Certifying teachers and regulating the teaching profession is emerging as a critical public policy issue–and one that urgently needs addressing in the interests of students as well as taxpayers in Nova Scotia and a few other provinces. Establishing and maintaining professional standards in Canada has, in practice, been delegated to provincial teachers’ unions and federations. Nova Scotia demonstrates how that approach can be particularly loose and mostly ineffective, virtually guaranteeing “spotless records” for teachers.
This AIMS’ research report asks, “Whatever happened to teaching standards?” and then tackles the question with an analysis of teacher regulation in Nova Scotia compared with best practices in other Canadian provinces. Paul W. Bennett and Karen Mitchell, a former member of the Ontario College of Teachers Governing Board from 1997 to 2005, provide a revealing look at the absence of regulatory oversight and the feeble enforcement of teaching standards. Utilizing Nova Scotia as an example, the AIMS’ policy paper makes the case for adopting a more robust provincial policy regime to ensure the highest teaching standards as well as to weed out underperforming teachers and so-called “bad apples” who pose risks to students.
Starting in Nova Scotia and following the lead of British Columbia, Bennett and Mitchell call for the establishment of a new, more independent Teacher Regulation Branch with a clear mandate to raise professional teaching standards, rebuild public trust, properly vet teacher education programs and safeguard students in the schools. The AIMS’ report concludes with six major policy recommendations designed specifically for Nova Scotia but applicable in other provinces:
1. Initiate and establish a Teaching Standards and Regulation Act and transfer the responsibility for setting and maintaining the Code of Professional Standards and Discipline to a new branch of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. Rename the Teaching Profession Act so that it is termed the Teachers Union Act;
2. Assign responsibility for overseeing Teacher Standards and Discipline to the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development and require the public disclosure of all proceedings and decisions made under the new Teaching Standards and Regulation Act;
3. Establish a Teaching Standards Board within the Department of Education to assure professional self-governance for the profession, but limit the size of the board to 12 to 15 members, appointed by Order-in-Council, to allow for a fair representation of teacher, professional and community interests;
4. Adopt a Teacher Quality Standard, modelled after that of Alberta and built upon Best Practice in Teacher Quality reform across North America and around the world and introduce regular teacher effectiveness assessments, scheduled every five to seven years at critical stages in the career cycle;
5. Raise Teaching Standards and uphold Professional Ethics through legislative reform by removing supervisory officers and principals from the provincial bargaining unit for teachers and implementing professional training for school administrators in the assessment of teacher conduct, competency and effectiveness;
6. Mandate the new Teacher Regulation Branch to initiate, develop and implement an evaluation and accreditation program for faculties of education and teacher training institutes to ensure the validity and quality of professional degree and additional qualification programs, including B.Ed., M.Ed., and Ed.D. programs, inside and outside of Canada