The future availability of class-size data to help evaluate Alberta’s education system is unclear with the recent elimination of government funding aimed at minimizing classroom sizes.
On Monday, a statement from Education Minister Adriana LaGrange’s office said a working group will examine how to best measure clasroom improvements, including class sizes.
Calgary parent Sean Dunn, a volunteer with Support Our Students Alberta, said that by eliminating class-size funding, the government removed the requirement for school boards to report class sizes, which provides insight and classroom transparency.
“We wouldn’t accept this in any other way; if the government was to say we’re no longer measuring emergency room wait times, we’re no longer measuring ambulance availability,” said Dunn, who wrote a report on the 2019 class size initiative review.
“There was no reason, regardless of what they do with funding, or the funding model, there’s no reason to put earplugs in and bury your head in the sand and pretend that class sizes aren’t an issue.”
In an October report, Alberta Education called the class-size funding initiative a failure, while school jurisdictions preferred to see the money included in base instructional funding to provide more flexibility to meet specific needs.
“The minister is currently creating a working group which will consist of education partners who will examine how to best address complexities in the modern classroom, including class size.
“One aspect of this that the group will consider is how to best measure improvement in the classroom,” said ministerial spokesman Colin Aitchison in a statement about class size data.
Dunn said in 2004, the provincial Conservative government required school jurisdictions to report class sizes as part of the class size initiative funding. Now, there is 15 years of data on the average class size, and more importantly, the range of class sizes that make up that average.
“We had data for every year, for every single class, in every single school. There’s no guarantee school boards will collect the data, or make it publicly available, or do it in a consistent way, or centralized to see it in one place.”
Dunn said cuts to education funding may impact the ability of school boards to collect the information.
Bruce Buruma, community relations director for Red Deer Public Schools, said the district has not been told anything about the government’s expectations regarding class size data.
“We continue to monitor class sizes,” Buruma said.
But he said the district’s overall funding was cut by $3.5 million due to the elimination of class size funding, support for school fees and classroom improvement funding.