Seven principles to improve education “Support teachers teaching”

Joe Sherren joe@gatewayleadership.com
Published on July 12, 2014

Canada has a dismal, substandard system of public education according to research done by UNESCO, and P.E.I. is the lowest performing province in that system. It must be fixed.

However, throwing cash at the problem is short term, archaic thinking to fixing P.E.I.’s education system. We need clear and effective delineation of roles and responsibilities between teachers, principals, politicians, bureaucrats, universities, employers, parents and students.

Please imagine an education system where teachers excel at their skills, principals are empowered, students look forward to learning and parents are fully engaged with their child’s development.

Now add to that elevated learning outcomes and high quality teachers. These are not just ideal attributes of an imaginary system, but features that could actually revolutionize education and put P.E.I. in a leadership position.

For this to happen, there are seven principles that need to be put in place:

1) Reverse the flow of money through a scholarship allocation system.

2) Give parents and students choices regarding which institution they attend.

3) Create a performance-based culture (eliminate tenure and seniority).

4) Remove the responsibility of testing and ranking from the teachers.

5) Run schools like a business in which principals and teachers are accountable.

6) Measure each school based on agreed upon goals.

7) Make parents responsible for the attitudes and behaviours of their children.

According to the McKinsey report on the world’s best-performing schools, there are three things that matter most: 1) Hiring and retaining the right people as teachers, 2) Developing them into effective instructors, and 3) Ensuring the system will support delivering the best possible instruction for every child.

As I wrote in my last column, P.E.I. has great and caring teachers, but there are too many outside influences and organizations that restrain how educators are able to execute the business of learning.

This must be fixed, but how?

First, we reverse the flow of money. Provide cash equivalent scholarships which the student could take to the school of their choice. Or, if they wanted to choose a (certified) private school they would just have to pay the differential.

Alternatively, we could develop a model similar to our health care system and the school bills the government for each child enrolled. Most professionals are compensated for their expertise and provided with opportunities to further their knowledge and skills — allow teachers the same.

Treat teachers as professionals. Respect the training, education and experience they have and pay them appropriately — especially those who take the time to do independent research and invest in their own development. First-rate teachers need to be rewarded and compensated better than average ones, and mediocre teachers terminated.

Teachers should be responsible for teaching, not grading. Set up third-party committees with representation from universities and private industry — the real customers, to do the marking. Universities could provide academic guidelines, private business provide input for life skills and career success.

Run schools like a business where teachers and principals have autonomy of decision-making regarding what people and resources are most required for their specific situation. Then hold them accountable for the decisions they make.

Remove politicians and bureaucrats from the operations and delivery of education. Their role would be to set standards and provide oversight of processes to ensure equality of opportunity.

Similarly, providing education and training for parents can have a positive impact on our students. Teach parents how to be actively and constructively involved and to provide a supportive home environment that complements learning. Subsequently, create a process where parents are held responsible for meeting their child’s developmental needs that supports the education system.

The future prosperity of Prince Edward Island, socially and economically, will be founded in the children we educate today. Prince Edward Island has an opportunity, given its size and community minded spirit, to have a top-quality education system that will not only support our young people but also attract others to live and work here.

My question is for education leaders this week: “What is your commitment to developing an efficient education system and improve the outcomes of learning in P.E.I.?”

Joseph Sherren, CSP, CSPGlobal, HoF, Canada's Leadership Effectiveness Expert. He is on the executive development faculty of York University’s Schulich School of Business.