Educational leaders and policymakers in the United States can learn a great deal by looking northward to Canada says Ken Zeichner of the University of Washington College of Education.
"Schools in Alberta are performing well not only on academic achievement, but also on measures of equity," said Zeichner, Boeing Professor of Teacher Education at UW. "Unlike here in the U.S., there's not a high level of criticism of teachers and teacher education. Teachers are valued for their professional acumen."
For the past two years, Zeichner has been studying policies and practices related to teaching and teacher education in Alberta as part of a larger international project. That larger study is producing comprehensive descriptions of the policies and practices related to teaching quality used by jurisdictions with demonstrated success on international indicators of educational quality and equity.
Yet those seeking improvements in America's schools need to take a holistic view of Alberta's successes.
"Taking a particular policy that works well in Alberta and implementing it in the U.S. won't necessarily have the same effect because there are a variety of factors inside and outside of education impacting the environment," Zeichner said. Among other factors, he noted that Alberta has enjoyed a stable political environment, a robust social safety net for families, strong support for public education, and an unusual degree of trust and collaboration across stakeholder groups such as unions, school administrators and politicians.
Zeichner discussed findings of his research at the American Educational Research Association's 2015 annual meeting earlier this month in his presentation "No Fast Tracks Into Teaching in Alberta." His presentation took place as part of a panel examining pre-service teacher education as a lever for educational equity and excellence.
Hear more of Zeichner's comments on teacher preparation in Alberta:
An interview with Zeichner also appears in the spring issue of the Alberta Teachers' Association Magazine.
Dustin Wunderlich, Director for Marketing and Communications