Society for the Advancement of Excellence in Education

The Society for the Advancement of Excellence in Education (SAEE) was founded in 1996 as a non-partisan education research agency to encourage higher performance in public education in Canada. Its purposes as a registered charity were the commissioning and dissemination of new Canadian research in the field.

Through environmental scanning of the research, SAEE, for over twelve years, stayed in front of emerging needs and issues in school improvement and student achievement, accumulating a valuable knowledge base linking policy and effective practice. From this, the Society was able to develop a visionary research agenda, providing independent analysis of government initiatives and promising local innovations across Canada. Each SAEE study offered thoughtful analysis of the implications for policy and practice along with the findings of the research.

The most important work of SAEE was field research in Canada�s public schools. With generous support from Canadian foundations, SAEE commissioned a range of studies to expand the knowledge base about school change and effectiveness. SAEE studies were rigorously designed and reviewed, conducted independently, and their findings shared widely across Canada.

In the past two years, SAEE has scaled back its operations, with a view to completing current research and closing its doors. Now, with generous assistance from the Max Bell Foundation, and for the purposes of preserving its research and continuing to make it available to the public, the Society is pleased to offer electronic access to its research archive, as listed below.

The Society and its Board of Directors wish to extend their sincerest thanks to the many funders, researchers, supporters, staff and volunteers who, through their generosity and commitment, made it possible for the Society to pursue its vision and mission for nearly fifteen years. We are confident that SAEE has left a lasting contribution to the continuing success of Canadian schools�a legacy for others in the field to emulate and improve upon.


A First Look at School Planning Councils in BC

Examining the work of School Planning Councils in British Columba

School Planning Councils (SPC) were legislated in British Columbia in July 2002. The 2002-03 school year was designated as a transitional period in which schools and districts developed the policies and processes which would contribute to the successful operation of SPCs. In June 2003, a small pilot survey was conducted to begin the important process of collecting baseline data on the work of School Planning Councils. It was administered on a voluntary basis to SPC members in two participating schools districts. The purpose of the survey was to illustrate the early work of councils, providing data related to the nature of their structures and processes, goals, involvement in School Plans, perceived needs, challenges, and degree of success in fulfilling the provincial mandate in their first year of implementation. The information gained from the pilot survey will be used to refine a survey to be administered province-wide to all School Planning Council members in the spring of 2004.

A Survey of School Planning Councils in British Columbia 2004

A report presenting findings and recommendations from a survey of School Planning Council (SPC) members in British Columbia

This report presents findings and recommendations from a survey of School Planning Council (SPC) members in BC on how well SPCs are functioning in their legislated role after the transition year of 2002/2003 and one full year of operation.

The survey was conducted mainly online in May and June 2004. As there is no central registry of SPC members, school district superintendents were approached and asked to support the research by authorizing distribution of the survey invitations through school principals to SPC members.

Forty-one (41) of BC�s 60 school districts agreed to participate in the survey, representing 54% of public schools in the seven school regions of BC. A total of 4,525 invitations to participate were sent to SPC members. An additional 65 usernames and passwords for the online survey were released to requesting individuals, for a total eligible sample of 4,590. The survey yielded 1,118 responses for an overall response rate of 24% with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5%. Analysis showed that respondents were representative of SPC members across the province.

The survey questions covered governance, school plans, organizational structure, decision-making, training, resources and support, and successes and challenges. Most questions used a five-point rating scale. In addition, there was opportunity for respondents� comments.

The data revealed that, at the conclusion of 2004, 74% of respondents were satisfied with the operation of their SPC. A greater majority (83%) felt their SPC was acting according to its mandate.

Almost all respondents (95%) reported that the priorities of their school were reflected in the school plan. The goals identified in school plans were SMART�specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely (92% to 98%). Respondents indicated most SPCs developed plans to monitor (86%) and report on the progress of (81%) the school plan.

Principals chaired a large majority (79%) of SPCs. Many methods were used to select the SPC chair, including election, board policy, selfselection, and others. Two-thirds of respondents (67%) indicated their SPC attempted to open up its process to the school community by inviting non-voting participants to SPC meetings. Some (39%) said their SPC networked with other SPCs in the district, and made meeting agendas (46%) and minutes (53%) available to the public. Just less than a majority of respondents (46%) felt their SPC could benefit from further members.

Alberta School Councils Survey 2008

Realities, Perspectives and Challenges

School councils were established in Alberta in 1995 as a means for parents and community members to have a meaningful advisory role in educational decision making. Councils consist of parents, school principals, teachers, and senior students and can involve members of the wider school community. They work to promote the well-being and effectiveness of schools. In July 2007, Alberta Education revised the regulation governing school councils in the province placing a greater emphasis on their role as advisors to principals and school boards on issues related to student achievement and school improvement.

The Alberta School Councils� Association (ASCA) is the provincial organization that works to support effective school councils through the provision of training and materials, advice and advocacy. Alberta Education began a 4-year pilot in 2004 to provide training and development to school councils across the province. The School Council Development Project (SCD) was operated through the ASCA and has now become an integral part of their operations. In January of 2008, the ASCA contracted the Society for the Advancement of Excellence in Education (SAEE) to conduct a provincial survey of school council chairs and members, principals, superintendents and school board chairs. This report contains the findings and analysis of that research which aimed to:

  1. Quantify stakeholder perceptions regarding the operations and effectiveness of school councils
  2. Assist ASCA in evaluating the impact of the SCD project
  3. Document the evolving nature of the influence of school councils at the school and jurisdictional level with respect to advising on educational plann

School Choice: Policies and Effects

An International Literature Review

This literature review examines what is known about the effects of school choice. It surveys significant research from a range of countries to examine its impact on public school systems. In particular the researchers attempted to discover outcomes regarding achievement, graduation and retention rates, employability skills, and student and parent satisfaction. Effects on the disadvantaged were examined in detail to shed light on who chooses and the consequences to social equity and academic opportunities for poor, minority and special-needs students. The influence of school choice on school productivity was noted where found.

Major findings include:

  • Systems of choice vary widely and their outcomes depend on their context. Often the effects of choice cannot be isolated from those of other system reforms enacted concurrently.
  • There are losers and winners. The losers are those who lack the resources and social capital to actively pursue better learning opportunities for their children. In the absence of clear information on school performance, income and race become proxies for �good� schools. This suggests governments must ensure adequate provision of information and districts must make efforts to ensure adequate supply of choice and assist parents with selection.
  • The effects on student achievement, where they can be measured, are generally more positive than negative.
  • There is evidence that graduation and retention rates can be improved through alternative learning options, especially for at-risk students and those not challenged or succeeding in conventional classrooms.
  • Parental and student satisfaction is higher in schools of choice.
  • There is some evidence that provision of more choice increases performance in all schools. When alternative schools are provided at equivalent per-pupil funding, general productivity in the system is increased without additional cost.

School Choice

Under Open Enrollment

In 2002, the government of British Columbia passed new legislation making school catchment boundaries permeable in districts that did not already practice open enrollment. The legislation is a departure from the neighbourhood schools policy that offers uniform educational services to all students. It gave BC parents and students the right to choose among schools, with the proviso that local students still have first priority at their neighbourhood school and cannot be displaced.

This study attempted to examine the intentions and effects of the legislation on the public education system. It was undertaken by a team of two former superintendents and four graduate students under principal investigator, Dan Brown. The research was focused on 20 urban districts in B.C. The inquiry continued from September 2002, not long after the proclamation of the legislation, to June 2004, the end of the first school year under the open enrollment arrangements. Based upon interviews, documents, websites, and a survey of school principals, it examined the provincial setting, districts, schools, and individual experiences with regard to broader choice. One focus of the study was the number of applications for new schools of choice that emerged, their processes, influences upon them and their disposition. Another was the effects of choice at the provincial, district, school and individual level. The overarching question was: What are the conditions and prospects for school choice in B.C. in light of the legislation providing open enrollment?

Choice in Urban School Systems

The Edmonton Experience

School choice has been a cornerstone of the educational landscape in Edmonton, Alberta since 1974. The interplay of choice policies and practices over this period of time has led to a robust K-12 choice environment that has generated international interest among educational leaders and researchers. The evidence gathered in this study provides guidance on the design and implementation of school choice in urban settings in order to maximize its benefits and reduce the risks of negative consequences. It pays particular attention to strategies to assist those who typically do not benefit from choice: lower income and minority families and public schools experiencing declining enrolment.

Commissioned by the Society for the Advancement of Excellence in Education, the research was conducted between April 2005 and June 2006 by education consultant, Patrick Maguire as part of a larger study on these issues.

School Improvement in Action

Case Studies from British Columbia

The School Improvement Grants Program (SIGP) is an initiative in British Columbia to support action research to raise literacy and math skills in schools serving challenging student populations. The program was launched in January 2001 by the Society for the Advancement of Excellence in Education (SAEE).

Literacy or numeracy interventions in 13 public schools have been supported through the SIGP program thus far, with each site receiving $25,000 in grants to carry out its initiative. Developed and managed by SAEE, the program is funded through the assistance of the Royal Bank Foundation, Donner Canadian Foundation, Hecht Memorial Foundation, the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network, and others.

This report provides the case studies of five projects in seven schools that constitute the first cycle of schools in the program, an overview of the research literature on school improvement, some early learnings about program effects and delivery, and lessons at-large for building capacity for school-directed improvement efforts.

School Improvement in Action

Lessons in Sustainability

In recent years, educational researchers and policymakers have observed anew the benefits of �action research� in school improvement initiatives. Broadly defined, action research is a method of investigation �conducted by and for those taking the action.�

The School Improvement Grants Program was founded in 2001 by the Society for the Advancement of Excellence in Education (SAEE) to support action research in schools serving challenging student populations. Because of its empowering nature, this strategy was adopted to assist teachers and principals build capacity as learning communities to improve literacy and numeracy outcomes in their schools.

This report documents the journeys of six public schools in British Columbia who received School Improvement Program grants during 2003-06. Building on the foundational account of the first set of schools2, this report provides six new case studies, an overview of the school improvement literature, some continued insights into strategies and structures for improved student learning, and lessons at-large for building capacity for continuous growth and sustainability in school learning communities.

School Improvement in Action

Building Shared Responsibility for Student Success

This report provides the case studies of six projects in the School Improvement Grants Program (SIGP) which supports action research in BC schools serving challenging student populations. Launched in 2001 by the Society for the Advancement of Excellence in Education (SAEE)1 the program was designed to add to the emerging knowledge base on school improvement through action research.

Each of the schools, selected through an application process, received $20,000 from the SAEE matched by $5,000 from other sources to carry out a two-year research-based intervention to improve literacy outcomes. The terms of the grant required that the interventions be developed in consultation with all school partners, involve 50% or more of the students and staff in the school, and have measurable results. Schools mostly spent their funds on professional collaborative time, teaching materials and resources, and assessment and diagnostic services. Schools provided baseline data and specified in advance the indicators and tools by which progress and outcomes would be measured.

The Role of the School Principal

Present Status and Future Challenges in Managing Effective Schools

Powerful social, economic and political forces of the past decade have dramatically altered the expectations of our schools and the work of those who lead them.

�Being an effective building manager used to be good enough. For the past century principals were expected to comply with district level edicts, address personnel issues, order supplies, balance program budgets, keep hallways and playgrounds safe, put out fires that threatened tranquil public relations, and make sure that busing and meal services were operating smoothly. Principals still need to do those things. But now they must do more.� (Leadership for Student Learning: Reinventing the Principalship (2000).Institute for Educational Leadership. p. 2)

Because research suggests they can play a powerful role in improving teaching and learning, today�s principals are expected to be leaders of learning. They must be steeped in curriculum and pedagogy and be able to assess and develop teacher skills. They must generate and analyze data for the purpose of guiding instructional and program decisions and establishing and monitoring specific performance targets. They must energize the entire school community around the goal of higher student achievement, and all of this must be done in an environment of shared decision-making and less unilateral authority on the principal�s part.

This literature review examines the unique challenges of the contemporary principalship distinguished by a mandate for continuous improvement in a context of complex societal and educational change. It reviews an extensive body of literature on the complementary and often competing management and leadership functions. The characteristics of effective instructional and distributive leadership represented in the current literature as an imperative are summarized, as well as the new management skills required to support enhanced school productivity. The research reflects a clear consensus that current principals are ill-prepared for these new capacities. Some suggest the tensions between management and leadership functions are irresolvable, and propose new organizational structures to support the increased expectations for the principalship.

The authors also examined the literature for factors known to support and inhibit principal performance. Common elements found to enhance principal effectiveness include quality preparation and training, professional development that meets all stages of the principal�s career and the needs of the local district, and carefully designed multi-faceted performance management systems. Other important factors include levels of administrative support and their degree of authority. These findings are buttressed by evidence from many jurisdictions that performance-inhibiting factors include poor recruitment and selection processes, inadequate preparation and training, lack of time and district support, rapid and competing changes, lack of authority, and the absence of rigorous evaluation and reward systems.

Across jurisdictions, impending shortages for the position are reported, due to large numbers of retirements and fewer applicants for the job. The disparity between the rapidly expanding demands and the shrinking pool of qualified and willing candidates is almost universally sounding alarms for policymakers and practitioners

This report examines the �principal challenge� from a national and international perspective. It surveys five Canadian provinces, four US states, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Victoria, Australia for the current status of the principalship and promising initiatives to address emerging needs. Particularly noteworthy strategies are the development of common standards for practice with supporting performance indicators, re-designed and more comprehensive models of preparation and training aligned with those standards, new forms of professional development driven and delivered by local district needs, and innovative models of performance management. Few systems examined have tackled the need for increased authority commensurate with responsibility and alternative administrative structures.

The final section of the report outlines a number of implications for policy and practice.

Principal Portraits 2

A Look at Successful Secondary School Leadership and Management Practices in Alberta and British Columbia

The Contemporary Principal

Powerful social, economic and political forces of the past decade have dramatically altered the expectations of our schools and the work of those who lead them.

"Being an effective building manager used to be good enough. For the past century principals were expected to comply with district level edicts, address personnel issues, order supplies, balance program budgets, keep hallways and playgrounds safe, put out fires that threatened tranquil public relations, and make sure that busing and meal services were operating smoothly. Principals still need to do those things. But now they must do more." (Leadership for Student Learning: Reinventing the Principalship (2000).Institute for Educational Leadership. p. 2)

Because research suggests they can play a powerful role in improving teaching and learning, today�s principals are expected to be leaders of learning. They must be steeped in curriculum and pedagogy and be able to assess and develop teacher skills. They must generate and analyze data for the purpose of guiding instructional and program decisions and establishing and monitoring specific performance targets. They must energize the entire school community around the goal of higher student achievement, and all of this must be done in an environment of shared decision-making and less unilateral authority on the principal�s part.

This volume provides 10 brief glimpses of leadership in action in Alberta and BC secondary schools.

A Future in the Process of Arrival

Using Computer Technologies for the Assessment of Student Learning

Welcome to the future of student assessment! It is a world where the link between instruction and assessment is seamless, a world where student achievement is measured in a virtual milieu, replicating the learning environment of the student. It is a world utilizing achievement measures that introduce �hands on� or experiential scenarios through simulations and modeling, a world in which organization and process skills are measured through enhanced item formats and the use of multi-media, a world in which both student and teacher receive instantaneous feedback in time to make a difference. Indeed, it is a world where assessment informs instruction in a timely fashion, not only in terms of effectiveness through comparative analysis and links to standards, but also through guidance for student remediation, for course planning, and for identifying and applying the best and the most effective instructional techniques. How can all of this be attained? It can be realized through the potential of computer technologies in the assessment of student learning.

Automated Essay Scoring

A Literature Review

Automated Essay Scoring (AES) is a relatively new field that draws upon the diverse disciplines of writing instruction, computational linguistics, and computer science. The purpose of this literature review is to communicate a balanced picture of the state of AES research and its implications for K� 12 schools in Canada. It will be of interest to practitioners, developers of assessment technology and educational policy makers.

Susan M. Phillips provides a scan of the most recent literature on this topic which encompasses the variety of AES models, practical issues, diverse perspectives, and directions for future research. This review lays the foundation for the thoughtful use of AES in K�12 schools.

Chapter one describes the state of the literature in the field of AES, the range of stakeholders involved, and the research limitations inherent due to the proprietary nature of many of the AES systems. In chapter two, a history of the development and use of AES is discussed as well as evidence from research indicating advantages and disadvantages related to its use. Chapter three provides an overview of the analytic tools and several of the AES systems available in North America. It also indicates the unique demands that formative and summative assessments make on AES engines. Chapter four presents research on the accuracy and validity of AES systems with respect to writing assessments. Additionally, it provides a background of research done on comparing agreement rates between AES systems and human raters. Chapter five points to key considerations related to K�12 pedagogy with respect to AES, especially in the area of classroom-based formative assessment. This chapter also examines the potential for the use of AES with specific populations such as ESL, Online, and special needs students. Key findings and implications are summarized in chapter six followed by eight recommendations for future research in the areas of pedagogy, technology development and educational policy.

Whether it is viewed as a promising tool to improve the potential of student writing or a threat that removes the teacher from the evaluation process, AES is an issue on the leading edge of assessment for K�12 in Canada.

Comparisons between Paper- and Computer-Based Tests

Foundation Skills Assessment � 2001 to 2006 Data

In 2004, one school administered the Grade 7 Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) electronically. In 2005, the number of schools increased to eight and in 2006, 28 schools administered the FSA to at least some of their students. This report is based on 15 schools that administered the FSA electronically in at least one year. A number of schools were eliminated from this study because they administered to a very small proportion of the student enrolment. Schools that have administered the FSA electronically vary substantially in size: over 80% of all students came from only seven of the schools.

Because the electronic interface has different characteristics for each of the FSA components and because males and females may approach computer applications differently, separate analyses with gender as a factor were carried out for Numeracy Multiple-Choice, Reading Multiple- Choice, Reading constructed-response, Writing Focused Response and Writing Extended Response.

In addition, it was hypothesized that any impact of the electronic interface would be different for students of different ability levels. Students were placed in three achievement categories based on their results on the Grade 4 FSA and the analyses were carried out using Achievement Category as a factor.

Comparisons of the electronic interface and paper booklets revealed some differences that were anticipated to have an impact on student performance. Some electronic features appeared to be favourable to students and others may have disadvantaged students.

The following results of the statistical analyses cannot be generalized to all schools as the schools in the study chose to administer electronically: they were not randomly selected. In addition, in all analyses, there were significant differences among the schools.

Students did significantly better in the paper mode for Numeracy and Reading multiple-choice. The difference between paper and electronic modes was greater for males than females. While students appeared to do better in the electronic mode for Reading constructed-response, the difference was not significant possibly because of substantial and significant differences among the schools. There were no differences between paper and electronic modes for Writing focused response or Writing extended response.

Schools undertaking to administer the FSA might consider ensuring that, for Numeracy, there is adequate space for students to do calculations on paper and that it easy to copy information from the screen to the rough-work paper. Students should have some practice with the electronic versions of the tests. In the case of Reading, teachers should help students practice moving from one screen to another and moving within the screen.

Continued research is recommended because of the limited number of schools and students involved in the study. If such research is carried out, additional information should be gathered about how the schools prepared their students for the assessment, the degree to which regular instruction included computer based assignments, and the degree to which students have had access to and feel comfortable with computers.

Links to Literacy

Examining Phonemic Awareness Instruction in Kindergarten Classrooms

This study tested two different approaches to teaching key phonological awareness skills and concepts to kindergarten students in SD #42. Based upon early literacy research, the intervention was designed to expand the repertoire of instructional options available to kindergarten teachers. Two parallel but different series of lessons were developed in which a sequence of critical phonological awareness skills was systematically and sequentially taught in a developmentally appropriate game-like manner.

One approach emphasized teaching phonological awareness through oral activities and games which were not linked to specific texts, although did involve letter-sound correspondences. Participating teachers all reported having taught phonological awareness skills and concepts in this way previously, but not in such a systematic and sequential way. The second approach emphasized linking the phonological skills and concepts taught to the act of reading connected text. Teachers were provided with scripted examples linking every phonological concept taught to a portion of a specific book. This was a new instructional method for all teachers involved.

Meaningful Applied Phonics

A Longitudinal Early Literacy Study

Scope of the Study

  • The Meaningful Applied Phonics (M.A.P.) program is a prescriptive, explicit, teacher-directed approach designed to teach the alphabetic principle in a logical, sequential, and multi-sensory manner by teaching children the 70 graphemes that make up the 26 letters of the alphabet and strategies to segment and blend words into syllables.
  • The seven schools using the M.A.P. program in this study were selected by the Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB).
  • Students in the treatment group were taught using the M.A.P. program in Grades 1 to 3. These students were followed over the three grades and were tested at six points in time � in the fall and spring of each year until the end of Grade 3. The performance of these students was compared to that of control students also selected by EPSB at similar schools who did not do the M.A.P. program.
  • This longitudinal study spans the years of 2001-2004.

Main Findings

  • Over the three years of the study, all seven treatment schools maintained their relative ranking with respect to the populations used to norm the tests.
  • There was no systematic evidence to suggest that higher and lower fidelity of program implementation was related to differences in achievement.
  • There was no systematic evidence to suggest that higher and lower M.A.P. method training was related to differences in achievement.
  • SES was confounded with School such that its effects could not be distinguished from the effects of Schools.
  • There was no systematic effect of Gender on achievement.
  • The children in the Control group outperformed the children in the Treatment (M.A.P.) group.


  • The evidence shows that children in the M.A.P. program performed less well than they would have performed had they been taught the programs used with the control children.

Policy Implications

  • Based upon the evidence produced in this study, continued use of the M.A.P. program is indefensible.
  • Support for policy research such as this is critically important as a safeguard to ensure students receive effective programming.
  • No program should be implemented without a thorough and systematic study of the published evidence of its effectiveness.
  • All trials of innovative and experimental programs must be subjected to controlled comparisons and potentially disconfirmatory data as early as possible in the trials in order to protect children from the risks associated with less effective programs.
  • Potential innovations must face strong critical appraisal in light of existing knowledge before they go to trial in the classroom.
  • Adopting a policy of evidence-based practice is the surest guard against credulity.

Creating Equity and Quality

A literature review of school effectiveness and improvement

In the belief that school characteristics and practices affect student achievement, the Society for Advancement of Excellence in Education (SAEE), with funding from the Max Bell Foundation, is conducting a study to determine what practices in secondary schools result in high student achievement for low socio-economic status (SES) students. Study findings are expected to provide guidance to Canadian educators and policy makers in developing and implementing practices that have a positive effect upon students. The study also recognizes that student characteristics have an effect on student outcomes but school practices exist that ameliorate the former and enhance the latter.

This two-year study of 12 public secondary school sites in low socio-economic urban areas in British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec is designed to identify school practices that contribute to unexpectedly high learning outcomes in comparison with other schools. The resulting report will be broadly disseminated to educators and Ministries of Education across Canada.

Schools That Make a Difference: Final Report

Twelve Canadian Secondary Schools in Low-Income Settings-Case Studies

This report is the analysis of a two-year study of twelve urban public schools in BC, Alberta and Quebec. The purpose of the study was to examine the inner workings of secondary schools in low-income settings that create high achievement for their students. The schools were selected on the basis of their achievement on provincial school-leaving examinations and their socio-economic status based on parental income and education. The sample included both high and low-achieving schools in order to identify the factors which appeared to contribute to or inhibit student success. The schools were very diverse, ranging in size from 540 to 2,000 students, and collectively they enrolled nearly 16,000 students. Using qualitative methods and a common framework, the research teams prepared case studies to illustrate performance-related practices within the schools. The case studies, contained in a separate volume, provide a rich portrait of each school.

Alternative Teacher Compensation Systems

Report that examines existing and emerging alternative approaches to the single-salary teacher compensation structures in Canada.

"The way we pay affects the behaviour of teachers: how they teach and how they develop their teaching capabilities over time. How they choose to direct their energies – inside the classroom and out – will be in part driven by what kinds of practices and capacity building habits are rewarded by the pay system." (Hassel, 2002, p. 4)

Quality teachers are an incredibly valuable human resource because of their effect on student achievement. How we compensate teachers therefore is crucial.

Some researchers believe that increasing teachers’ salaries is key to recruiting and retaining high quality educators. Others claim that working conditions, benefits and opportunities for ongoing professional development play a more valuable role in attracting and keeping effective teachers. Recruitment and retention of quality teachers is a crucial issue as Canada’s teaching force is in a time of transition due to the expected large numbers of teachers retiring and the decline in the number of teaching certificates earned nation-wide. This report examines existing and emerging alternative approaches to the single-salary teacher compensation structure found in most school districts in Canada. Nine detailed case studies and five descriptions of these new models are highlighted. These fourteen plans include components of skills- and knowledge-based pay, cooperative performance incentives and/or pay-for-performance, illustrating how jurisdictions have created or modified plans to meet the perceived needs of their community.

Skills- and knowledge-based plans reward teachers for developing and using knowledge and skills described by objective, professional standards that have been accepted as being valued. Pay-for-performance plans provide teacher compensation based on the attainment of agreed performance goals while cooperative performance incentives compensate the entire school for increased student achievement on an incremental basis over the previous year’s performance. The primary intent of all these alternative teacher compensation plans is to improve teacher capacity to increase student achievement.

It is important to note that

"Teacher compensation should not be considered in isolation but instead must be considered as part of an educational system that includes curricula aligned with standards, continuous professional development for teachers and paraprofessionals, and the other necessary conditions and resources to support teaching and learning." (AFT, 2002, p. 4)

Therefore, most case studies not only describe the actual compensation structures but their interrelationship with other aspects of the teaching and learning context such as student assessment, teacher evaluation, labour relations, the role of professional development, teacher motivation, and remediation and support strategies for teachers. Often licensure, legislation, and budget considerations are key factors in the development and eventual success or failure of alternative teacher compensation structures.

Well-developed implementation strategies are also important. During transition from the status quo to a new and often untested system, these strategies can help ensure success while reducing uncertainty and stress for both individuals and the system. Data on educational results and fiscal impact of these plans is presented where available.

A number of key principles related to the implementation of performance pay programs can be extracted from this research. Canadian policymakers should consider the importance of the following when designing, implementing and administering effective alternative teacher compensation programs:

  • Understanding the importance of union/management collaboration for successful implementation of a non-traditional teacher compensation system.
  • Realizing vision, tenacity and long-term commitment are key factors in effective ly evoking change.
  • Remaining sensitive to the structure of new compensation systems.
  • Being cognisant of the importance of frequent interaction amongst all those involved.
  • Maintaining clear and easily comprehensible standards for teacher evaluation.
  • Providing adequate training necessary for implementing the new compensation system.
  • Providing adequate funding to sustain the new compensation system.

District Practices and Student Achievement

Lessons from Alberta

Whenever educators seek new insights into student achievement, logic tightly focuses their magnifying lens on that crucible where teaching and learning typically occurs – the classroom. When their research perspective widens, it rarely extends beyond the classroom�s immediate environment – the school.

This study takes a significant step back from the classroom. Researcher Patrick Maguire aims his magnifying glass at the school district to assess whether this collectivity can reach beyond administrative duties to influence the quality of education in a profound and positive way.

Moving Forward in Aboriginal Education

Proceedings of a National Policy Roundtable

Moving Forward in Aboriginal Education was the subject of a conference sponsored by the Society for the Advancement of Excellence in Education (SAEE) held at Concordia University in Montreal on February 22, 2005. There were 50 participants from regional and national Aboriginal organizations, federal government departments, provincial/territorial departments of education, universities and other organizations.

The goal was to focus on solutions and actions which could have an impact on the success of Aboriginal students in school. Discussions were organized around three main themes:

  1. Providing critical supports for successful learning
  2. Ensuring supply, training and retention of quality teachers
  3. Creating a culture of learning in Aboriginal communities

Following the opening plenary, participants discussed issues related to these themes in small groups and returned to plenary sessions to determine priorities for action.

Major topics examined included: support structures, information sharing, funding, networks, transitions, governance; the recruitment, retention, preparation and development, and working life of teachers of Aboriginal students; and the integration of school and community learning programs.

In the action plan, proposals were made in the following priority areas:

  • Support for Aboriginal education
  • Better data on performance
  • Aboriginal content and approaches to the curriculum
  • Recruitment, preparation and support for teachers
  • Regional centres of excellence for research and development
  • Short-term initiatives to improve communication, coordination and sharing information about best practices.

ArtsSmarts at Caslan School

A Longitudinal Case Study

The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of the ArtsSmarts program at Caslan School. This small K�9 school is attended by 130 students from the Buffalo Lake M�tis Settlement, located about 200 kilometers northeast of Edmonton. With a history of poor achievement, attendance, behaviour, and parental involvement, and high staff turn-over, the school applied to ArtsSmarts for support. In September 2003, Caslan received a $317,000 grant for a three-year initiative to infuse the core curriculum with arts in order to achieve five specific objectives. These were: to improve student achievement, attendance and behaviour, change teacher practice, and to increase parent and community involvement by incorporating M�tis arts and culture into the curriculum and life of the school.

The research was conducted between September 2003 and September 2006, using a mixed methods approach. Provincial achievement and other test scores, report card marks, attendance figures and disciplinary incidents were collected and analyzed. Close to 1500 project evaluations from students, teachers and artists were tabulated. Over 130 interviews were conducted, along with surveys, focus groups, observations and field notes which provided further information of a qualitative nature. This evidence was triangulated with reports provided by the school division and ArtsSmarts officials.

During the three years, ArtsSmarts brought a rich variety of aesthetic experiences to Caslan. Over 50 artists conducted classes in visual arts, drama, music, dance, video, storytelling and creative writing, collaborating with teachers to integrate their art with core curriculum content. In all, 70 collaborative projects were undertaken, involving all grades and many curricular areas, with the highest number being related to science or social studies. The school became a showplace of M�tis art and culture, students had hands-on exposure to multiple art forms, and their displays and performances generated new pride and engagement on the part of students and parents.

The ArtsSmarts program was administered by a part-time coordinator who was responsible for helping teachers plan their projects, bringing in the artists, and collecting evaluations from student, staff and artists on the success of each project. Program implementation was hindered by a number of obstacles which included initial lack of staff buy-in, the presence of competing programs, lack of teacher orientation and planning time, continued staff turn-over, insufficient professional development, and limited district support. Many of the early projects originated with the coordinator rather than the classroom teachers, although teacher ownership began to take hold in Year Three.

With respect to Caslan�s five objectives for the introduction of ArtsSmarts, the findings were mixed:

  • Academic achievement as measured by standardized test scores and report card marks declined significantly from the baseline year.
  • While teachers, parents and students reported increased motivation to attend school and improved engagement during ArtsSmarts activities, the net attendance gain was 3%.
  • Disciplinary incidents increased slightly in the years measured, but there were many anecdotal reports of students being more cooperative and engaged, and of beneficial effects on disruptive or difficult students.
  • Changes in teacher practice were becoming evident in Year 3 as teachers demonstrated more ownership of the collaborations. Overall, 73% of teachers reported positive changes in practice.
  • The incorporation of M�tis arts and culture evoked a positive response from parents and community, as seen in improved attendance at performances and other school activities.

The voices of many participants are presented throughout the case study, yielding a firsthand glimpse of how these new arts opportunities and modes of instruction touched their lives. An overview of the literature offers a grounding in research related to arts-based education which is then linked to the findings in the present study. The final chapter of the report discusses important questions of capacity and conditions for success for such sweeping initiatives and concludes with a set of recommendations for policy and practice addressed to program innovators, schools and educators, policy makers, and other stakeholders.

Building Local Capacity and Forging Networks

The Literacy and Parenting Skills (LAPS) Facilitator Training Program

In March of 2007, the National Office of Literacy and Learning (NOLL) contracted the Society for the Advancement of Excellence in Education (SAEE) to carry out an arm�s length study to measure the reach and impact of the Literacy and Parenting Skills (LAPS) facilitator training during the previous five years. The goal of this research is two-fold. First, it was necessary to identify the degree to which facilitators were making use of their LAPS training by setting up or enhancing literacy programs in their local areas. Secondly, feedback on the effectiveness of the training materials and the successes and challenges of front-line delivery of programs was sought to guide further programming decisions and enhance the overall effectiveness of LAPS outreach.

While early evaluations in 1996 and 1998 as well as post-session feedback questionnaires suggested that the LAPS program and training was well received by participants and facilitators alike, prior to this report, no wide-scale external review of program outreach had been undertaken. FESA directors identified many questions about the uptake from the training sessions which could only be answered by collecting data on the extent to which the knowledge, skills and resources are being transferred into use in local communities.

The intermediate beneficiaries of this report are the LAPS program directors, funders, facilitators, trainers and volunteers. The ultimate beneficiaries are parents in need of essential literacy and parenting skills who will be supported to assist their own children with literacy learning.

Beyond the Grid

A Canadian Look at the Terrain of Teacher Compensation

Pay for performance has been the subject of intense debate throughout its history. In the United States, initiatives to reform teacher compensation coincided with wider system reforms during the 1980s. By 1990, although numerous states had developed performance-pay programs, most initiatives had disappeared, many failing from inadequate funding and lack of teacher and union support. In 2001, the US federal government introduced sweeping reforms with the No Child Left Behind Legislation. Providing teachers with incentives was explored as a means to address recruitment, retention and quality issues, especially in inner-city schools. Currently, 16 states are providing bonuses to improving schools. Seven states have legislated and funded high-profile pay-for-performance plans receiving federal grants. In addition, approximately 16% of school districts have acted to bring about compensation reforms in a variety of ways. The US Department of Education�s Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF), which awards grants to support the implementation of performance-based compensation plans in high-needs districts and schools has been a significant factor in the recent expansion of incentive programs.

In Canada teacher compensation is based on educational qualifications and years of experience in the profession. This universal single salary schedule is strongly supported in teacher federation policies due to its association with stability, equity, and the fact that it rewards seniority. In a national survey commissioned by SAEE in 2006 which interviewed more than 4000 parents and teachers, some indication of support was found among the opinions of Canadian parents for the assertion that student progress (80%) and teaching skills (92%) should be factors considered when determining a teacher�s pay. Teachers were notably less supportive of such measures, yet still 38% believed academic progress of their students should be an important factor in setting salaries (Guppy, 2006).

Beyond the Grid: A Canadian Look at the Terrain of Teacher Compensation examines six models of teacher compensation currently in use in the United States with a view to assessing their design, implementation and effects and to relate this information to the Canadian context by presenting a snapshot of opinions held by parents, teachers and principals on the issue.

Despite the growing number of experiments with differential pay for teachers in the US, the evaluation literature is quite limited. Robust evidence of the relationship between teacher incentives and student achievement gains is sparse and much of it inconclusive. In many instances it is impossible to isolate the effects of pay incentives from other reform initiatives occurring simultaneously.

Due to this lack of evaluative evidence, the relative newness of the designs studied and the different contexts in which they were applied, it is not suggested that Canada adopt any of the US models of teacher compensation presented in this report, yet the models examined demonstrate the variety of approaches taken to incorporate system-wide reform linked with compensation and bonus structures. They provide a lens through which to view our systems and engage in critical discussion related to issues such as teacher evaluation, the challenges of recruitment in remote areas, the use of student assessment data to gauge school performance, and the continued gaps noted in opinions among parents, teachers and principals on whether the current single salary grid is adequate in all cases.

The report is organized in four parts. Section One provides the introductory chapter and a brief review of the literature to provide context for the case studies. Section Two contains six case studies and a further chapter synthesizing the findings. In Section Three the Canadian context is vi Beyond the Grid: A Canadian Look at the Terrain of Teacher Compensation discussed based on a presentation of survey findings and focus group data which involves perspectives from parents, principals and teachers. A brief review of the relevant policies on teacher compensation and evaluation is included. Section Four provides an overview of the findings and discusses various policy implications.

Summary of Case Study Findings

The six US case studies included in this report illustrate working models of teacher pay for performance. In selecting these, we used a number of criteria, including the desire to reflect a variety of designs, and to illustrate program delivery at district, state and national levels. The case studies examine the origins and development of the plan, the details of the design, implementation issues, and the available evidence regarding effects as well as perceived strengths and weaknesses and long-term viability. The case studies look at district models from Houston, Denver, Minneapolis, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg; the state model applied in Minnesota, and the national Teacher Advancement Program (TAP).

None of the performance-pay plans replaced the existing salary grid based on years of experience and level of education, but rather added bonuses to it or augmented it in some way. More money was infused into the compensation structure often through external sources of funding such as federal programs and foundations. Pay-for-performance plans can be categorized as either �outcome-based plans,� in which rewards are based entirely on measures of growth in student achievement or �performance-based plans�, which recognize teacher growth in professional knowledge, skill, and responsibilities. Models may also fall into a hybrid category which combines elements of the previous two. The performance-pay plans in our study are all hybrid models except for Houston�s which rewards teachers based solely on student outcomes on a variety of indicators.

Many other significant differences among the models are noted. In some plans such as Denver�s ProComp, certain stipends are cumulative, added to the base salary annually, while others are one-time only. In Houston and Charlotte-Mecklenburg, automatic yearly increases to the salary grid continue in addition to bonuses for performance and student achievement gains. Other models did not specify whether this occurs. The size of rewards also vary considerably. Within each plan, the amounts of the awards have been weighted to reflect the plan�s philosophy and objectives. For example, Minneapolis� plan is heavily reliant on providing incentives for specific teacher behaviours. This is based on the assumption that increased teacher proficiency is a predictor of increased student achievement, encouraging teachers to acquire and demonstrate new pedagogical knowledge as well as other leadership skills required in the school. Other models such as Houston�s ASPIRE focus attention on results, allowing teachers to use their own professional judgement and expertise in the strategies chosen to reach student achievement targets. Four of the plans studied offer group benefits based on school-wide gains, which is intended to place emphasis on collaborative teamwork to collectively lift student achievement. An update on case study context is included in Appendixes B and C.

We have seen in these cases the very evident challenges in measuring outcomes in the short-term. At this juncture, it is possible only to conclude that although these six performance plans show some signs of modest initial success, conclusive evidence of substantive effects on either student achievement and teacher performance is still lacking.

The Canadian Context: Summary of Survey and Focus Group Findings

Chapter 10 presents survey data exploring the perspectives of Canadian parents, teachers and principals on methods of teacher compensation and evaluation. The findings show that there is support among parents, principals and teachers for broadening the factors that are used to determine the compensation of teachers. In addition to the current reliance on qualifications and experience which all groups support, there is also support for including at least two other dimensions�teaching skills, and leadership responsibilities although these are more strongly endorsed by parents and principals than by teachers. A key concern when considering any new compensation plan centres on the current limitations in teacher evaluation. To include either teaching skill or leadership abilities in a compensation model would require reliable and valid methods of measurement.

This sentiment was reinforced by parents and teachers who participated in the focus groups. Chapter 11 of this report summarizes the findings from a series of six focus groups which took place in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario. For teachers, concerns were expressed around the issue of financially rewarding individual teachers with a form of performance bonus, stating that it would create divisions among the staff, and suggesting that preparation time, mentorship programs, professional learning communities, and increased support services such as counsellors, and social-service providers would improve the quality of teaching and learning in schools before pay incentives would. Although teachers might consider some form of bonus structure or release time tied to additional responsibility within the school, they were not in support of linking bonuses to student achievement. Parents, on the other hand, strongly supported the idea of rewarding teachers based on performance in the classroom and student achievement. many referring to teachers that they had known to do exceptional work and the desire to see them rewarded for it. They referenced compensation models they had experienced in the business environment which incorporated an incentive structure and many saw the potential for this in the education sector.

Both parents and teachers interviewed expressed concern over the form of evaluation that would be applied in any performance-pay scenario, realizing that any single method would be open to bias or misinterpretation if applied systematically. There was consensus on the need for more transparent, objective and frequent evaluation processes for teachers within schools regardless of the compensation structure.


In this discussion about how best to align teacher compensation with student learning, more knowledge is a key foundational requirement. Through the process of the research for this report, several options to enhance discussion in this area became apparent. These include:

  • creating settings conducive to constructive discussions that raise levels of awareness about alternative pay models, and their advantages and disadvantages;
  • focusing upon how possible pilot programs might be instituted that would allow the testing of some of the options available with specific attention to issues of measurement of student learning and teaching effectiveness; and
  • rigorous assessment of empirical evidence linking teacher compensation with student achievement and in particular, closing the achievement gap.

One of the key lessons from the case studies relates to the complexity of reforming models for paying teachers. Tinkering with one aspect of policy or practice, without attention to complementary areas, is a recipe for problems. In the Canadian context, a clear message from respondents was that a range of issues needed to be tackled simultaneously. If enhancing student learning is a cardinal goal, then simply adjusting teachers� pay will not work. As participants in the study noted over and over, a broader set of reforms are essential, reforms that would include enhancing teaching skills, evaluating levels of teaching effectiveness, building professional development capacity in schools, and ensuring leadership is adequately supportive and rewarded. Similarly the case studies demonstrate that teacher compensation cannot be treated in isolation, but must be tackled along with a variety of other system priorities.

This report set out to explore the potential of alternative teacher pay systems to benefit all participants in the Canadian education system�teachers, students, parents, and principals in particular. Our findings are meant to inform current perspectives and stimulate further dialogue and investigation. As is common in research addressing large and complex issues involving systemic change, this study produces no final solutions but raises numerous questions worthy of further examination. The evidence and analysis from the case studies, surveys, and focus groups is a contribution to that broad outcome.

Forging Partnerships, Opening Doors

Community School Case Studies from Manitoba and Saskatchewan

The idea of community schools as a means of supporting challenged populations has gained currency in recent years. As the mandate of education expands from provision of traditional academic instruction to recognize the complex needs of children in the 21st Century, the self-contained model of the school becomes increasingly inadequate to meet the needs of students. In addition, the recognition of the importance of parental involvement in children�s schooling leads to the corollary recognition that parental wellbeing is an important contributor to student achievement. From there it is a short step to recognize that a healthy community is a healthy learning environment and that community and school collaboration has real potential for improving all aspects of student achievement. Community collaboration may include both involvement with other formal service providers (e.g., healthcare agencies, social service agencies) and involvement with informal groups such as parent coffee gatherings.

Within Canada, the Manitoba Ministry of Education, Citizenship and Youth and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education have established important initiatives to foster the development of community schools in their provinces. Although a body of US-based research into community schools exists, to date little research has taken place in Canada to investigate this potentially important area of educational practice.

As a step towards filling that research gap, Forging Partnerships, Opening Doors: Community School Case Studies from Manitoba and Saskatchewan provides case studies of six community schools in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and presents discussion of the findings and recommendations from that body of research. All schools serve high percentages of at-risk children, in settings that vary from inner-city to northern isolation. All schools have a significant presence of Aboriginal students, with both M�tis and First Nations populations represented.

Dr. Susan M. Phillips, a researcher with extensive experience both in school administration and in case study research visited all six schools between January and June 2008, working in collaboration with an advisory committee in each province, who reviewed the final report. Sites were selected by provincial authorities, with the intent of presenting a selection of inner-city, rural and northern contexts. Schools varied in their enrolment from 170 to 414 students. All schools included elementary grades; one small rural community studied also included a secondary school program.

Sharing Our Success

Ten Case Studies in Aboriginal Schooling

The disturbing educational success rates for Aboriginal students in comparison with their peers have been documented for many years. Reducing this persistent achievement gap is one of Canada�s most pressing educational challenges.

Numerous reports commissioned by federal and provincial governments and Aboriginal authorities have offered detailed examinations of the complex social, economic, linguistic, and cultural interrelationships that contextualize the educational environments of Aboriginal students. Many of their families struggle with the legacy of residential schools that ripped families apart and caused immeasurable damage to the social fabric. Schools serving these communities work within a context that may include poverty, learned helplessness, despair, and high levels of abuse, addictions and violence. For some communities, student suicide rates may exceed graduation rates.

Yet despite many extraordinary challenges, some schools are producing tangible progress for their Aboriginal students. This report springs from a study of ten such schools in an effort to identify practices that appear to contribute to their success.

The 10 schools from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the Yukon are as diverse as their geographical locations, ranging from urban centers to isolated rural reserves. The set included two secondary, four elementary, one pre-K-9, and three pre-K-12 schools, with enrolments spanning from 74 to 950 students. The percentage of Aboriginal students varied from 35% to 100%; with the populations of five schools being 100% Aboriginal. Three schools were under the authority of school districts, one under the Yukon Department of Education, and the remaining six were band-operated. Of these, one was operated by a tribal council partnership of nine bands.

The schools were studied during the 2003/04 school year. Spending an average of 12 days per site, the researchers conducted over 120 interviews, and 37 focus groups of teachers, students, parents, and elders in the data collection process. Triangulating this with observations and document review, they prepared case studies highlighting each school�s practices and analyzed the patterns observed across the schools to draw their conclusions.

Sharing Our Success

Promising Practices in Aboriginal Education

Sharing our Success: Promising Practices in Aboriginal Education was a national research and policy conference convened by the Society for the Advancement of Excellence in Education (SAEE) on November 23-24, 2007 at the York Hotel and the University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg. There were over 375 participants from regional and national Aboriginal organizations, federal government departments, provincial/territorial departments of education, schools, universities and other organizations.

The conference was designed to engage stakeholders from across Canada in examining and sharing promising practices in aboriginal schooling. Over 70 presentations by more than 85 researchers, practitioners and policymakers at every level provided many opportunities for participants to explore constructive solutions to systemic challenges. Among the many issues addressed over the course of the two days were literacy and language; cultural programming; the assessment and reporting of results; governance and leadership; funding; the supply, training and retention of quality teachers; and community supports for learning. In addition to formal presentations, dialogues in the form of sharing circles and issue roundtables promoted further cross-pollination of effective strategies, policies, and resources.

This groundbreaking national conversation was a powerful catalyst for creating shared understandings to improve aboriginal student success. Formal and informal feedback was highly positive both for the calibre of the presentations and for bringing together all major stakeholders to examine the research and policy issues.

Sharing Our Success

More Case Studies in Aboriginal Schooling: Band-Operated Schools

The eagle soaring against the dawning sun is perhaps a fitting symbol for the First Nation schools profiled in this volume. Each school is creating a brighter future for its young people, striving to equip them with the knowledge and the skills they need to succeed in both traditional and modern worlds.

The four case studies are part of a larger study examining schools that are producing tangible progress for Aboriginal learners. The research was commissioned in 2006 by the Society for the Advancement of Excellence in Education (SAEE) and made possible through grants from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, the Federal Interlocutor�s Office, the governments of Ontario, Quebec, and Nunavut, and an anonymous Canadian foundation.

Ten schools across north, central and eastern Canada were selected for the study, nominated by Ministries of Education, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, and regional Aboriginal authorities. Four were band-operated schools, and six others were under provincial/territorial jurisdiction. Several schools had more than one campus. Collectively the schools served over 3,300 students, with enrolments ranging from 75 to 877 students.

Sharing Our Success

More Case Studies in Aboriginal Schooling

Reducing the persistent achievement gap between Aboriginal students and their peers is recognized as a national priority. This report springs from a study of schools that, despite extraordinary challenges, are producing tangible progress for Aboriginal learners. The research conducted in 2006 was designed to identify practices that appear to contribute to their success.

The schools profiled in this study are scattered across north, central and eastern Canada, from the islands of Hudson Bay to the rugged coast of Newfoundland. Collectively, they serve more than 3,300 Aboriginal students in settings ranging from inner city to isolated reserves. Four of the case studies profile band-operated schools; the other six feature schools under provincial/territorial jurisdiction, two of whom are governed by regional First Nations Boards. The sites were selected through a consultative nomination process.

The team of researchers spent an average of 11 days per site, conducting over 100 interviews and 35 focus groups of teachers, students, parents, and elders involving over 400 respondents in the data collection process. These findings were triangulated with observations and document review to develop richly detailed case studies highlighting each school�s practices. The patterns observed across the schools were then analyzed to compare success factors in the schools to each other and with those found in earlier set of schools examined by Bell1 (2004) using a similar framework for analysis.

The report covers a broad range of issues and highlights strategies and conditions that help Aboriginal learners to succeed. It begins with an introduction to the study and an overview of the complex contexts in which these schools operate. This is followed by ten detailed case studies, which collectively and individually yield many promising practices which can be adapted by other schools. Chapter 12 analyzes the patterns across the sample, culminating with a discussion of the dominant factors that underpin their success. Chapter 13 identifies key issues emerging from the research, and the final chapter contains recommendations for policymakers and practitioners.


Despite the rich diversity in approaches and circumstances, a number of common characteristics distinguished these schools, albeit in varying degrees of intensity. The elements of their success are rooted in:

  • Strong leadership and governance structures, often with long tenure
  • Multiple programs and supports for learners
  • Exceptional language and cultural programs
  • Secure and welcoming climates for children and families
  • Respect for Aboriginal culture and traditions to make learning relevant
  • High percentage of Aboriginal staff and quality staff development
  • Assessment linked to instructional and planning decisions
  • Vigorous community partnerships and beneficial external alliances

These schools maintained high expectations for staff and students. Their teachers believed in students� potential to learn, while providing multiple levels of support in a holistic manner to meet students� social, emotional, spiritual and physical needs. The schools were proactive in addressing issues of attendance, behaviour and well-being, which are pre-conditions for learning. School leadership was forward thinking and entrepreneurial, enabling the schools to offer an impressive array of programs and additional services to support both learners and their families. Instructional approaches were purposefully chosen, based on research, and implemented on a school-wide basis in many instances. The employment of high percentages of certified and highly qualified Aboriginal teachers from their own communities was a source of pride at most schools.

All schools worked to provide culturally relevant learning experiences and affirm students� pride in their identity. Aboriginal language immersion programs were present in about half the schools and in some this was the language of instruction until Grade 6. Most offered local cultural classes � some of which were accredited, and the reminder infused cultural content across the core curriculum. In all schools, the importance of the traditions and culture was affirmed by displays, ceremonies, excursions on the land, and the use of elders and local resource people. While various forms of assessment were utilized for instructional decisions and planning for improvement, there were marked differences among the schools in their willingness to measure themselves against large scale norms and to report such results publicly.

The 44 success factors identified in the schools were mapped and compared with those found in Bell (2004). The most prominent correlates of success were related to governance structures and leadership, programming, staff qualities, added resources obtained through innovative partnerships, a positive and respectful school ethos, and local community control and support.

Issues and Recommendations

Four systemic issues that emerged from these cases deserve careful attention by policymakers. To this end, the authors undertake a brief analysis of Aboriginal education funding, special education, language and literacy, and performance measurement and reporting as illustrated through this set of schools. The final chapter of the report directs a number of recommendations towards policymakers that are designed to support the success of Aboriginal learners everywhere.

The research was commissioned by SAEE with financial support provided by the Governments of Ontario, Quebec, and Nunavut, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, the Office of the Federal Interlocutor for M�tis and Non-Status Indians, and a Canadian foundation.

Teacher Education in Canada

A Baseline Study

Although Canada produces approximately 18,000 new teachers every year, there has been surprisingly little systematic study of their preparation. This first baseline study of teacher education in Canada attempts to fill that gap, providing an overview of programs across 56 institutions and data obtained from surveys of representative samples of recent graduates, school principals and education faculty members. The research examines program structures, content emphasis and usefulness, perceptions of teaching knowledge and skill, the practicum experience, and the transition into the teaching profession. The results, presented by regions and stakeholder groups, pose important questions for further study. The research was conducted between February 2007 and February 2008 by a research team under the direction of principal investigator, Robert Crocker of Memorial University, working with a survey firm and a panel of experts.

Highlighted Findings

Structure: Teacher education programs across Canada differ markedly in structure and duration. A larger proportion of teacher education graduates have taken consecutive than concurrent programs. The most common program length for concurrent programs is eight semesters. Two-semester consecutive programs are the norm in Ontario, while consecutive programs in most other jurisdictions are usually either three or four semesters. A majority of principals and faculty members expressed a preference for concurrent programs for elementary teachers, and were evenly divided on preferred structure for secondary teachers. Principals and faculty members were in strong agreement that elementary teachers should be prepared as generalists. Close to half of both groups felt that secondary teachers should be subject specialists, with most of the remainder preferring generalists with a strong subject concentration.

Content: There were significant variations among the respondent groups� perceptions of program content, emphasis, and quality. Relatively few (about 13%) graduates gave overall �excellent� ratings to their teacher education programs, while about half gave �good� ratings. Graduate ratings of program content showed significant discrepancies between emphasis (lower) and usefulness (higher) in areas such as classroom management, using assessment, motivating students, teaching special needs children, and dealing with parents and the community. There were large discrepancies in principal ratings of usefulness of program content and graduate preparedness in these areas. While the rankings of importance of content areas by principals and faculty did not differ substantially, there was a tendency for principals to give relatively higher ratings to matters of practice and for faculty to more highly rate foundational theory.

Teaching Knowledge and Skills: Principal and faculty ratings of areas of graduates� teaching knowledge and skill showed similar patterns to those for content. Few principals gave �very well prepared� ratings to any of these areas, with ratings being lower for some of the areas perceived to be of greatest importance. More faculty members than principals gave the highest preparedness rating, and several domains rated by new graduates as �very useful� received low scores on emphasis in their programs. From this it would appear that greater emphasis should be placed on areas such as teaching students with disabilities or special needs, classroom management, child and adolescent development, computer technology and motivating students to learn. Overall, there appears to be support from all three groups for an increased focus on the more practical, technical aspects of teaching.

The Practicum: The practicum is a major source of variation in teacher education programs, with respect to length, number and duration of placements, timing, and supervision and evaluation. The median practicum length is 13-20 weeks. This varies substantially by region, with Ontario generally having the shortest practica and Quebec the longest. Graduates gave higher overall ratings for quality of supervision to cooperating (supervising) teachers than to university supervisors. Most graduates in the West (71%) and Quebec (70%) reported receiving five or more visits from a university supervisor during the practicum, while those in Ontario and the East generally experienced fewer visits. Graduates cited the need for more classroom experience, as did a majority of principals, but close to 74% of faculty members believe the practicum length to be about right.

Preparedness for Teaching: Most principals (73%) and faculty members (66%) rated new graduates as �fairly well� prepared for teaching, as did 60% of the graduates. �Very well prepared� ratings were awarded by 19% of faculty, 15% of principals, and 14% of graduates. Graduates were more positive in their ratings of preparedness in areas of teaching knowledge and skills than either principals or faculty members. Few principals considered graduates �very well prepared� in content areas that are closest to school and classroom practice.

Collaboration with the School System: While faculties of education and the school system are inextricable partners in the preparation of teacher candidates, the survey found evidence of a disconnect. About two-thirds of faculty members perceive collaboration with the school system as strong or very strong, while a similar number of principals consider it to be weak or very weak.


Although teacher education has attracted modest attention in Canada as a public policy issue, these findings call for collective dialogue and further inquiry. While the diversity of programs may be a strength, there is an absence of comparative evidence on their efficacy. Ratings of preparedness of new teachers are mixed, with common agreement that greater emphasis on teaching practice is needed. It is also clear that areas of content, knowledge and skill that are highly valued in the field are not being emphasized as strongly in teacher education programs as they might be. There is a need for mutual efforts on the part of the school system and faculties of education to increase communication and collaboration on program design and delivery and how best to support new teachers entering the profession. The final chapter makes a number of recommendations for strengthening teacher education in Canada. These include undertaking large scale, longitudinal and comparative research, developing a common vision for teacher education which articulates core content and competencies, finding better ways to support and mentor novice teachers, and developing stronger models of collaboration between faculties of education and the school systems they serve.