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Educational policy analysis archives
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Arizona State University
University of South Florida
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University of South Florida.
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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 3, no. 12 (July 09, 1995).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c July 09, 1995
Educational change in Alberta, Canada : an analysis of recent events / Charles F. Webber.
x Research
v Periodicals.
2 710
Arizona State University.
University of South Florida.
1 773
t Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA)
4 856


1 of 12 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 3 Number 12July 9, 1995ISSN 1068-2341A peer-reviewed scholarly electronic journal. Editor: Gene V Glass,Glass@ASU.EDU. College of Educ ation, Arizona State University,Tempe AZ 85287-2411 Copyright 1995, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES.Permission is hereby granted to copy any a rticle provided that EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES is credited and copies are not sold.Educational Change in Alberta, Canada: An Analysis of Recent Events Charles F. Webber The University of Abstract:Alberta, Canada, is the site of large-scale educati onal change initiatives legislated by the provincial government. The mandates have sparked he ated public debate over the appropriateness, wisdom, and utility of the reforms This article summarizes the views of representatives of several educational interest gro ups and offers suggestions for making change more meaningful and successful. Introduction Schools in Alberta are being altered on an unpreced ented scale. The provincial Conservative government is following an education business" plan that includes the shifting of power from school boards both to the provincial dep artment of education and to individual schools. This has led to a reduced role for school boards in educational finance, the selection of their own school superintendents, and school accoun tability measures. In fact, the number of school boards has been reduced from 141 to about 60 (Government of Alberta, 1994). As well, massive budget cuts resulting in reduced support fo r students and classroom teachers have caused teacher morale, already at reduced levels because o f rising demands (Alberta Teachers' Association, 1993), to plummet even further. Indeed words such as "fear, anger, disbelief, bewilderment, and frustration" (McConaghy, 1994, p. 500) have been used to describe the reactions of public school supporters to recent act ions of the government of Alberta. The provincial government presented the changes to education, which included the halving


2 of 12of funds for kindergarten and major increases in th e use of standardized testing, as primarily the result of debt reduction initiatives. However, this claim was refuted by Barlow and Robertson (1994, p. 219), who said that the changes were moti vated more by ultraconservative "ideological and political" beliefs than by fiscal need. Barlow and Robertson added that there was no pedagogical basis to the educational reforms curren tly underway in Alberta. Interestingly, Hallinger, Murphy, and Hausman (1993) made a simila r claim about the overall educational restructuring phenomenon in Canada, New Zealand, Th e United States, and Great Britain. They stated that reformers have paid attention to organi zational and governance issues at the expense of curricular and instructional matters. Aronowitz and Giroux (1993, p. 226) agreed that the restructuring movement results from "narrow economi c concerns, private interests, and strongly conservative values." Purpose One purpose of this article is to report the views on educational change held by representatives of a wide variety of groups of Albe rtans interested in education. An important component of this purpose was to include educators' views on school reform, a need identified by Hallinger, Murphy, and Hausman (1993) and Barth and Pansegrau (1994). A second purpose was to add to the documentation of earlier reactions to changes to schooling in Alberta. Webber (1995) reported that e ducational stakeholders concurred with the Alberta government's decision to reduce expenditure s and to adapt to societal changes. However, that report also identified widely held concerns ab out the negative impacts of government actions on students, educators, and parents. In particular, concerns were raised about the government's motivations, inappropriate use of accountability me asures, and role changes. Setting In October 1994, 26 representatives from The Associ ation for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) visited Calgary, Alberta. The vi sitors included the members of ASCD's executive council and staff from ASCD's American he adquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. These educators were in Calgary to hold an executive coun cil meeting, to visit schools in the Calgary area, to meet with members of the Alberta Affiliate of ASCD, and to confer with representatives from a wide variety of educational interest groups from the province of Alberta. Key portions of the visit included an afternoon meeting with 33 ind ividuals representing teachers, principals, superintendents, school board members, business peo ple, university professors and the provincial department of education. These groups, plus parents were represented at an evening mini-conference held for 140 participants. The even t was sponsored by the Alberta Affiliate of ASCD and by the Centre for Leadership in Learning a t The University of Calgary. The discussions that occurred during the afternoon and evening meetings were documented by members of the executive of ASCD's Alberta Affil iate and by graduate students enrolled in the Faculty of Education at The University of Calga ry. Examination of the notes taken during the meetings showed that the talks focused on three are as: educational differences and similarities between the United States and Canada, what Albertan s highlighted about their own system of education, and what the future might be for educati on. This report highlights how Albertans described their system of education to their Americ an visitors. The notes taken during the meetings were sorted into topic groups and the info rmation summarized so that both the meaning and the tone of the conversations were presented as accurately as possible. Readers should note that this report summarizes the views that were expressed by all meeting participants. Any one person who took part in the talks may not agree with all or even many of the opinions included here. As well, this r eport may not reflect the official views of the


3 of 12participants' employers. Moreover, this document is based on discussions that were interpreted by recorders and by the author; the information may ha ve been interpreted differently by others. Finally, the data presented here are of a type part icularly subject to alteration as conditions evolve. Changing the Rules Reducing government spending is the stated goal of the government of the province of Alberta. It is also the platform upon which the gov ernment was elected in 1992. Because the costs of health, education, and social services com prise such a large proportion of government spending, it was inevitable that they would bear th e brunt of many cost-cutting initiatives. Even so, some government decisions, like the decree to s chool boards instructing them to amalgamate their districts with others nearby, were viewed wid ely as moves toward increased efficiency. Other decisions, such as the ruling to reduce fundi ng to kindergarten programs by 50%, were thought to be based on fiscal and not pedagogical r easons. Nevertheless, the Alberta government continues to enjoy strong support among its elector ate, which is committed to deficit reduction. The support for budget cuts among the majority of A lbertans was accompanied by the accusation from still sizeable portions of the popu lace that the education system was being changed drastically under the guise of balancing th e provincial budget. Groups of teachers, school board members, school administrators, and pa rents raised the possibility that the government was shaping schools to conform to an ext remely conservative political philosophy. Further, there was concern that the conservative na ture of the government caused its members to listen carefully to the concerns of business and it s rural supporters, for example, and to denigrate the views of teachers, nurses, professors, social w orkers, and medical doctors. Those who shared this perception cited dismissals of their concerns about the negative effects of budget cuts as the whining of "special interest groups." In fact, some believed that the government had a strong proclivity to be anti-intellectual and coercive in its approach to fiscal restraint. This perception was strengthened by statements from a senior govern ment employee to the effect that the government was exercising a "power thrust" in its e fforts to "move forward" on reform in the public sector. Ambivalence toward recent government actions in Alb erta was evident in other perceptions shared by those who took part in the me etings with ASCD representatives. For example, the government was praised for creating op portunities for parents and community members to share in the decision making within loca l school communities via membership in school councils. Expansions to student achievement testing programs were perceived by some to be important steps toward increasing student and te acher accountability, while others were afraid that assessment was going to drive instruction. The opinion was expressed that education is "very bureaucratic and administration-bound," but so was the belief that the government was attempting to centralize control by declaring that it would approve the hiring by school boards of all school superintendents. Similarly, statements t hat parents must accept their responsibility to send their children to school "ready to learn" were argued to be desirable but unrealistic within the context of a highly diverse population. Despite the dissenting opinions expressed during th e meetings, there was agreement that the Canadian business community was playing an acti ve role in shaping education in Alberta. One example of business influence cited was the Emp loyability Skills Profile developed by the Conference Board of Canada, an organization support ed by major Canadian businesses and "dedicated to enhancing the performance of Canadian organizations within the global economy" (McLaughlin, 1992, p. 2). The document was widely c irculated among educators, politicians at the provincial and national levels, and business pe ople. It was developed in response to a "growing concern that many young people do not see the direct relevance of what they are


4 of 12learning in school to their needs in later life" (M cLaughlin, 1992, p. 2), plus the perception that graduates of public schools lack important employab ility skills when they enter the work force. Those at the meeting who disagreed with this percep tion expressed reservations about linking schooling closely to the success of Canadian busine sses competing within a global market economy. Meeting participants agreed that teaching professio nals have less control within their field than in the past. Some stated that professionals ar e being "deprived of the control they have had" or that "teachers are being left out of the process ." Others viewed reduced teacher autonomy as a requirement for increased input from parents. Wheth er viewed positively or negatively, it was clear that society expects teachers to make fewer d ecisions without input from parents and the community at large. Furthermore, a majority of Albe rtans was prepared to support legislation requiring teachers to forfeit real control over fin ancial, instructional, and staffing issues to parents and students. It was noted that a devaluing of the control of professionals was not a strictly Alberta phenomenon but, rather, a global t rend evident in countries like Great Britain, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Increased school choice was also a condition with w hich educators must come to terms, according to the opinions expressed to ASCD represe ntatives visiting Calgary. In fact, Albertans live in an era characterized by educational consume rism and a belief that parents and students are the "customers" of schools. Therefore, the educatio nal landscape includes the piloting of charter schools, mandated parent councils for every school, the privatization of some school services, and a de facto voucher system. This allows for scho ols to "attract like-minded parents" and to "match teachers' styles with [the appropriate] pare nts and children." Supporters of school choice also may include "people who want more emphasis on the basics." The possible benefits of school choice were thought to be "pride, fund raisi ng [for schools], and commitment" while the possible negative consequences included a "wider ga p between the haves" who can afford higher quality schools, and the "have-nots" who are restri cted by the costs of extra school fees or transportation to schools beyond walking distance f rom students' homes. School choice "engenders competition" among schools for students, according to one ASCD visitor. Consequently, educators in Alberta mu st understand "a whole new paradigm" and "think competitively." Furthermore, personnel in co mpetitive schools will actively "solicit money to equalize [economic] gaps" among students. Howeve r, some Albertans could not reconcile themselves to a competition among schools that woul d result in "winners and losers." These Albertans, and at least one ASCD visitor, also were concerned that support for competition among schools was driven by the oxymoronic "expecta tion that the majority of students will be at the top end of the scale." In addition, very few su pporters of competition among schools expect that they or their children are likely to frequent schools populated by students who achieve at levels below average, despite the fact that virtual ly one half of all schools must be below average. The same proponents of competition also often do no t acknowledge the strong possibility that teachers and administrators in schools perceived to be successful may attempt, overtly and covertly, to exclude students who may tarnish the s chool's reputation, especially if school funding is tied to student achievement levels and/o r graduation rates. Privatization of school services was a trend with c redibility in Alberta where custodial services already were contracted to private compani es in some school districts. As well, experimentation with work-site schools will soon be come a reality in Calgary. This is in addition to the relatively high levels of provincial governm ent funding already accorded to private schools in Alberta. The degree to which school privatizatio n might go in Alberta was uncertain, but ASCD guests provided a description of privatization practices in the United States. For example, contractual agreements with some support and instru ctional staff have been waived and services subsequently contracted on a "fee-for-service basis ." In some instances, the administrative, teaching, and support staffs of entire schools were dismissed and the services these personnel


5 of 12formerly provided turned over to private companies. The stated rationale for these moves was that this approach to education was cheaper and tha t the deployment of staff was easier than in traditional school structures. The emerging context for education in Alberta is on e that comes closer to a market model of delivery. As one Albertan stated, "Things have c hanged the rules, [even] the description of public schools." Some Albertans and their American guests believed that we simply must recognize "and understand the new rules and get on with them." In their opinion, this meant not worrying about change and, instead, "focusing on th e new product or service as an improvement." However, their colleagues were concer ned that, even though some of the new thrusts were "very good," there were too many initi atives scattered over too many directions in too short a time period for people to react positiv ely to the changes. Indeed, we should ask, "Where are they going with the public education sys tem?" because Albertans may be "caught by surprise, in many cases, as to what the final conse quences will be." The New Context of Teaching Members of ASCD executive council and staff were to ld by Alberta educators that the new rules and expectations for education in the provinc e were, in their opinion, affecting the context of most schools. For example, issues of equity were emerging as more significant than ever before. Efforts to heighten student and teacher acc ountability occasionally were being reduced to teaching to provincial achievement tests. Mandated site-based management required teachers, administrators, and parents to learn and use new sk ills. Competition among schools was leading school staff to plan very focused public relations campaigns. Finally, legislation requiring teachers to work more closely with parents and comm unity members, plus the ongoing influence of business people, caused debates over whether the result would be true collaboration or mere compliance.Equity The topic of equity was not widely debated by Alber tans until recently. However, changes in demographics, economic conditions, and legislati on prompted intense discussions of equal access to adequate school programs. In these discus sions it was difficult to separate clearly the influences of immigration patterns and other demogr aphic variables. Nevertheless, differences between rural and urban schools, access to early ch ildhood services, and socioeconomic variables emerged as significant issues in the current equity dialogue. Many Albertans from both rural and urban environmen ts perceived their political control to be problematic. Rural residents traditionally ha ve perceived their influence to be outweighed by that of citizens in the more densely populated c ities. On the other hand, the current government was elected largely on the basis of rura l votes gained just after constituency boundaries were redesigned so that urban centres we re represented by proportionately fewer Members of the Legislative Assembly than rural dist ricts. A legal challenge to the current electoral boundaries was in progress when ASCD repr esentatives were in Alberta and the subsequent court decision was that the existing fra mework was undemocratic. Until a recently struck committee redesigns the constituency boundar ies to more closely apply the concept of representation by population and another election i s held within two to three years, rural politicians will continue to wield power that is di sproportionate to the population they represent. Not surprisingly, the present government was critic ized as "anti-urban." Dissenters claimed that rural schools have suffered for too long because of a relatively small tax base. The government stripped school boards of the power to collect prop erty taxes, arguing that funding arrangements to shift monies from some urban school boards to ru ral school districts were necessary to ensure


6 of 12that "no matter where youngsters are in the provinc e they are learning to their potential. This was countered by claims that the "government doesn't un derstand where costs and needs are different in cities compared to those in rural areas." The wh ole situation was exacerbated by a successful legal challenge by Catholic school boards which res ulted in their retaining their right to levy and collect school taxes. Socioeconomic differences and reduced educational b udgets may combine to form a "two-class system" in Alberta. For example, provinc ial government grants to school boards for kindergarten were cut by 50% in 1994. Some school b oards drew from their total budget to pay for a full kindergarten program of 400 hours of ins truction, while others charged parents up to $450 per school year to cover the difference betwee n a 200 and 400 hour kindergarten program. Many teachers were concerned that children from les s affluent families would not have access to full kindergarten. This is significant when early i ntervention is critical for students with any kind of special needs. Parents who have sufficient resou rces will "kick in additional money, further exacerbating the problem" of socioeconomic differen ces in Alberta's society. A large proportion of both the Americans and Canadians urged each othe r to "never abandon the role of equity" and to declare publicly that "we care about these kids. Further, they cautioned policy makers to remember when they are deciding how to downsize tha t "public schools are the only public organizations that have the role of servicing all s tudents." Testing as Accountability A belief that "schools aren't accountable" led the provincial government to renew and expand its emphasis on standardized testing. Person nel from the department of education reported that they were "going toward a results-bas ed focus" in their province-wide evaluation of students in grades 3, 6, 9, and 12. The search for "good outcome measures" includes plans to publish "school-by-school test comparisons" and "hi gh school grants attached to credit modules completed." These proposals elicited many concerns among ASCD p ersonnel and those individuals meeting with them. The concerns included the approp riateness of standardized tests for inner-city and immigrant students. It was pointed out that muc h of what is done in schools cannot be measured by standardized achievement tests and that standardized "testing is also very costly." Advocates of testing were asked to consider alterna tive evaluation methodologies such as portfolio, performance, and authentic assessments. However, some present at the October meetings were not optimistic that teachers would be able to implement newer evaluation strategies successfully. Instead, teachers may have to live, at least in the short term, with traditional models of student evaluation, particula rly when the claim is made by government spokespersons that "accountability for results [sho uld be] decentralized." While the term "decentralized accountability" remained undefined, its use increased the concern that standardized test results will be used to compare s chools, students, and teachers with insufficient regard for demographic differences among students a nd communities. Site-Based Management Participants in the October meetings in Calgary rec ognized that the term "site-based management," sometimes referred to as "school-based decision management," has become central to the discussion about North American scho ols. Although the term is used generally to refer to the devolution of educational decision mak ing to the school level from school district and government offices, site-based management (SBM) mea ns different things to different people. To some, it means that school principals have control over virtually all aspects of their schools' programs, while others believe it refers to a "bala nce between decision making in schools and in


7 of 12district offices." The lack of clarity surrounding SBM caused several meeting participants to raise concerns about "how far site-based management shoul d go" and about replacing "management at only the government level with management at the pr incipal and/or parent levels only." It was noted during the meetings that researchers h ave failed to find a correlation between SBM and student achievement. However, the American ASCD members who had experience with the implementation of SBM reported that it led parents, educators, and community members to be more satisfied with their levels of involveme nt in school affairs. One Albertan who represented a teachers' association stated that SBM in its best form can cause a "movement from appointment leadership to leadership through democr acy." Other Albertans agreed, saying that "collaboration is better than competition to solve problems" and that "reform occurs best when all of us are working toward common goals." One ASCD representative, who was also a senior cent ral office administrator in a large urban environment in the United States, cautioned t hat SBM in his school district was successful when it was implemented on a voluntary basis. He re ported that the concept worked less well when "the politicians became involved and things be came mandated." An Alberta teacher responded by noting that SBM is anything but volunt ary in Alberta and another voiced the hope that SBM in the province's schools would result in "significant changes about decision making and not just window dressing." Principals and teachers need new decision-making co nditions when SBM is implemented in their schools. Even though most teachers "want i nput into decisions and want to know how decisions are made," some will "need to learn how t o work within a democratic environment." Importantly, they "need time to negotiate and compr omise." Principals, especially, are put into difficult positions if their staff members fail to realize that, even under optimal conditions for SBM, principals still are responsible for articulat ing the ideas and decisions of their school boards. As well, principals must avoid jeopardizing teacher commitment to SBM by behaving too often in an undemocratic fashion. Both teachers and principals must learn how to identify their decision-making priorities and to gather the kinds of data that will aid decision making. Similarly, school personnel must know which areas c onstitute their decision-making domain and which are under the control of central office staff and their school board. Proponents of SBM must consider that, while it is a concept with great potential, SBM also contains several pitfalls. For instance, Ameri cans familiar with the implementation of SBM stated that costs to school districts can rise when SBM involves school-based budgeting because "with SBM you lose economy of scale." In addition, decision making in one school "affects feeder school instruction and grouping" and school personnel "must consider decisions that impact other schools." In the same vein, staffing c an be a contentious issue with school boards and school staffs debating their respective rights to deploy teachers. Teachers and parents can become alarmed about the number of committees of wh ich they are members and the corresponding time commitment required of them. Adv ocates of SBM also should recognize that its implementation can result in inequities and unh ealthy competition among schools. Finally, SBM supporters should ask themselves how much latit ude members of school communities really have when curricula, large-scale testing, an d the appointment of superintendents are controlled by the provincial government. Is there a danger that the future of SBM in Alberta is jeopardized when teachers are faced by a time consu ming and difficult task accompanied by little or no control over major educational issues?Public Relations ASCD personnel and the majority of those with whom they met during their time in Calgary concurred that calls for increased accounta bility for students and teachers arose from a lack of public understanding of what transpires in schools. Therefore, the educational community


8 of 12must act more vigorously on its obligation to infor m parents and the general public about school programs. This should be done because students are the dependents of the taxpayers who fund schools and because satisfied members of the public are schools' strongest allies. Educators should note that the good will generated by a satis fied public "lasts a long time" and is an essential component of successful school reform. In fact, governments are unlikely to listen to requests from school personnel who are not supporte d by their communities; as one educator from Alberta said, "We need a parent movement to ha ve an impact on the government." How is community support generated in an Alberta co ntext in which teachers in "individual schools think they are doing a good job ... parent surveys come back positive," but a large segment "of the population has no one in scho ols." One American participant in the Calgary discussions responded by stating that accountabilit y contains an affective component and that "building and rebuilding [school] communities is mo re emotional than intellectual." To elaborate, she asked, "Do parents love your school? Do people who do NOT have children in school? ... Do the tax-base people love your school ?" These are critical questions, she said, because "if you like people you do not judge them a s harshly in rough times." The Albertans involved in the discussions agreed th at effective communication was a critical part of strong school-community relations, especially when school councils were mandated in recent changes to the provincial school act. Both the Alberta and American teachers insisted that the marketing strategies employed by schools must support good educational practice. They also recognized that long term, effe ctive public relations are as important to schools in the 1990s as they are to business endeav ors like real estate agencies, hamburger chains, and motion picture companies. Those who feared that a heightened focus on public relations was a precursor to a parental take-over of schools were reminded that most parent s do not want to govern daily life in individual schools. Rather, most parents desire no more than what parents in well recognized schools have always received; that is, parents want information about what their children are doing, a hospitable environment when they go to the ir children's schools, and involvement in critical decisions that affect their individual chi ldren. Therefore, it is incumbent upon school staffs to ensure that the entire parent body has th e opportunity to provide input into issues that generate a high level of concern. However, both tea chers and community members should recognize the diversity of opinion that is predicta ble when large numbers of people are involved, accept the fact that compromise is a necessary part of collaborative decision-making processes, and understand that not all decisions will be regar ded highly by all. Expanding Partnerships School partnerships with other community organizati ons, both public and private, always have existed in urban centres throughout North Amer ica. Recent budget cuts and conservative educational polices simply have been a catalyst for educators to look even further afield for partners. As well, the success of school-business c ollaborations have prompted school districts to consider forming consortia with a wider variety of members. For example, one ASCD member reported on a school-university-business collaborat ion in North Carolina that provided several benefits, including a more powerful voice for educa tion, reduced isolation for teachers, higher trust among interest groups, and greater diversity of people and perspectives. Other educators who had positive partnership experi ences stated that they learned from the practices of successful businesses. However, they c autioned that much "depends on the mental attitude of those who come to the table." All membe rs should be committed to making the partnership work well. Further, every effort should be made to establish a pattern of open communication. In addition, members should focus on benefits for children rather than salaries or working conditions for staff members. Instead, part ner support for schools can take the form of


9 of 12personnel, space, and supply exchanges. Finally, co nsortia members should strive to focus continually on their collective vision for schools and use that vision to guide their activities. Some Cautions Concerns about the apparent directions that educati onal policies may be heading also surfaced during the meetings between ASCD represent atives and educational interest groups in Alberta. A major apprehension was the apparent lack of direction for changes to the province's educational system. Participants described the feel ing of uncertainty in a series of questions: "Whose plan is this?" "When is the end coming?" "Wh at does this look like when we are finished?" "Are these real changes or a series of f ads?" A second contentious topic was school choice. The i ndividuals involved in the Calgary meetings worried that school choice could contribut e to community fragmentation, competition among schools that exacerbates socioeconomic inequi ties, and institutional neglect of students from disadvantaged circumstances. Furthermore, scho ol choice could lead to school communities wanting to offer the best in facilities and equipme nt to become dependent upon corporate sponsors without asking themselves why businesses a re willing to provide support to schools; some motives will be altruistic but others more sel f-serving. Even site-based management was identified as a poss ible topic of controversy. For example, some school administrators could fail to i nvolve their staffs in decisions. School boards, central office administrators, and school s taffs might be unsuccessful in their attempts to clarify their respective areas of responsibility. I ndeed, the combination of budget cuts and a corresponding reduced ability of schools to offer i nstruction in optional areas like kindergarten, the fine arts, and life skills limits the scope of decisions that schooland district-level personnel can make. Similarly, the sheer fact that the implem entation of SBM in Alberta was mandatory and large-scale could jeopardize its achievement, e specially when adequate resources for staff development were not forthcoming. Teacher morale was identified in the discussions as a significant barrier to successful educational change. Stress levels were high among A lberta's teachers as they struggled with a series of mixed messages which included the percept ions of their students' parents that schools are generally successful, the exclusion of teachers voices in critical decision making, and government mandates for massive educational change. The messages caused some teacher representatives to the meetings to declare that the provincial government was "not elected to change the social fabric of our province." The teac hers also worried that members of the Alberta government cared more about budgets than they did a bout children. The rapid pace of change to Alberta's education sys tem was cited as contributing to low teacher morale. Teachers said they were beginning t o ask if what they do is important or even useful to policy makers. As well, they wondered whe n the general public would understand the potentially negative consequences of the educationa l changes under way in the province. One individual stated his opinion that "teachers wo uld rather blame someone else than change" and the "only person who likes change is a wet baby." However, others noted that teachers did not oppose all the changes initiated i n Alberta. For example, teachers and their association supported the consolidation of smaller school districts and recognized that change is likely to elicit fear and uncertainty on the part o f those affected. Also, it was pointed out that policy makers should understand that demoralized te achers are unlikely to embrace mandated changes. Furthermore, government change agents were advised to recognize the importance of working collaboratively with a strong teachers' ass ociation with approximately 26,000 members. Some Suggestions


10 of 12 Important observations were emphasized as a result of the discussions among ASCD members and their Canadian hosts. The insights were not new but their importance was accentuated by the sense of urgency that accompanie d their expression. Successful change to education systems should be ba sed on a thorough and accurate understanding of existing conditions, the advantage s and disadvantages of available alternatives, and positive experiences in similar l earning contexts. Communities striving for high levels of public sati sfaction with their schools should articulate a commonly accepted purpose for schools, complete with clear and reasonable expectations for all players plus a description of appropriate curriculum content. A strong education system should be sensitive to th e needs of students, if for no other reason than the fact that "students are future taxp ayers." Sustainable school change should be based on input from teachers, parents, students, and community members; no important interest group shou ld be excluded from the change process. Significant educational change should be implemente d over a period of time that most teachers feel is necessary. Members of all educational interest groups should f eel morally obligated to respond to the diverse needs of students. Change agents should expect conflict to increase as innovations are introduced, especially when stakes are high and perceptions are polarized. Change initiatives should include resources for sta ff development for those responsible for implementing the reforms. Conclusion An earlier report (Webber, 1995) cast doubt on the likelihood that mandates for educational change in Alberta would be implemented smoothly or easily. Moreover, that account stated that systemic educational change in Alberta may not be a model for other provinces and that it was unclear how the changes would improve c onditions for student learning. Those contentions are supported by the discussion summary presented in the present article. In fact, the tenor of the discussions between the ASCD visitors and Albertans leads to the conclusion that resistance and concern actually may have increased rather than dissipated. It should be noted that the willingness of meeting participants to speak op enly and frankly was positive. However, the discussions were characterized by sufficient tensio n to suggest that an easing of widespread concern is in not yet in sight. Acknowledgements The contributions of two groups of educators who ga thered information for this report are gratefully acknowledged. One group consisted of the following members of Alberta ASCD: Michael Dzwiniel, Judith Hart, Ross Jaques, Wendy J ensen, Jim Latimer, Nancy Lukey, Peter Prest, Irene Naested, Jim Tayler, and Nina Wasilenk off. The second group was comprised of graduate students in the Faculty of Education at Th e University of Calgary: Kim Anderson, Karen Barry, Ken Campbell, Carol Clark, Robyn Cochr ane, Carolyn Crang, Lee Cummins, Julie Kearns, Berny Sproule, Pat Sproule, and Gail Thaube rger. References Alberta Teachers' Association. (1993). Trying to te ach. Edmonton, AB: Author.


11 of 12 Aronowitz, S., & Giroux, H. A. (1993). Education st ill under siege (2nd ed.). Toronto, ON: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.Barlow, M., & Robertson, H. (1994). Class warfare: The assault on Canada's Schools. Toronto, ON: Key Porter Books.Barth, R., & Pansegrau, M. (1994). On making school s better places: Creating a school vision. The Canadian Administrator, 34 (1), 1-9.Government of Alberta. (1994). The Alberta educatio n business plan. The Canadian Administrator, 33 (7), 6-7.Hallinger, P., Murphy, J., & Hausman, C. (1993). Co nceptualizing school restructuring: Principals' and teachers' perceptions. In C. Dimmoc k (Ed.), School-based management and school effectiveness. London: Routledge.McConaghy, T. (1994). Alberta education under siege Phi Delta Kappan, 75, 500-501. McLaughlin, M. (1992). Employability skills profile : What are employers looking for? Ottawa, Ontario: The Conference Board of Canada.Webber, C.F. (1995). The early effects of mandated change in Alberta. The Canadian Administrator, 34 (6), 1-11.Copyright 1995 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesEPAA can be accessed either by visiting one of its seve ral archived forms or by subscribing to the LISTSERV known as EPAA at (To sub scribe, send an email letter to whose sole contents are SUB EPAA y our-name.) As articles are published by the Archives they are sent immediately to the EPAA subscribers and simultaneously archived in three forms. Articles ar e archived on EPAA as individual files under the name of the author and the Volume and article number. For e xample, the article by Stephen Kemmis in Volume 1, Number 1 of the Archives can be retrieved by sending an e-mail letter to LI and making the single line in the letter read GET KEMMIS V1N1 F=MAIL. For a table of contents of the entire ARCHIVES, send the following e-mail message to LIST INDEX EPAA F=MAIL, that is, send an e-mail letter and make its single line read INDEX EPAA F=MAIL. The World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is Policy Analysis Archives are "gophered" at To receive a publication guide for submitting artic les, see the EPAA World Wide Web site or send an e-mail letter to and include the single l ine GET EPAA PUBGUIDE F=MAIL. It will be sent to you by return e-mail. General questions about ap propriateness of topics or particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, Glass@asu.ed u or reach him at College of Education, Arizona Sta te University, Tempe, AZ 85287-2411. (602-965-2692)Editorial Board John CovaleskieAndrew Coulson


12 of 12jcovales@nmu.eduandrewco@ix.netcom.comAlan Davis Mark E. Thomas F. Alison I. Arlen Gullickson Ernest R. Aimee Craig B. Howley u56e3@wvnvm.bitnet William Richard M. Jaeger Benjamin Thomas Dewayne Mary P. Les Susan Bobbitt Anne L. Hugh G. Richard C. Anthony G. Rud Dennis Jay Robert Robert T.