Teachers in Prince Edward Island need more PD days as part of a solution to improve student outcomes, says Premier Robert Ghiz.
During his annual State of the Province speech in Charlottetown Monday, Ghiz took the opportunity to address P.E.I.’s poor results in the recent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report.
Ghiz defended the direction his government has taken in education, stressing his belief that initiatives put in place over the last few years will improve outcomes in the future.
“We are on the right track, but we need to make sure we make evidence-based decisions,” Ghiz said.
“You will see improvements in those numbers into the future.”
P.E.I. students scored last in the country in the PISA results, which were released last month. The province was also repeatedly highlighted for coming in below the OECD average in all three areas of testing - math, reading and science.
During his speech, Ghiz pointed to a study conducted in 2006 after previous PISA results yielded similarly poor scores.
He said the province has since been implementing many of the recommendations of that 2006 study, including adding more PD days, adopting common assessments and implementing early interventions.
These are all initiatives that provinces, such as Quebec and Alberta that scored highest in the PISA report, have already put in place.
Ghiz said he once was opposed to adding more professional development days.
“I remember I used to say, ‘We don’t need more PD days, we need the teachers in the classroom.’ Well folks, I was wrong on that one.”
Now he believes they are crucial for teachers and school administrators to receive the training and resources they need to help students achieve better outcomes, he told the crowd of Rotarians and politicians.
“We’ve added three PD days this year. We’re going to add more into the future, because we need to give our teachers the necessary tools.”
He said he knows this is not a popular concept, but rhymed off numerous unpopular decisions he has made since taking office in 2007, including bringing in the HST, reforming public sector pensions and changing the structure of rural hospitals.
“I did not run (for office) for the status quo, I did not run to cruise along, I ran to make changes to improve our province,” Ghiz said.
“We’ve made some tough decisions, but I believe we’ve made the right decisions, maybe not the popular decisions, but there’s going to be more to do over the next number of years.”
Ghiz also defended the common assessments done every year, which often draw criticism from teachers groups. He said they are necessary to track progress and identify gaps.
He also pointed to investments his government has made in early childhood education – bringing kindergarten into the school system and establishing a provincial early childhood development curriculum.
Together these initiatives will see P.E.I.’s students improve in international testing and better prepare them for success, Ghiz said.
“We need to make sure that we put the necessary measures in place for them to be able to thrive into the future, and you will see improvements in those numbers into the future.”
In the meantime, Ghiz said he expects 2014 to be a banner year for P.E.I. as the province prepares to celebrate its important anniversary.
“Because of a wonderful thing called the constitution and because of a meeting that took place here in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, we are an equal partner in Confederation,” Ghiz said.
“Let’s take advantage of that, let’s educate our kids the best we can, let’s give our businesses the opportunity to grow and thrive and let’s make sure that 150 years from now Canada and Prince Edward Island are in a better situation.”