The first thing that jumps out at me as I read the terms of the deal struck between OECTA and the Ontario Ministry of Education: the importance of professional learning is not very highly regarded—by folks on either side of the bargaining table.
Not only has the province stepped back from its intent to maintain an annual grant to school boards that offered funding for additional professional learning opportunities for elementary teachers, but the 3 unpaid days that all OECTA members will be required to take during the 2013/14 school year are to be taken from the already limited number of PD days. The argument, of course, is that these are non-instructional days and, as a result, the direct impact on students will be minimized. Really?
Currently, our school districts has 6 professional development days scheduled for elementary teachers. One of those is dedicated to school re-organization in September; three are dedicated to assessment, reporting and parent-teacher interviews. So, assuming that these don’t get touched, the challenge will be (a) to find 3 remaining PD days to cut and (b) to discover new ways of building professional community and learning opportunities.
I figure two things are going to need to happen. First, unions will have to back down on its requirement that required PD be supported with release time and not during lunch or after school. Second, the Ministry is going to have to either seriously examine the number of new initiatives that it is requiring schools to implement or come up with creative ways of supporting professional learning.
As a side note, the two parties have been rather astute in the scheduling of the three unpaid days: October 11th, 2013, December 20, 2013, and March 7th, 2014: each is a Friday, and each bumps up against a holiday period.
Isn’t that interesting?
More to say about the agreement in the days to come. I would love to connect with others who are watching this closely!