Education minister trying to find more classroom time for Island students

Dave Stewart
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Education Minister Alan McIsaac

Alan McIsaac talking to school board, teachers' federation about making up for time lost to storms

Education Minister Alan McIsaac is trying to find more classroom time for Island students to make up for all the lost time this winter.

Students returned to class on Wednesday after missing five consecutive days due to bad weather. They've missed a total of 12 days this school year.

The English Language School Board cancelled a professional development day and parent-teacher interview day scheduled for Friday to make up for lost class time.

McIssac calls it "a crazy year'' with so much lost time, explaining that he's in discussions with the board superintendent and the P.E.I. Teachers' Federation about options.

The minister said he wrote a letter to Gilles Arsenault, president of the PEITF, on Wednesday to see if teachers are okay with giving up their scheduled PD day in May in favour of class time.

"I wrote the letter to ask if (Gilles) would consider giving that day up this year for instructional time,'' McIsaac said following question period in the legislature on Wednesday. "That's their decision and we will find out next week when we get a response back from them. We hope that we can capture as much time coming up to the end of June.''

Arsenault said the PEITF is most concerned about the fact that government and the school board made the decision to cancel PD day on Friday without consulting with teachers first.

"That is where we are kind of disappointed,'' Arsenault said. "We learned (of the cancellation) through the media. There was no consultation with the federation and we're a big stakeholder in this.

"We learned it through social media and through different channels that this was going to happen. Teachers are disappointed that there hasn't been a whole lot of communication on this. Teachers value the instructional time.''

McIsaac said based on his discussion with the board superintendent there isn't much desire to cancel field trips, for example, that have already been paid for.

"But there are things that, perhaps, aren't fully paid for or booked at the present time so perhaps we look at capturing some instructional time there too,'' the minister said.

McIsaac said adding school days onto the end of the school year is not an option.

Immanuel Christian School, for example, chose years ago to create a June schedule that ends a little earlier than the government system because it found children's productivity wanes as June advances.

Arsenault says there is no reason to blow things out of proportion.

"(Teachers) are used to adjusting. They can adjust their teaching, they can send homework. There are a variety of ways they can amend (the schedule) to get this (year) back on track. At this point, there's no need to panic.''

The teachers' federation president notes that PD days have a long-lasting effect on generations of students.

McIsaac said the priority is to try and find extra class time, wherever it causes the least amount of disruption.

"We've had bad years like this before . . . but we have a curriculum that we want to get finished so we need a specific amount of time.''

Organizations: English Language School Board, P.E.I. Teachers, Christian School

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Recent comments

  • voter
    April 04, 2014 - 07:01

    the parent is the "PRIMARY EDUCATOR" the teacher helps the parent in the lives of their precious children the teacher is carrying out a very important role on the behalf of parents just like any one, the teacher has other responsibilities and other people in their lives after their regularly scheduled teaching hours many teachers volunteer extra time to students after school ,evenings and / or weekends EVER THINK THAT STORM DAYS ARE A FACT OF LIFE and students might benefit from a different experience once in a while - even if it is just a day to catch up on work or study , or a day away from their busy school bus travel, or extra time with parents and family the minister of education is not very impressive in working WITH TEACHERS AND PARENTS as witnessed by his unilateral decree

  • J
    April 03, 2014 - 18:59

    Funny, I haven't heard any complaining about time lost at UPEI or Holland College, nor Veterans Affairs or any other government offices. Teachers are very good at doing their best to help students make up for lost time, they are used to working with students who miss many more days of school and not due to weather conditions. Remember, the classroom makeup has changed drastically since many of us were in school, teachers are no longer teaching a group of students as a class but are teaching individual students and have the expertise to adapt, modify and otherwise change programming as necessary. Adding an extra day in June is just free babysitting.

  • Fed up
    April 03, 2014 - 13:40

    Best idea came with extensions days 1/2 hour....and CANCEL PD DAYS!! Teachers who have taught for years do NOT need all these PD days!! Years ago teachers had anywhere from 20 to 35 students...all ten teach. No field trips. No music. No gym. Most of us ended up with good jobs....happy healthy families...more so than some coming out of the school system now, I doubt if missing a few PD days is going to affect our children...OR teachers...any!

  • The Observer from Stratford
    April 03, 2014 - 12:30

    Make Sat. a school day for the rest of the year. That's what some New England states are doing I believe.

    • think about it
      April 03, 2014 - 13:22

      except that our kids have extra-curricular activities on Saturdays... and those activities are every bit as important as school. They teach balance in lifestyle, fitness, pursuing hobbies and sports - which sometimes become career choices, or which may end up supporting their career choices. Give your head a shake on this suggestion. Kids also need time to play and be kids. If they were crazy enough to implement this idea, there is no way I'd permit it for my kids.

    • The Observer from Stratford
      April 03, 2014 - 16:20

      For God's sake it is only for 10 weeks at the most. And since when are cultural/sports diversions more important than real education? Perhaps a few will one day be stars in their sports or their hobbies but what about the rest? It is your attitude towards what used to be calling "schooling" that explains why our young people rank so low academically nationally and internationally. Many of them will one day find themselves stuck in less than ideal jobs and unable to compete in the modern world because of this attitude.

    • Dave
      April 03, 2014 - 22:45

      Are you willing to pay for it? Teachers may be salaried (I'm ignoring the contract completely).......bus drivers, custodians, and learning assistants are not. There is a good sized price tag to your idea.

  • yvonne
    April 03, 2014 - 11:32

    why couldn't they have school start back mid Aug and if there are no snow days used up then the school year can stop mid June, if the time is used up with storms then the students don't loose out ?

    • The Observer from Stratford
      April 03, 2014 - 16:22

      That would make too much sense.

    • work
      April 04, 2014 - 14:09

      business could not function without good students to work for them at low wages during july and august many students rely on july and august to work and earn some money

  • Colonel Student
    April 03, 2014 - 10:22

    I agree that PD days should be the ones to fall in second semester, if any. The government recently added them, and if additional teaching is required as called by the teachers, they can make the call as to where the additional time is spent. It is perfectly acceptable that the minister made the informed decision to allow the union decide where the days come from, other than opening up a can of worms and contracts.

  • hmmmm
    April 03, 2014 - 08:55

    School attendance will be low tomorrow. It was supposed to be a PD day, so these kids are participating in respective sports competitions/tournaments that we (the involved, caring parents) scheduled to keep them productively entertained during the PD day. Such is the problem with doing things on short notice while failing to consult with any of the affected parties... ineffective decisions are born. Having said that, as a former teacher, I know there is flexibility in the curriculum to accommodate storm days. Cancelling a couple of PD days here and there won't make much difference, but it certainly has captured the public eye...

  • Parent
    April 03, 2014 - 08:44

    Why not extend the school day by half an hour from now until the end of the year?

  • Joseph Perry
    April 03, 2014 - 08:08

    This shows the lack of understanding the Minister has for the education system. He decides to negotiate through the media, and place the burden on teachers to make the choice. The May day is a negotiated part of the contract between government and teachers, so the contract would need to be opened and negotiated. So the contracted would have to be opened up to amend. That could get messy. And seriously Mr. McIssac, adding a class day on June 26?? Have you been in a school the end of June? Do you think a lot of instructional learning will be re-captured then. Wow. Demonstrates your lack of a finger on the pulse of education. Couple that with the recent decisions top allow teachers to deduct marks for late assignments and the push by education officials to drop number marks at the Junior high and high school levels in favor of a pass fail system, is just continued testament of how this Minister has weak knowledge of the system, or his top aides are giving him bad advice. Maybe the minister and is aides need a PD day to get up to speed on what is actually happening in the schools.

    • seriously
      April 03, 2014 - 13:26

      I agree with you. And I guarantee, if my kid has to go to school on June 26, it will be a total waste of his time and the teachers...

  • Powderhorn
    April 03, 2014 - 07:56

    Nice to see government growing concerned about classroom time versus PD days. Anyone who wants to seriously figure out how to improve our scholastic standings against our sister jurisdictions and the world, simply needs to finally recognize it takes time and effort to learn the material. And that doesn't just happen in the classroom. Every parent has a role to play as well. Let's get serious about giving our children the education they need to be successful going forward. It's fundamental.

    • seriously
      April 03, 2014 - 13:30

      you have a good point... it's not the number of PD days vs school days that needs to change if we want our kids to have higher academic standings compared to other provinces. Anyone in educational management will realize that's a huge issue requiring examination of curriculum, teaching styles and methodology. Something they probably could have discussed at the PD days they are cancelling.... but it will require a major overhaul of things as they are done now.

  • Results
    April 03, 2014 - 07:48

    Just look at the test results , our teachers are not doing a very good job & maybe the UNION should be abolished so the poorer teachers can be retired & only the ones that deserve a job are left . We seem to be forgetting that it's not suppose to be all about the teachers & their perk's . Priority should again be put back in giving our kid's a good education to help them survive in this great land of ours . Not second class like the test results show they are getting now . These results can only be laid at the feet of their teachers who some are not doing their job's very well .

    • edit
      April 03, 2014 - 14:44

      It's perks and jobs.

  • Let's get it straight
    April 03, 2014 - 06:49

    I think it should be mentioned that it was the government that implemented 3 additional PD days to the school calendar. Not the teachers. Therefore, the government took 3 instructional days from teachers and students. Government, Alan Mcisaac, is trying to take the heat off themselves and put it on the shoulders of the teachers and PEITF.

  • Bob
    April 03, 2014 - 06:46

    Most schools do very little work the last two weeks of school.They will still have plenty of time to get the work done.It's not the first year with a lot of storm days.

  • High School
    April 03, 2014 - 06:45

    The Minister should take a look at the June calendar for high school if he is looking to add days. The last day of school for all students is June 25th. Grade 12 students start exams on June 10th and Grade 10 and 11 students start exams on June 13th. High school students only write 3 or 4 exams. The teachers teach 3 classes a semester. You could easily delay exams to gain classroom teaching. It is a little harder to gain time in the elementary and junior high classes.

  • Garth Staples
    April 03, 2014 - 06:12

    Suspicions confirmed. The Union cares little about the educational welfare of our students. It is just ME ME! The Union must be removed from policy development and management decisions.

    • Stop...seriously.
      April 03, 2014 - 06:24

      Teachers are doing their jobs because they love to teach and most will do what they can to stay on track and catch up. STOP with the ridiculous notions that they are only in it for the unions and storm days. Please stop. Seriously. Go volunteer some time in a classroom and you will see that if it wasn't for the love of teaching, they would not be doing it. As for the storms, please let it go. Noone in the future is ever going to say their education is lacking and incomplete because of storm days and missed class time in 2014.

    • Dwitya Rulhadi
      April 03, 2014 - 07:12

      I agree with you. Changes are way too difficult for them. Try to be flexible. There's nothing wrong with a bit of change.

  • Enough
    April 03, 2014 - 05:32

    Perhaps the superintendent and Minister should be more interested in the bullying that is happening in our schools by students and name calling by teachers then having our kids add a day at end of year. We need to get the kids to a safe enviroment ASAP

  • Jackofalltrades
    April 03, 2014 - 05:25

    "The teachers' federation president notes that PD days have a long-lasting effect on generations of students"......Really? Losing 1 or 2 PD days will have that much of an impact? Sorry Mr Arsenault but you say it's not a time to panic...well it's also not a time for dramatics like you have demonstrated with that statement. Its only 1 or 2 PD days and not like you are losing a full years worth.

    • huh
      April 03, 2014 - 08:24

      That's not what he said at all. He said "PD Days" (you quoted it yourself). That means PD days in general, not the 1-2 days that were missed.