student achievement, including aspects that are never tested on tests like PISA, PIRLS or TIMMS. Yes, literacy and numeracy and science are important but so are the arts, wellness, social studies, along with competencies such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication, citizenship, wide variety of literacies, etc. Truth be told, I’ve never hired anyone based on their PISA score, grade point average, or IQ test.
A number of countries have made PISA results the end-all and be-all. Students are subjected to repeated test preparation sessions and “drill and practice” to try and move up or maintain PISA results. In the end, is that the type of schooling we want for our leaners? I say “no”. We need our youth to be able to learn throughout their life and take on challenges that do not even exist today. They need a strong foundation of literacy and numeracy skills but it needs to extend well beyond just that.
In my humble opinion – our professional teachers, who know our students best, are in the best position to assess the achievement of students and support them on their own learning journey. Observations, reflections and classroom based assessments really tell the story. When we make learning real, engaging and visible it answers the questions about the effectiveness of our classrooms.
For more about the Canadian results see – http://www.cmec.ca/Publications/Lists/Publications/Attachments/365/Book_PISA2015_EN_Dec5.pdf