Parent questions value of PD days; says burden on families

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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Editor: (An open letter in response to Premier Ghiz’s comments on schools, and teaching.) I am not submitting this letter as representative of a consensus, but as father representing his family, and our perspective regarding the public education system on P.E.I. Further, this is not intended as a critique of the teachers of my three children. They are, as everything indicates, competent and professional.

That said, I have several objections to the purposed increase of PD days, and the reasoning behind it. My first concern is in regard to the lack of data supporting the efficacy of PD days resulting in improved student performance. My investigations found few studies, with empirical evidence, that show a clear correlation between the two.

The credibly run studies that are cited, with accurate data showing a positive result, have a format of PD featuring intensive one- to three-week programs. This is much different than the current model employed on P.E.I.. Which leads to my doubts that our current situation can be corrected by a simple PD day increase. An opinion of mine that is supported by credible, empirical data.

My second objection is the lack of clear communication in regard to the meaning, and details, of the PISA testing. For example what is the significance of being below 500 on the PISA assessment? Or what are the implications of details like our students scoring nearly 50 points less than the Canadian average in

math?

There has been no clear public discussion on these points. There needs to be a full public clarification of where we stand as a province, and how that relates to the rest of the country. In addition, by looking at Island scores over time, there is a flat trend, with no upward movement. This would indicate a failure in method, and approach, which is not being discussed.

My final objection, and most distressing for us because of its real world implications, is financial. For every day there is no school a day’s income is lost because I, or my wife, must stay home. In addition the daycare/after school services available, and that we use, are linked to the school system.

So PD days, snow days, or non-statutory holidays that schools close, result in these services also being closed. But we must pay for them anyway. Our combined per day loss of income and expenses is in excess of two hundred dollars. A conservative estimate of our total yearly loss is over two thousand dollars, within the current system. When you add this on to the total of approximately fourteen thousand dollars spent by my family, per year, on pre-kindergarten and after school programs the financial effect is staggering. Each additional day schools close creates additional financial stress to our family.

With PISA, we have an unbiased, globally employed, data set from which to make decisions. To stay the present course, or worse tie us to even more of the current dysfunction, is foolhardy. Our singular, most valuable resource in society is our children. The most empirically demonstrated advantage for them is education. Therefore we should seek to improve the system as effectively, and efficiently as possible. The results will benefit everyone.

Evan Downie,

Charlottetown

Geographic location: Charlottetown

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