education

Catholic schools popular with parents across Canada

More than one of every five students in Alberta and Saskatchewan attend a Roman Catholic separate school.

Printer-friendly version
Expansion in Charter School Jurisdictions in US; Stagnation in Canada

Charter schools are autonomous public schools that provide innovative or enhanced education programs designed to improve student learning. Operating outside of local school boards and governed by their own board of trustees, they are accountable for pursuing and meeting their charter. Typically exempt from many statutes and regulations that govern traditional public schools, they are not required to hire unionized teachers and may use non-traditional pedagogy or curriculum. They do not charge tuition and are typically fully funded for operational expenses.

The idea of schools by charter, although discussed in the 1970s, was robustly proposed in 1988, with the first American state (Minnesota) passing charter school law in 1991. Growth in the numbers of states allowing charter schools has been strong in the US, with the period from 1994 to 1999 showing fast-paced growth. In 1994, 11 states had passed charter school legislation, and by 1999 fully 36 states (including DC) allowed charter schools. By 2015 a total of 43 US educational jurisdictions allowed charter schools.

The number of students attending charter schools in the US has grown dramatically. From 1999/00 to 2012/13 the number of students enrolled in charter schools grew almost seven-fold, from about 340,000 students to nearly 2.27 million. Fully 4.4 percent of the student population (in states that allow charter schools) attends a charter school. Although in Washington, DC, almost 46 percent of students attend charter schools, the state with the next highest percentage of students enrolled is Arizona, at 12.8 percent.

Growth in Canada has been much more stagnant. Only one province—Alberta—introduced charter school legislation, in 1994. Provision for 15 charters was created. To date, no other Canadian province has been added to the list of jurisdictions allowing charter schools and the cap on numbers of charters remains at 15 in Alberta.

Student enrolment in Alberta has quadrupled and indicators exist that wait lists are common, even substantial in several instances. Nevertheless, the numbers of students attending charter schools in Alberta are modest with 2,073 students enrolled in 1999/00 and 8,418 in 2012/13. Only 1.4 percent of Alberta students were enrolled in charter schools in 2012/13.

The research on charter schools in the US shows that they are particularly effective in improving student performance for those students who are underserved by traditional public schools. Leading studies show performance improvements for students disadvantaged by poverty, from an ethnic minority group, or with low baseline entering scores.

Charter schools also showed positive effects for students who gained access to an over-subscribed charter school by winning a lottery.  That said, charter schools vary widely from one another and not all showed improved student performance effects. The charter school advantage was found for schools with certain characteristics: urban, an academic focus, a disciplined approach, longer school days or school years, and open for more years (maturation/vintage effect).

In Alberta, charter schools were originally intended, in 1994, to provide choice and competition in the education sector, and to inject more diversification in the education market. Today they are expected to serve as pilot sites and incubators of research and finely-tuned innovative practices. Currently 13 charter schools are in operation, spread over 20 campuses with mandates that vary from one to another including “direct instruction” schools, schools for gifted students, English language learners, and those based on arts, music, science, culture, personalized learning, single gender (girls), or at-risk youth.

A total of 44 studies on charter schools in Alberta were identified and reviewed for this paper. While the research shows that the schools are innovative in their delivery of education, it was surprising that investigations of charter school effects on improvements in student achievement was not more common. Still, taken together, the studies showed that charter schools in Alberta “provide enhanced student learning outcomes.”  The research found enhanced scores, higher rankings, and more benchmark achievement for charter students than for their counterparts, usually after controlling for socio-economic differences. Furthermore, charter schools were found to provide more choice for parents and students, and evidence exists that, particularly in some school districts, they exert positive competitive pressure on area schools.

Thus, although the expansion of charter schools has been tightly controlled in Alberta, they have earned a strong presence in the public education landscape. The vast majority of US states have now passed charter school legislation and enrolments have grown markedly in that country. Research from the US, and in a more limited way, from Canada, shows that charter schools offer enhanced student outcomes, particularly for some disadvantaged groups of students. As such, they are worthy of attention.

The myth of education spending cuts in Canada

It’s budget season again, with provincial governments across Canada delivering their annual budgets amid a backdrop of falling commodity prices and provincial deficits. And once again, a mythology surrounding education spending will likely influence spending choices from coast to coast.

The Myth of Education Spending Cuts in British Columbia

The provincial government will deliver its budget today, amid a backdrop of fallen commodity prices and a generally sluggish economy. In light of British Columbia’s mounting government debt, vigilance and restraint will be key.

Education reform could help address Ontario's financial woes

Ontario’s financial status quo is not sustainable. That’s the conclusion of numerous independent analyses, the former provincial treasurer, and the province’s own commission on reform of public sector services. Yet despite these warnings, the province has allowed an unsustainable set of fiscal policies to persist while missing opportunities for reform.

Independent schools offer BC parents shelter from labour strife

As BC parents and students struggle with the teachers’ strike and prospects of a significantly delayed school year, it’s worth understanding how and why one-in-eight students (and their parents) in the province is unaffected by the strike.
Printer-friendly version

Teacher compensation in Canada is stuck in a time warp. It is determined by a rigid salary schedule based on tenure and advanced degrees—factors that have little if any positive impact on student achievement. Outside of the teaching profession, surveys suggest that close to three-fourths of Canadian employees already receive performance-based and variable pay. In fact, compensation based on results is the rule rather than the exception at more than eight out of 10 companies worldwide because this approach is one of the most effective strategies for attracting and retaining top talent.

Countries other than Canada realize that education practices of the past cannot meet the needs of a competitive 21st century world. Consequently, the number of countries implementing incentive pay for teachers is proliferating after decades of increasing education funding overall with no commensurate improvement in student achievement.

The 10 case studies included in this global survey were selected because they reward teachers based primarily or solely on student achievement. This criterion means that numerous compensation schemes are excluded because they reward teachers based largely (if not exclusively) on inputs such as seniority, length of time teaching, professional development, or credentials, and not on student achievement. Seven additional case studies are included as examples of approaches and policies to avoid. These programs attempted to accomplish goals similar to the effective incentive pay programs, but they failed for a variety of key reasons that policymakers should keep in mind. This global survey offers key lessons for policymakers. They include: define expectations for teachers with teachers; support teachers in meeting stated expectations; reward teachers as promised; build programs to last with smarter spending; and promote a culture of continuous improvement.

Subscribe to RSS - education