The PEI Home and School Federation has two representatives on the School Calendar Committee, a body formed last year to examine the school calendar for the first time in a generation. The committee includes our partners in the education system: the department, the boards, the teacher's federation and the unions.
Over the last year the committee has met several times to discuss the school calendar, both in general terms and specific to the upcoming school year. Our PEIHSF representatives have been dismayed at the degree to which secrecy has been enforced by the committee and, as a result, the lack of opportunity for the federation to seek feedback from our member associations.
To this end, when we were asked to provide a statement to the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development on the proposed calendar for 2013-2014, after meeting as a board we provided the following:
The P.E.I. Home and School Federation’s mandate is to promote the highest standards of education for each child in the province.
The Federation acknowledges the research in the Professional Learning Report which indicates that embedded professional learning days are “directly linked to student learning and focuses on people and practices”.
However, several concerns remain; the first being the instructional development days added to the beginning of the calendar thus having the students start in the second week of September.
The Federation also questions whether fewer instructional days will translate into better education for students and requests the department monitor and report on the impact of these changes, both positive and negative, on a yearly basis.
Finally, the Federation wishes to express discomfort with the way in which the calendar review was conducted, specifically that our representatives to the Calendar Committee were not permitted to consult broadly with our members to develop a consensus of parents on the issues involved. The PEIHSF is a provincial federation of local home and school associations, and to develop a consensus requires consultation. While we are sympathetic to the desire to 'contain' discussions, we believe the openness ultimately leads to better decision making.
Much of the discussion at the School Calendar Committee over the last year has concerned a renewed approach to professional development for teachers, with an emphasis on what administrators called “embedded learning,” where more learning for teachers happens in the school on “PD days”, as an alternative to “in service” learning, where teachers are pulled out of the classroom on regular school days and a substitute provided to teach their classes.
The department has done a good job making the case for this new approach, and it was presented to the full PEIHSF board last week and we had an opportunity to ask questions and provide additional feedback.
Our board had concerns, expressed in the statement we provided, about the practical impact of this new approach, and without an opportunity to consult broadly with our members to learn more about how an increase in professional development days will affect parents and families practically, we could not wholeheartedly endorse a proposed new calendar which reflected this new approach.
Because of tight timelines, and concerns from other committee members about our feedback, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development ultimately opted to move forward with a calendar that reflects the model used for many years. This decision also included a suggestion that there will be an opportunity for the School Calendar Committee to consult more broadly with parents next year, with an eye to introducing any changes in the 2014-2015 school year.
Local Home and School associations are encourage to include discussion of the school calendar on the first meeting agenda of 2013-2014 and PEIHSF will be updating our members regularly with information on this topic.
Posted by Peter Rukavina on Friday, June 21, 2013.