Today and tomorrow the Ministry of Education will be meeting to discuss public policy and education - specifically, the "personalized learning initiative". Without teachers. I guess teachers' viewpoints are not necessary for this discussion?
I received yesterday a response to my letter to Minister Abbott about this meeting. It came from Rick Davis, Superintendent of Achievement. Mr. Davis is now notorious in teacher circles. We all read pages 44-45 of the Supreme Court decision. Mr. Davis receives special mention:
" I have approached Mr. Davis‟s evidence cautiously, as his affidavit evidence tended to characterize the facts less than objectively. For example, in his initial affidavit, Mr. Davis suggested that the bad examples he gathered were presented to BCTF at the bargaining table, and that BCTF “did not deny that these circumstances exist”. He further suggested that BCTF simply treated these circumstances as “a funding issue” and BCTF was adamant that “[t]he class size limit should not be violated”. This evidence was designed to assist the government argument that BCTF was unduly rigid about class size limits and to suggest that this was harming students and families.
 However, when Mr. Davis was pressed on this affidavit evidence in cross-examination, it became clear that it was not accurate."
With respect to today and tomorrow's meetings on the "personalized learning initiative", Mr.Davis wrote to me:
"There is a long tradition where deputy ministers have called meetings of superintendents and senior executive staff of school districts to discuss many policy matters ranging from funding formulae to the accountability framework. The purpose of this meeting is to hear directly from employers with regard to the anticipated impacts of personalized learning on human resource strategies employed by school districts. This does not preclude future forums and meetings that involve teachers and your organization with other education partners in support of transitions to personalized learning."
What I read from this is that teachers' voices are not needed for setting public policy, only "transitioning" to that policy. Perhaps this "long tradition" explains the decade long animosity between teachers and the government?
A worklife study of teachers taken by the BCTF found that the "attitude of the provincial government" was the FIFTH highest source of worklife stress, above "level of support for students with special needs". This is a shocking statistic, and describes the depth of frustration teachers feel about policy decisions that impact them, but where they have not been listened to. (http://bctf.ca/uploadedFiles/Public/Issues/WorklifeWorkload/2009/Chapter6.pdf)
Mr. Davis goes on to tell me: "The minister has said repeatedly that he intends to engage meaningfully with teachers."
Here is some advice regarding meaningful engagement:
1. Discuss policy initiatives with the teaching profession before you implement them
2. Incorporate teachers' concerns in policy initiatives
3. Respect the fact that the teaching profession is a primary source of information on how to improve teaching and learning - we are the experts and we are engaged in practice every day
4. When a decision is really about cutting costs, rather than improving teaching and learning, be up front about it with both teachers and the public (see the court ruling for more on this topic)
5. It's not about quantity - it's about quality - more meetings is not enough