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New education model will stress engagement

MVT kathleen finnigan 1
Kathleen Finnigan, Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools superintendent. Submitted photo

Alberta Education’s new assurance framework model will focus in part on ensuring broad community and stakeholder engagement at the local level, says Kathleen Finnigan, superintendent of Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools (RDCRS).

All school authorities in the province will transition to the new framework in 2021-22. The RDCRS division includes schools in Olds and Innisfail.

The new model shifts from accountability to assurance with a focus on ensuring education research drives practice, she said. 

“Assurance is a broader concept than accountability and there is really a focus on demonstrating to stakeholders and communities that the education system is meeting the needs of students and that students are successful,” said Finnigan.

“The assurance is achieved through real, authentic engagement between education partners and by creating and sustaining the cultures of continuous improvement.”

Key elements of the new framework include accountability, transparency and alignment in addition to a focus on developing continuous improvement cycles whereby goals and strategies are created and measured throughout the process, she said. 

“Local priorities are the main driver to the planning and it is always at the forefront. It is a nice balance of provincial and local measures and that focus on continuous improvement with evidence, engagement and learning.

“I feel that we have a really good education plan because we have goals, strategies and measures, and we will continue to look at that stakeholder engagement to ensure that we have the voices of all of our stakeholders, our staff, our parents and our students.”

A committee formed at RDCRS central office is working on implementing the plan. The group has set out a number of key questions it will examine in helping move the process forward, including the following: 

• What evidence are we using to plan for system improvement?

• How do we purposefully engage our communities and stakeholders?

• How will our work processes shift to meeting the assurance framework?

• What are we trying to achieve or what will this look like when we get to where we want to be?

• How will we know we have achieved our outcome?

• Does what we are doing make sense?

The committee will start engaging the public in a month of so, she said.

Asked what form that public engagement will take, she replied, “We are looking at a couple of mechanisms, like online tools. In the past we’ve used Google Forms and we wondering if there is another tool that we can use to get a more vigorous participation.”

The current timeline will see the RDCRS implementation plan presented to the board for possible approval in April or May, and the approved plan submitted to Alberta Education by May 31, she said.

“It will start to be implemented in September 2021,” she said.

Dan Singleton

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