Able to Respond: Schools and
by Barry Putz (1995)
SSTA Research Centre Report #95-06: 40 pages, $11.
|Introduction||Schools are currently being closely examined by many sectors of society, due in part to the criticisms being directed at them from the media and several influential organizations. This is despite some opinion that these criticisms are, at best, misguided. Those involved in schools must be prepared to take a more active role in being more open. Leadership requires finding ways to answer the calls for more accountability in education.|
|Part 1: Thinking about Accountability|
|Part 2: Responding Report Card|
Back to: Governance
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report for personal use. Each copy must acknowledge the author and the SSTA Research
Centre as the source. A complete and authorized copy of each report is available from the SSTA Research Centre.
The opinions and recommendations expressed in this report are those of the author and may not be in agreement with SSTA officers or trustees, but are offered as being worthy of consideration by those responsible for making decisions.
Accountability is a loaded word these days. In education it can refer to finances, governance, or evaluation. It can carry a meaning that someone is answerable. This handbook does not take this approach to accountability. In its broadest sense, accountability means being able to respond, to be "respond-able."
Some highly publicized criticisms of public schooling have recently been published. Teachers and in-school administrators who are actively engaged in a complex profession are especially vulnerable to these criticisms. So, too, are central administrators and trustees.
Helping students meet our goals of education is a responsibility of the schools. But, it is, and always has been, a shared responsibility. This handbook is intended to assist teachers, administrators, trustees, parents, and students be "respond-able." Part 1 presents various approaches to accountability to promote discussion about the concept of educational accountability. In addition, throughout Part 1 are found sections entitled "Think about it ..." These sections are provided to begin the process of planning to demonstrate accountability.
Part 2 presents a "Responding Report Card" that supplies examples of how accountability can be and is demonstrated in many jurisdictions. Following the report card is more information about each of the examples. While it is hoped that these ideas can be used, participants are encouraged to make modifications or adaptations or, of course, to include their own ideas.
The handbook is intended to be practical. As such there is only enough background material to introduce the concept of educational accountability. A more thorough background, if desired, may be found by reading the resources listed at the end of the handbook.
It must be acknowledged that different groups and individuals will view accountability differently. The approach taken here, then, will not satisfy everyone. Accountability is a process that should involve all those with an interest in education and be planned collaboratively. The process should ensure that no single group or individuals feel they are blamed for perceived problems. Accountability can and should be perceived as a positive aspect of an effective system.
Susan Gowan sat talking to her sister over coffee. Susan's son, Adam, had been having some trouble at school.
"Well, Adam's Grade Seven class has a number of real characters in it. Every day he would come home with a story about some kid doing something stupid or irritating. It got to the point that I wondered whether Adam was actually learning anything.
"Anyway, I figured I had better talk to somebody at the school. So, I called and set up an appointment with Mr. Ledbetter, his teacher. He was really quite pleasant when I got there. I explained my concerns and we talked about some of the problems with that group of kids. He let me know what he was doing about it and how he had involved the principal and other staff members. Then he showed me what Adam has been learning and some of the work he's done. I was impressed.
"Now when Adam comes home with stories of classroom antics, I have a much better understanding of what's going on. I'm also confident that the teacher is doing something about the problems and that Adam actually is learning. I really feel good about his teacher."
Walter Owens, a Grade Six teacher, walked down the hallway talking to Gwen Santos, his principal. "I had a visit from Bob Olenyk yesterday -- his daughter, Sarah, is in my class this year. Anyway, Sarah had had some trouble with fractions last year, so her dad wanted to give her some help. He asked me what Sarah would be expected to know about fractions in Grade Six. So, I pulled out some unit plans and wrote down what I expect my Sixes to do this year.
"It's good to see a dad who's that interested in helping his child."
Randall McKenzie, Director of Education sat at the back of the gym talking to Doris Metz, the Chairperson of the Board and Gord Knoll, a local trustee. They were talking about the public meeting that had just ended.
"Oh, the turn-out might have been light, but we got some good feedback," Randall said.
"Well," Gord replied, "lots of people are busy. But, you know people have told me they appreciate how the Board has involved them in discussing this year's budget. With all the cutbacks over the past few years, they actually want to let you know what they think you should do. They want to make sure they get the most for their kids."
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The primary purpose of this handbook is to encourage reflection and discussion about educational accountability. To do this, several issues surrounding accountability are presented for consideration. The handbook is limited by its brevity. However, it is hoped that the ideas are presented in a manner that will initiate a dialogue about educational accountability in individual jurisdictions.
The handbook also provides several examples of how educational accountability is presently being demonstrated in this province and elsewhere. These ideas may be used, modified, or adapted to serve the purposes of various communities.
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The conversations on the previous page provided three different experiences involving educators and parents or community members. Many such situations provide people with good feelings about schools. According to some, though, there appears to be a great deal of discontent felt about schools in general and the quality of the job being provided by the schools. As Lewington and Orpwood (1993) put it,
[p]arents expect elementary and secondary schools to provide the knowledge and skills that will give their children an edge in tackling the uncertainties ahead. Increasingly, though, Canadians ask if schools are delivering the goods, either now or for the future. The public system as we have known it is being called to account (p. 2).
The popular media has become involved in the call for accountability, giving extensive coverage to demands that schools become more accountable to the public. Maclean's magazine (Dwyer, 1994) reports... frustrated parents are forging a path to principals' offices, school board meetings and town-hall forums, confronting the educational establishment about how and what their children are being taught (p. 44).
But the call is not said to be restricted solely to parents. The federal government has sponsored or issued documents such as A Lot to Learn: Education and Training in Canada, Inventing Our Future: An Action Plan for Canada's Prosperity, and Learning Well...Living Well that suggest discontent with schooling in Canada. Organizations such as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (1994) have produced documents outlining problems and solutions in schooling in this country. Members of the public have formed watchdog groups such as Citizens for Accountability and Excellence in Education.
Some caution must be exercised when listening to such calls for accountability, however. Robertson (1995), for example, challenges these positions. She points out that much of the criticism being levelled at schools has been lead by business and the media who have their own agenda in mind for schools. She contends that misinformation and "twisted analyses" (p. 57) are being used by critics of education to prove how educators are not carrying out the job of properly educating our children. Despite their attempts, however, surveys have shown that the public is generally supportive of the quality of education schools provide (Robertson, 1995).
Because effective organizations are able to respond, schools and schools divisions must take a more active role in being more open. Teachers, administrators, and trustees have been hearing the call for accountability. More and more, they are looking for ways to answer the call.
If we wish to take a good look at accountability in education, it is wise to gain some perspective by examining the history of schools over the past decades. Schools in Saskatchewan were greatly influenced by developments in Ontario and, prior to Confederation, in Canada West. As Levin and Young (1994) describe, rural communities formed school boards, built school buildings, hired teachers, and ran their schools. Local control of the schools was handled by parents of children in that school. The province was given ultimate control over schools through the Constitution Act (1867) (previously called the British North America Act (1867)). The provincial Department of Education created a centralized bureaucracy that was designed to ensure, to some degree, that the schools were running effectively and that children were being educated. Provincial superintendents were hired to visit schools and check up on teachers.
Over the years, the small school districts provided much educational service to their communities. However, it was felt that their size produced problems such as the difficulty in providing secondary education, limited finances, quality of education, unstable working conditions, and lack of purchasing power in supplying school materials.
To deal with these problems, larger administrative units were created. As a result, control was moved away from local parents and their communities. Some local influence remained in the hands of the Local School Board, but the greatest amount of power was now in the hands of a central School Board. In addition, these larger school units tended to be run by professional administrators.
Further changes came with the introduction of larger School Divisions throughout the province. In some larger urban school divisions, there are hundreds of teachers. The school divisions operate large budgets. Bureaucracies have been established to deal with the many and diverse issues facing schools. "Thus," state Levin and Young (1994), "schools have changed from being small and local to being large and bureaucratic in their organization" (p. 14).
The bureaucracies themselves were developed, along with increased regulation and centralization, to achieve equity in education across schools through standardization and "expert" decision-making (Tyack, 1993). Accountability was demonstrated by concentrating authority in experts and had more to do with structure and process than with results. Accountability meant being able to identify individuals who were responsible for programs, keeping close track of expenses, and showing that the proper practices were being followed (Tyack, 1993).
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An important change in the fabric of our society has had a definite influence on calls for accountability in education. Society is, in general, changing in its attitudes toward public officials, moving from a "liberal democratic" view of public life toward a "participative democratic" view (Kogan, 1988; Levin and Young, 1994). In years past, a liberal democratic view caused us to think that the decisions made and the actions taken by our public figures were legitimate because they had been given their authority by the public via the ballot box. We tended to be satisfied that, through a regular election, we could show our pleasure or displeasure in the jobs our public figures had done. Times are changing, though. The general public, no longer seems completely satisfied with that form of accountability.
Canadians do not appear to be content to simply ensure legitimacy through the ballot box. More demands are being made for greater involvement in the decisions officials make. There is a growing conviction that community beliefs should play as great a role, or even greater, in decisions as does expert opinion. Participatory democracy provides for involvement and consultation among those effected by these decisions (Kogan, 1988; Levin and Young, 1994).
Education in Saskatchewan has a history of participation. A recent example is the High School Review for which meetings were held across the province. Many individuals and organizations presented briefs indicating their beliefs about the direction high school education should be taking in this province. This acceptance of the need for input by everyone involved in education in this province is recognized as a strength in our system.
If there is a clear message from this for all those involved in public education it is that we cannot expect the public to be passive recipients of the services we provide. Trustees, administrators, and teachers are under growing pressure to provide opportunities for participation. In other words, they must find different ways to demonstrate that they can respond to their various publics.
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Several different ways to think about schools and their purpose have developed over the years. Each way will influence one's opinion about the quality of the job the schools are doing. Each will also influence how and for what they might be accountable (Cooper, 1988).
1. The Industry School. Schools can and do function as business and industry function. Success is viewed in terms of outcomes. A "bottom-line" can be determined and schools can be held accountable for this bottom-line. By controlling the input through defining tasks and duties performed by teachers and schools, one can influence and control the outcomes. Measures can be used to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of teachers and schools.
2. The Nurturing School. Schools exist to meet the needs of the students. Growth and development take place in a nurturing environment, akin to a garden. "Education is seen, not as a commercial product, but as an infinitely variable realm of content, skill, and decision-making" (Cooper, 1988, p. 29). The focus is on the persons who use the program. Accountability is based on whether the programs meet the needs of the students.
3. The Container School. Schools are places where knowledge is given away free on a daily basis. The children are containers to be filled. Accountability is based on whether or not the proper information is being dispensed.
4. The Inspirational School. Schools are intended to supply the spark that will ignite student's minds. Children are inspired to take up challenges and strive to achieve. Accountability is based on whether the children were helped to meet their aspirations.
5. The Building Blocks School. Schools are places where children are provided with basic skills -- building blocks, on which to base their lives. Accountability is based on whether the schools provide the necessary basic skills.
There may well be other ways to look at schools. However, it is unlikely that any single way actually reflects an accurate view. It seems probable that many aspects of several of these views are necessary to answer the question, "What is our view of schools?"
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In Overdue Assignment: Taking Responsibility of Canada's Schools, Lewington and Orpwood (1993) raise a number of issues that influence how individuals react to the idea of accountability in education. The first issue is the changing social context in Canada. These authors point out that the changing patterns of immigration during the past decade have brought to Canada a great many people who speak neither English nor French. The schools where the children of immigrant families attend become the central place for teaching "tolerance and other shared values" (p. 33). These children bring different life experiences with them into the classroom. As a result, teachers can no longer presume that their students share common experiences on which to draw. A complication arises when some minority groups challenge the Euro-centred curriculum as not being relevant to their children. While this situation may be more common in larger cities in Canada, its effects are being felt in Saskatchewan schools.
Other changes to the social fabric of society over the past decade have been the increase in single-parent families, child poverty, violence at school and at home, latchkey kids, and transient student populations. All these have influence on schools.
A second issue is the changing economic context (Lewington and Orpwood, 1993). The movement toward global competition has resulted in companies attempting to produce more with fewer workers. Jobs for low-skilled workers are disappearing while demand for high-skills professionals increased. At the same time that good backgrounds in math and science are becoming more important for job-seekers, "fewer than one-quarter of senior high school students take math and science" (p. 36). Parents, probably unaware that about 70 percent of Grade Twelve students in Saskatchewan take Math and Science, are growing increasingly concerned that their children are not learning basic skills.
A third issue raised by Lewington and Orpwood (1993) is the changing political context. Taxpayers, they state, are losing trust in their boards of education. The need for large bureaucracies is being questioned. In many provinces, the numbers of school districts are being dramatically reduced by legislation. In Saskatchewan, school divisions have been encouraged to look into amalgamation on their own. Another aspect of the changing political context is the aging population of the country. As this trend continues, suggest Lewington and Orpwood, there will be growing pressure to divert monies from education to other priorities, such as health and pensions.
A third facet of this context is the move toward "downsizing." Major corporations are currently undertaking such restructuring. Provincial ministries of education are likewise looking at sustainable structures, reducing their bureaucracies at all levels.
These issues, or perhaps the changes they acknowledge in our society as a whole, will influence the ways we view our schools, and ultimately our views of accountability. If, for example, the view of schools we adopt is the "Industry School," we must somehow accommodate minority children when we consider the anticipated "outcomes" of schooling. Likewise, if we accept the idea of the "Nurturing School," we must deal with the increasing desire to produce highly skilled prof- essionals.
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What accountability means to one person will depend on his or her view of schools. As mentioned earlier, it is unlikely that any single view of schools presented in this handbook will be sufficient. Because of the differing perceptions of schools, not everyone will be able to agree on a particular view of accountability. However, two common views of accountability are presented here.
1. Accountability can be viewed in terms of measurement. This means that schools must show that they have done what they are required to do in the most efficient and effective way (Cooper, 1988). The work of schools, teachers, and administrators, it is felt, can be broken into a number of clear responsibilities. These responsibilities can be observed and changes to the knowledge of students can then be measured. Consistent results should occur when individuals carefully carry out duties in the same ways.
2. Accountability can be viewed in terms of professional ethics. It is believed that educators are reasonable persons who ensure that they are knowledgeable about their profession and use their knowledge according to useful, successful practice. They hold themselves accountable for behaving in manners they consider reasonable. This behaviour must "maximize benefit to all those whose education is in their hands" (Cooper, 1988, p. 29). This definition professes that no teacher can refuse to be concerned about how students use their knowledge. The ethical view of accountability accepts that teachers are "competent, autonomous professionals, who are accountable to themselves, their students, their colleagues, and to society for the proper conduct of their professional duties" (p. 29).
Given the differing views of schools and the number of important issues that face schools today, it seems unlikely that a purely "measurement" approach to accountability is sufficient. Likewise, given the public's growing reluctance to leave important matters to the "experts" alone, the "ethical" approach to accountability is inadequate. A different view of accountability must be found.
If one examines the rationale behind the calls for accountability, one can find common ideas. Two separate but very related concepts can be used to define accountability. The first concept is that accountability involves the building of trust in the schools by providing information that demonstrates schools are doing what they are supposed to do. This may well involve a number of forms of measurement, along with other, more descriptive, types of information. The second concept is that accountability involves schools being responsive (involving, consulting, allowing for participation, reacting to desires and concerns) to their communities.
Accountability, then, involves building trust and being responsive.
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Schools and school divisions throughout Saskatchewan have always made attempts to build trust and to be responsive. Common procedures such as parent-teacher interviews, parent association meetings, and report cards have, to varying degrees, succeeded in these purposes. The growing need to demonstrate accountability is recognized in the Saskatchewan Education Indicators Report which "provides the people of Saskatchewan with a detailed picture of the strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and performance of the Kindergarten to Grade 12 education system" (Saskatchewan Education, Training and Employment, 1994, p. 6). Having accepted this need, schools and school divisions must plan their efforts to demonstrate accountability.
It is a difficult task to provide an example of a plan that would successfully demonstrate accountability in all jurisdictions. The view of accountability is tied closely to local perceptions of what the schools are supposed to be doing. The differences between urban schools and rural and town schools must also be considered. In rural or town schools, many of the teachers and administrators live right in the community in which they work. Community members meet them on the street, in the stores, in the schools, in the doctor's office, and in their homes. These interactions provide the community members with close ties to the school and what is happening there.
In urban settings, the teachers and administrators frequently live in areas apart from their school communities. Opportunities for chance meetings are
limited and may not extend beyond polite conversation or a nod of the head. The potential for greater isolation in a city may make it necessary to plan for accountability in different ways.
While it is difficult to provide a "one size fits all" plan for accountability, it is possible to provide examples of what some schools and school divisions are doing to demonstrate accountability.
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This handbook is intended to be used to help teachers, administrators and trustees respond to their communities. The impetus for beginning to plan to demonstrate accountability could come from the local level, or the drive may come from central office. Whatever the case, participants in the process are encouraged to make use of the "Think about it" sections found in Part 1 and to consider the examples of how other jurisdictions build trust and show responsiveness shown in Part 2.
Planning to respond is essential. While teachers, administrators, and trustees have always attempted to be responsive, there is a growing need to ensure the job is done as effectively as possible. The process of planning should be collaborative, involving trustees, administrators, teachers, students, and the community. Teachers and administrators must be recognized for their expertise, training, and experience. Their position in the schools provides them with valuable insights into the schools and the students. Board members and local trustees have been elected to represent their communities and strive to do well. The views of parents must be acknowledged. Although most are not trained or experienced in education, they do want the best for their children. Other community members want the same. Whatever the exact nature of the process, it too can be used to build trust and show schools can respond.
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The following "report card" can be used to identify the ways and means currently being used to demonstrate accountability in your area. Subsequent pages provide some information about each of the items on the report card. It is hoped that these ideas may be used and expanded on to provide a plan for accountability. Items on the report card are categorized according to individuals involved in schools and schooling. Certain elements will overlap, but are presented only once, for the sake of ease. There is no "hard and fast" rule to where items must fall.
Table of Contents
Individuals are Accountable
o The Education Act (p. 22)
o School Board Policy (p. 23)
o Student Expectations Guide (p. 23)
o School Policy (p. 23)
o Report Cards (p. 24)
o Parent-Teacher Interviews (p. 24)
o Code of Ethics (p. 25)
o Newsletters (p. 27)
o Performance Appraisals (p. 27)
o Elections (p. 28)
Schools are Accountable
o Public Meetings (p. 29)
o Surveys (p. 27)
o School Reviews (p. 30)
o Meet the Teacher Night (p. 31)
o School-Based Management (p. 31)
School Systems are Accountable
o Audits and Annual Meetings (p. 33)
o Public Board Meetings and Minutes (p. 33)
o Educational Indicators (p. 33)
o Student Assessment Programs (p. 34)
o Programming Involvement (p. 35)
o Parent Councils (p. 36)
o Outcomes-Based Education (p. 37)
o Policy Manual (p. 38)
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The Education Act
Saskatchewan's Education Act contains a number of sections that pertain specifically to students. Section 149 and 150 describe the duties of pupils. In general, students are to cooperate with employees of the Board in areas of instruction at schools, as well as other activities or services provided by the Board. It is expected that students attend school regularly and punctually, provide themselves supplies and materials, observe standards of cleanliness, obedience, courtesy, and respect the rights of others. Students are to be diligent in their studies and to conform to the approved rules of the school.
Section 150 clearly states that "Every pupil shall be accountable" (p. 60) to the teachers, to the principal, to bus drivers, and to other persons hired by the Board to supervise students for their conduct on school premises.
A number of sections in The Education Act are directed toward teachers. Section 227 is a lengthy section that details the functions and duties of teachers. In general, the section provides expectations that teachers are responsible for the education standards and efficiency of the school. They are to cooperate with staff colleagues and administrators and should participate in regular staff and board planning. They are also responsible for the "regular advancement of personal professional competence" (p. 88).
Section 196 states that no teacher shall be employed unless he or she holds a valid certificate of qualification that is issued according to the regulations that go along with the Act.
In addition, Sections 91 to 95 of the Education Act describe the duties and powers given Boards of Education in Saskatchewan. Section 91 details what the Boards are required to do. This lengthy section gives School Boards the duty to "administer and manage the educational affairs of the school division," "exercise general supervision and control over the schools in the division," and "determine what school any of the children of the school division shall attend" (subsections a, b, and g). Boards are given the duty to suspend or expel students and provide necessary transportation services. They are also required to "participate in programs approved by the minister for the education and training of teachers" and to provide insurance for its employees.
Section 92 gives Boards of Education a number of powers. Under these powers, Boards may authorize expenditures to local school trustees or local school advisory committees, invest surplus funds, grant leaves to employees, make regulations about collecting funds from students for "inadvertent or accidental damage or loss of school property" (subsection t). School Boards are also given power to close schools or discontinue grades taught in a school.
School Board Policies
All school boards have developed policy manuals that set out rules and expectations, all referenced to pertinent sections of the Education Act. Most of these policy manuals will contain policies and regulations regarding student conduct and duties.
School Board policy manuals usually contain sections that deal specifically with duties of all employees, from teachers and principals to secretaries and caretakers. Most policy manuals also explain procedures to be used for the supervision and evaluation of all personnel. Details include who is involved, how often, and the specific procedures to be used.
Professional development is another area that is commonly addressed in policy manuals. Regulations governing such things as inservice sessions and convention attendance are entailed.
Student Expectations Guide
The Regina Public School Division has created a guide to promote student responsibilities. This guide is to posted in classrooms and is distributed to each student in the system. It outlines expectations for student responsibilities for respecting themselves, their communities, others, and learning and the goals of education. The guide is written in a positive manner, relating what the students should do in each area. For example, the guide states that students are responsible for respecting others by treating others with dignity.
Many schools have policy manuals that will provide information to parents and students of that school. Information regarding expectations such as those about programs, evaluation, reporting periods, student assemblies, and inclement weather are frequently included. It is common to provide a "Code of Student Behaviour" or "Rights and Responsibilities of Students" in the policy manual. School policy statements are supportive of School Board policy statements.
The school policy manual provides for a common philosophic approach to a number of issues at the school. Teachers help develop policy manuals to assist themselves deal fairly and consistently with students. Providing information to parents about expectations the school has for students helps minimize conflicts between home and school.
Report cards are tools by which teachers inform students and parents about student progress in various aspects of school life. Traditional report cards provided a letter grade (A,B,C, etc.) or percentage grades to supply information about student standings. Recently, however, many report cards have been designed to provide for a more detailed picture of student success by including information about certain skills or processes needed to do well in the various subjects. This attempts to reflect the balance new Saskatchewan curricula are given to process and product.
Elementary and middle years report cards usually are furnished three or four times during the year. Secondary report cards are customarily provided quarterly. Whatever the situation, parents appreciate as much good information in as timely a manner as possible.
Parent-teacher interviews are the most effective way of communicating student progress to parents. While report cards are generally detailed enough to give parents a good impression of their child's progress, interviews are necessary to give and to receive valuable information.
Interviews are usually held on a regularly scheduled "interview day" or are arranged by either the parents or the teacher. In either case, school and school division policy statements can help guide the delivery of successful parent-teacher interviews.
In some school divisions, interviews are scheduled once during the year, usually soon after a report card has been issued. In other cases, two interviews are scheduled. Interviews occur during the day in some communities. In other communities, they are scheduled during the evening to allow working parents to attend. No matter if the interview is part of a regular "interview day" or if it is called only for a particular student, some planning considerations must take place.
It is good, and common, practice to send home a note or letter, inviting parents to the interview. The purpose and suggested dates and times should be included. Parents should be encouraged to respond with the time that is best for them.
Prior to the interview, goals can be established outlining what the teacher wishes to achieve at the interview. An agenda should be planned and shared with the parents at the beginning of the interview.
As part of the preparation, key questions to ask can be listed, as well as points to make and suggestions to offer. Samples of the student's work can be gathered to show the parents. A portfolio is a useful tool for this. Other important materials such as a class schedule, checklists and anecdotal records, and reports from other personnel such as resource room teachers, speech pathologist, or school psychologist should also be collected. Information that might help the parents assist their child at home might also be prepared.
A proper atmosphere should be prepared to assist in the interview. Parents should be greeted at the door. The interview should be conducted at a table, rather than at the teacher's desk. Adult-sized chairs should be used. To ensure the interview is not interrupted, a sign might be hung on the door. Parents appreciate it when the teacher sits facing them and is close enough so all can share material (Donegan, Pat, 1984; McLouglin, Caven S., 1987; Shalaway, Linda, 1993).
Code of Ethics
The Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation is the professional organization for teachers in Saskatchewan. As members of the teaching profession, teachers follow the S.T.F. Code of Ethics that guide their behaviour with the public and within the profession. This Code states
1. Commitment to the Student
(a) to deal justly and considerately with each student.
(b) to respect the right of each student to form his or her judgement based on knowledge.
(c) to encourage each student to reach the highest level of individual development.
(d) to seek constantly to serve the needs of students better by designing the most appropriate learning experiences for them.
2. Commitment to the Employer
(a) to follow the conditions of his or her contract until it has been legally terminated.
(b) to engage in no outside employment that will impair the effectiveness of his or her professional service.
(c) to resign from his or her present position immediately after signing a contract with another board.
(d) to apply for a position based on his or her highest professional and legal qualifications.
(e) to render professional service to the best of his or her ability.
(f) to be consistent in the execution of school policies, and in the enforcement of rules and regulations.
(g) to be aware of the need for changes in school system policies and regulations and actively to pursue such changes.
3. Commitment to the Profession
(a) to conduct oneself always so that no dishonour befalls the individual teacher or the teaching profession.
(b) to participate actively in Federation affairs, working at local and provincial levels for needed changes in Federation policy, and respecting those decisions made by elected representatives.
(c) to make valid criticisms of an associate only to appropriate officials, and then only after the associate has been informed of the nature of the criticism.
(d) to apply for specific positions only if they are not already held by other teachers.
(e) to make the teaching profession attractive in ideals and practices so that able persons will desire to enter it.
(f) to respond unselfishly to colleagues seeking professional assistance.
(g) to follow all terms of a duly negotiated collective agreement.
(h) to be objective in all evaluations concerning the work of other teachers.
(i) to keep the trust under which confidential information is exchanged.
(j) to observe a reasonable and proper loyalty to the internal school administration.
(k) to act to eliminate discrimination in education.
4. Commitment to the Community
(a) to perform the duties of citizenship.
(b) to keep the public informed of and appropriately involved in decisions about educational programs.
(c) to use educational facilities for purposes consistent with board policy.
(d) to protect the educational program from exploitation.
(e) to participate in community and professional activities, provided there is no unresolved conflict with obligations to students.
Newsletters are commonly used to communicate with parents. It would be difficult to find a school that did not issue a regular newsletter. However, schools might not take advantage of the capacity for to demonstrate accountability.
Cook (1986) suggests that schools use newsletters to generate confidence in their programs. Each school's newsletter should have a clear purpose. Information should be truthful and unbiased, although the focus could well be on positive school affairs. Such a positive focus must be substantiated by facts.
Much of what should be included in a newsletter is of general interest -- articles dealing with past, present, and future events. A number of regular features can be used to appeal to parents and to the community in general. A calendar of upcoming events is appreciated and allows families to plan around school events. Information about what is happening or will be happening in the classrooms keeps parents involved and helps to build support for school programs. Suggestions that assist parents help their children in school can add to the success the children find at school. Editorials and commentaries about educational issues prominent in the media or with the community provide a forum that "may well be the most viable means for directly eliciting parental support" (p. 132).
An effective school newsletter can be a good deal of work, Cook concedes, but the benefits the school gains through the support garnered by the newsletters make it worthwhile. Newsletters used to "replace rumours with facts, hearsay with truth" (p. 132) are practical tools in meeting the call to be accountable.
All employees of school boards are subject to performance appraisal. The exact procedure for such appraisals will vary from school division to school division. In some areas, teachers are appraised in some form on a yearly basis. In other areas, the appraisals may be less frequent. The Regina Public School Division utilizes a plan in which teachers select one of several streams, each of which approaches their appraisal with a slightly different focus. The Melfort School Division gives teachers the responsibility to identify areas of professional growth that are then tied in to performance appraisal.
Performance appraisal is not limited to summative evaluations. School divisions use the appraisal process to develop their staffs by identifying areas where growth is desired or necessary.
Performance appraisal is not limited to teachers. Principals, directors, superintendents, and other administrators also go through appraisal processes. This is extended to secretaries, librarians, technicians, and caretakers.
In Saskatchewan, all school board trustees are elected every three years (Education Act, 1978, section 38). Using elections to hold individual trustees accountable for their actions is a traditional approach and has been in existence in this province since 1905. It still provides an effective response for electors.
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Public meetings provide opportunity to both build trust in the school and be responsive to parents and the community. To build trust, meetings can be held to furnish such information as that gathered through indicator projects, school reviews, and testing programs, along with examples of student achievement and excellence. Many schools find it advantageous to precede such meetings with student performances. This has the benefit of attracting parents who wish to see their children perform and of demonstrating an additional aspect of school achievement.
Meetings can be useful to introduce and discuss issues that may affect children's education at the school. Provision for questions and input by parents and community members will allow administrators and teachers to respond to concerns and, importantly, to gain an understanding of the public's feelings about the issues. Such information will be invaluable in planning and decision-making. Of course, providing for degrees of community participation in any resultant planning and decision-making will demonstrate the school's desire to be responsive.
In-school administrators can use surveys for a number of purposes. Surveys can be especially useful in obtaining a sense of community knowledge and support of school initiatives and programs. Based on information gained from such surveys, administrators can work with their staffs and communities to address concerns or problems, or to provide information necessary to clear up misconceptions or to contest misinformation.
Many useful surveys are designed in very structured ways that allow the school to contain the information to certain relevant topics. Other surveys are more open-ended, allowing respondents more freedom in selecting response topics or ideas. These surveys are also useful.
Much pertinent information can be gathered through the use of surveys. It is important to note, however, that, while surveys might well indicate public opinion on given issues or topics, decisions are seldom made solely on the basis of public opinion, nor should they be.
The Melfort School Division (Putz, 1994) has its schools conduct school reviews on a regular basis. Once every four years, each school is expected to plan and conduct a program of information gathering that enables it to improve.
School division practice is that a committee is established to plan the review. The committee structure may vary, but it must include the principal and staff members. The staff members can be professional and non-professional staff. Other members of the planning committee may come from the community. Outside experts, from a university, for example, may also be asked to sit on the committee.
Once the committee establishes a plan for the school review, the staff must review the plan and make recommendations. Following this, the plan is taken to the school board for final approval.
Having been given approval to proceed, a committee (which could be made up of the same members as the planning committee) begins to carry out the plan.
The specific purpose of each school review is to be determined at the school level. As a result, the exact nature of the reviews will vary. Different information gathering techniques will be used by different schools for different reviews. Common methods of gathering information include surveys, interviews, small group meetings, and public gatherings.
Typically, the reviews gather information from students, parents, staff members, and the public. Organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce have been contacted.
The schools attempt to work within the time frame established in the review plan. Usually, reviews are begun and completed during the same calendar year. It is possible, then, for the review to span two school years with information being gathered during the final terms of one year and analysis and conclusions taking place in the first terms of the second year.
Conclusions and recommendations, based on the information gathered, are used to create plans for improvement. A full report is presented to the staff and then to the school board. Once accepted by the school board, the report is presented to the public in a variety of ways, including newsletters and media releases. Copies of any reports are kept in the library of the participating school in order to make the full report available to the public.
Meet the Teacher Night
Many schools provide an Open House at the beginning of each school year so parents have an opportunity to meet their children's teachers. Frequently, however, this opportunity is limited to informal greetings and introductions. More is necessary if such evenings can be used to demonstrate accountability.
A Meet the Teacher Night could be formatted to allow teachers to present to the parents of their students information regarding the coming school year. Information could be related to course content, teaching methods and processes, evaluation methods, classroom behaviour expectations, homework, and special events. Copies of course outlines or year-plans could be made available. Teachers could also field questions from parents.
Most schools will have parents with more than one child in the school. While this may make it difficult for them to see all their children's teachers in one evening, some scheduling considerations could be of assistance. Presentations, for example, could be repeated two or three times in an evening, allowing parents to see more than one presentation.
In addition to these classroom presentations, a presentation by the school administration would provide an opportunity to give the parents an overview of school goals and expectations. Parents could be introduced to the entire teaching and non-teaching staff. Special events and general information could be presented at this time. This presentation could precede classroom presentations or, if possible, even run concurrently.
Meet the Teacher Nights can be used as an informal way to meet a large number of parents. If planned well and with useful information provided, they can be effective ways to show accountability.
The basic idea behind school-based management (SBM) is to move decision-making power closer to the location most effected by the decisions. In other words, it has been a movement designed to decentralize control of schools. With control being moved to the local level comes a heightened degree of accountability to local concerns.
Exactly what school-based management means may well vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. However, a common aspect is that school administrators work with teachers, parents, and students in the management of the school (Delaney, 1994).
Essentially, school-based management refers to control over budgetary decisions. The degree of control is what differentiates the application of SBM among school divisions. In some areas, schools are provided with money for supplies and equipment. In other areas, the amount of control is more extensive, with decisions about maintenance and personnel being made at the local level (Brown, 1990).
Another aspect of SBM that serves to differentiate its use in school divisions is the degree of community involvement. In some areas, particularly in the United States, parent committees hold real power and authority over decisions made at the school. In Saskatchewan, the Education Act clearly gives principals the authority to make decisions about their schools. Thus, it seems that teachers, parents, and students must serve in an advisory capacity. Given this fact, school-based management can make schools more accountable only if the school administrators are responsive to the desires and concerns of all those involved in their operation. As Delaney (1994) states, the principal's leadership skills are vital to the success of SBM.
"The principal must possess a repertoire of group dynamic skills which facilitates a collaborative relationship ... The principal is not there to impose policies and procedures; rather the principal must be there to help ... make the best possible decisions" (p. 26).
School-based management has great potential for providing responsiveness to local concerns. It was designed as a structure to improve the quality of schools. As such it can be a valuable tool in the provision of accountability.
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Audits and Annual Meetings
Boards of Education are required by section 91(r) of the Education Act to appoint an auditor no later than March 1 in each year. The auditor, who cannot be a member of the Board nor an employee of the Board (other than as auditor) audits the books and accounts of the division.
Section 101 requires School Boards to call an annual meeting of the electors of the division sometime between March 15 and the fourth Tuesday in October. The order of business at the annual meeting is to be established after consultation with the boards of trustees or local school advisory committees in the division. At the annual meeting, information shared includes a report of the board of education about educational developments during the year immediately preceding the meeting, the auditor's report and financial statement of that year, and the report of the Director of Education about education in the school during that year. Discussion of the reports is to be invited.
Although these meetings have a reputation of being poorly attended, they do provide an opportunity to discuss accountability and to share information about the quality of schooling that takes place in the school division.
Public Board Meetings and Minutes
Meetings of Boards of Education must take place at least six times in each year, according to Section 80 of the Education Act. The actual time and date of the meetings is set by resolution of the board, or may be called at any time by the chairperson or by any three members of the board. Section 87 requires that all meetings of the board of education be open to the public. The board has the power to exclude any person who the board considers to be guilty of improper conduct.
Some school divisions, such as the Regina School Division Number 4 (1994), have produced reports that provide indications of the success of the school division. The Regina book acknowledges "the need to demonstrate accountability for the use of public funds in furthering our goals of education..." (p. 1).
The indicators report provides information in three areas, recognizing the problems in focusing on outcome measurement alone. Information is presented about context (social, economic, and population affects), process (policies, programs, and resources), and outcome (student performance, course statistics, along with student, teacher, and public opinions and attitudes).
Sections of the indicators furnish data and details about such things as school division background, factors that influence decision making, learning outcomes, programs and services offered by the division schools, and attempts at providing equity. The report ends with information about future directions in the school division.
The authors of the report attempt to build a picture of the work of the school division and of its clients and supporters. The largest part of the report deals with student learning outcomes. This important section provides details about general student achievement in writing (baseline writing data is presented), on Canadian Achievement Tests, data from curriculum evaluation, and results from the International Assessment of Educational Progress (IAEP). A list of scholarship and award winners completes this section.
The Regina indicators report ends with a reference explaining that "The information will help the school system identify areas for growth and development and report on areas that are meeting or exceeding the desired standards" (p. 35).
Educational Indicators reports have the potential to be effective ways of letting the communities served know how successful the schools are at educating students in the division.
Student Assessment Programs
Student assessment programs are intended to measure student performance on standard achievement tests. Results of such testing can be compiled and analyzed on a student, class, school, and school system basis. Examples of common standardized achievement tests include the Canadian Test of Basic Skills (C.T.B.S.) and the Canadian Achievement Tests (C.A.T.). Other available tests may better serve the needs of the school division. Tests that are properly normed based on Canadian students will provide national comparisons.
Alberta Education has announced a program of student assessment that involves students province-wide. Certain aspects of that plan may be of interest to school divisions interested in incorporating elements of measurement in their accountability plans.
The Alberta plan will gather information about student achievement in Grades 3, 6, and 9. Areas to be tested include language arts and mathematics at the Grade 3 level with science and social studies added at the Grade 6 and 9 levels.
Although all tests are officially scored by the Department of Education, individual teachers are encouraged to score the tests manually before sending them on for central marking. Reports are issued for the entire school jurisdiction and for each school in the area. The reports include local and provincial results. Individual results are sent to the school.
Information from the reports may be used to develop plans for individual student improvement and for plans for school improvement. Schools are encouraged to include staff and communities in drafting any school improvement plans.
Similarly, the North York Board of Education in Ontario has announced its intention to use "school profiles" to report annual city-wide and province test results on a school-by-school basis. The school profiles provide a context for the results of tests in reading comprehension, grammar, and spelling. Parents will be given copies of the child's school profile and a system profile that will allow them to compare the results of their school with similar grades in other schools.
School divisions wishing to make use of student achievement tests for such assessment programs should make themselves aware of the limitations of the tests. Individual test scores may be made invalid by a number of factors outside the school. Yet, it seems reasonable to use general results to indicate trends and areas that might require attention.
Used by itself, a student assessment program may be valuable in giving a picture of student achievement in one facet of the role of the school. Used in conjunction with other information, such a program could be quite valuable in demonstrating accountability. Programming Involvement
The Melfort School Division No. 100 uses the "Bridges Project" to allow for community participation in programming decisions at the Melfort and Unit Comprehensive Collegiate. The project concerns programming in the areas of apprenticeship, partnerships, transition, mentoring, cooperative work training, job shadowing, modified programming, and Stay in School initiatives. Elements dealing with public relations and communications with various parties was built into the process.
The Bridges Project involves a managing committee and a number of sub-committees. The "Operations Committee," consisting of representatives from the Melfort School Division, post-secondary institutions (Cumberland Community College), community members, and business and industry, serves as an initiating group. This committee functions as an intermediary to provide services for the project's sub-committees. It also acts as a intermediary between the sub-committees and the Board of Education. Each of four sub-committees are responsible for certain areas of the project: school-based programs, transition programs, cooperation/public relations, and research and planning. These sub-committees present proposals and representations to the Operations Committee.
The School-Based Programs sub-committee focuses on life transitions, tech-voc education, and career education. The Transition Programs sub-committee focuses on apprenticeship, youth internship, job shadowing, work experience, alternative education, two days on the job, university programs, and mentorship. The Cooperation/Public relations sub-committee focuses on communications, liaison services, and career education resources. The Research and Planning Committee focuses on research and data, long range planning, and evaluation.
A "Round Table" was established to provide feedback to the Operations Committee about possible initiatives. The Round Table also provides a way to provide for public communications and input. Members of the Round Table are drawn from the School Division, SIAST, the two universities, the Chamber of Commerce, the City, the Health Region, Social Services, Industry, and arts groups, among others.
Several provinces have recognized the benefits of involving parents in advisory or consultative capacities. Rationale for this involvement include the recognition that parental participation positively impacts on student learning, acceptance of parental rights to speak for their children about their education, and the need to retain parental support for educational resources and support (Levin and Young, 1994).
The Saskatchewan Education Act (1978) provides, perhaps indirectly, for parent councils. Each rural school has a local school board whose members have, in most cases, children at that school. These local boards may be delegated by the School Board to maintain school facilities, administer aspects of their budget, and investigate disputes between parents, teachers, and students. The local board may also make recommendations respecting the language of instruction of the school and religious instruction at the school.
The Act also provides for Local School Advisory Committees (LSAC) in any school division where local boards do not exist. School Boards must determine the functions and structures of each LSAC. The Act states that LSACs are to act in an advisory capacity to the School Board. Specific duties include liaison with the teaching staff, contemplating school goals in relation to community desires, promoting school-community communication, participation in planning activities, participation in special projects, and recommendations regarding staffing at the school.
Although they are treated separately by the Act both local school boards and Local School Advisory Committees have the potential to serve as vehicles for community and parent participation. To be effective in this, however, they must be allowed to participate beyond serving as an auxiliary fund raising organization for the school.
In an effort to address accountability and other public expectations, some school districts, primarily in the United States, have considered Outcome-Based Education or OBE (Boschee and Baron, 1994). Outcome-Based Education is, to put it simply, deciding what that students are to know or to be able to do, and then working backward to identify what must be taught for this to happen (Luft, 1994). This includes identifying the "skills, knowledge, and ways of thinking that a person needs to function in the world and then to adapt the curriculum and instruction so that students attain those desired outcomes" (Boschee and Baron, 1994, p. 193). School success, then, is determined by an individual student's outcomes, not by courses taken or time spent in the classroom.
OBE is based on the belief that all individuals can learn successfully, that success results in further success, that schools can create and control successful learning environments, and that learning is a partnership responsibility involving parents, students, educators, and the community. Some of the advantages of OBE include that individual student needs are considered when implementing teaching strategies and assessment tools and that time and assistance is provided for each student to meet his or her potential (Boschee and Baron, 1994).
Outcomes-Based Education is student-centred and results-oriented. To establish OBE, teachers, administrators, students, parents, and the community must establish a set of beliefs to guide the school. From these beliefs come a vision of what students need to prepare them for the future. The outcomes identified in this way will determine the processes necessary for the students to meet the objectives (Boschee and Baron, 1994).
Boards of Education design policies that guide the administration of the many duties and powers of the board and its employees. The policy manuals that contain these policy statements take a number of forms. For the most part, though, they detail the policy, refer to relevant sections of the Education Act, and set out the regulations that direct the implementation of the policy.
Because format and contents differ among school divisions, the organization of the various policy manuals will also differ. The Buffalo Plains School Division No. 21, for example, includes in its policy manual the following sections. "Foundations and Commitments," "Board of Education Governance," "General School Administration," "Business Administration," " Support Services," Facilities," "Personnel and Employee Relations," "Curriculum and Instruction," "Students," and "School Community Relations."
School Board policy manuals are typically made accessible to the public upon request. All schools in the school division are supplied with the manuals and copies are kept at the School Division office.
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Boschee, Floyd, and Baron, Mark A. (1994). OBE: Some answers for the uninitiated. Clearing House, 67(4), 193-96.
Brown, Daniel J. (1990). What is the structure of school-based management? Education Canada, 30(3), 4-9.
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Delaney, Jerome G. (1994). Schools run by stakeholders: An overview of School-based Management. Prism, 3(1), 23-26.
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Tyack, David. (1993). School Governance in the United States: Historical Puzzles and Anomalies, chapter 1 in Decentralization and School Improvement. Hannaway, Jane and Carnoy, Martin (Ed.s). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
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