New school calendar provides for additional professional development, same teaching days
The Department of Education faced a difficult juggling act in trying to increase the number of professional development days for teachers while holding the line on instructional days for students, but in the end, the Gregorian calendar came to the rescue. The department has been under intense pressure since the latest PISA test results last fall showed P.E.I. students in last place in Canada. There was a clamour for action.
This year, Labour Day falls on Monday, Sept. 1. The holiday can’t be recognized any earlier and schools across P.E.I. traditionally open two to three days after the national holiday. This year’s September calendar opened up some extra time to start the 2014-2015 school year and the province took advantage of it.
Two days have been added to the school year as outlined by Education Minister Alan McIsaac when he presented the new school calendar for 2014-2015. There is agreement that teachers need more PD days to hone their skills and provide upgrades to accommodate curriculum changes. Parents wanted to see teaching days for their children maintained or even increased. There is a demand to shed the stigma of being in last place — immediately.
Classes start Thursday, Sept. 4, following orientation and PD days for teachers and run until June 26, while the teachers last day at work is June 30. The province couldn’t stretch things any tighter at each end but it won’t have that same flexibility next year.
Suggestions of moving PD days and meetings into July or August might play out well among some members of the public, but that option was never going to fly at this time because of signed contracts. Students may groan and teachers may have little time to plan Canada Day celebrations but something had to be done.
And just because we now have more PD days doesn’t mean we now have a magic, immediate fix. This is just the start of changes needed to provide more support for our students and provide them with the best learning opportunities possible. The process started several years ago with more emphasis on early education and incorporating kindergarten into the school system but those improvements will take years to proceed through the system.
It’s encouraging that all parties are anxious to get started on education renewal in the province as the calendar was developed with input from the Education Department, CUPE, P.E.I. Teachers' Federation, two school boards and home and school federations. Teachers have signaled they welcome these changes. They are hoping things are heading in the right direction, as do we all.
Poll signals status quo
The latest Corporate Research Associates poll holds no real surprises and signals people are content with the status quo — for now. The poll very likely overestimates the popularity of the Liberal Party and just as likely vastly underestimates the popularity of the opposition parties.
The Progressive Conservatives are still recovering from the departure of former leader Olive Crane and the loss of Hal Perry, who joined the Liberals last fall. The party is planning a convention to replace interim leader Steven Myers and is busy holding grassroots meetings to recruit candidates and begin its march to renewal.
NDP fortunes have improved under energetic leader Michael Redmond but he is the virtual lone public face of the party.
Once the PCs set a convention date and get some leadership hopefuls in the field, their numbers will change for the better.
It should be noted that almost one-third of Islanders refused to answer the poll questions, don’t know or are undecided.