Survey depicts grim realities for Alberta’s teachers, staff, students

A Red Deer teacher spends thousands of dollars out of her own pocket to buy books for her classroom.

A Red Deer teacher spends thousands of dollars out of her own pocket to buy books for her classroom.

Another teacher in Central Alberta is frustrated that her students are “suffering in silence” because they are not getting the attention they need.

The comments are part of Alarm Bells Ringing: Voices from Schools, a report on an online survey conducted by Public Interest Alberta in November and December.

Public Interest executive director Bill Moore-Kilgannon said the survey depicts the grim realities for teachers, staff and students in Alberta classrooms.

“Clearly for far too many children, they are in classrooms where they are not getting the supports that are necessary to show their full potential,” said Moore-Kilgannon.

There were 434 responses from teachers, parents and educational staff across the province, including those in Red Deer, Ponoka, Blackfalds and other Central Alberta communities.

“It’s shocking to know in this wealthy province we have so many of those classroom scenarios that are just not conductive for good education,” said Moore-Kilgannon.

“Was it surprising? No, because we have been hearing it time and time again over the years.”

Moore-Kilgannon said the problems are being driven by a growing population and the fact that the province has not retained the teaching staff to keep up with the increased numbers in classrooms.

A few years ago, special needs funding was changed and a more inclusive delivery approach to education was introduced in Alberta.

“Now we’re seeing that global funding is resulting in special needs assistants running from class to class as if the children they just left are now all of a sudden going to behave perfectly while they are out of the room,” said Moore-Kilgannon. “Clearly we need to be looking at these classroom conditions and trying to improve the situation. I am strong supporter of inclusion for children with special needs but not to the detriment of other children.”

Most of the concerns expressed in the survey were about “growing class size, increasingly diverse and complex classroom composition, and a lack of resources to address the varied needs of children in those classes.”

Eighty per cent of the respondents said there is not enough support staff in the classrooms.

A Grade 10/11 teacher in Red Deer commented on the challenges with booking support staff for the day.

“They are likely already booked and we have to wait another day,” said the teacher. “I have never gotten help from education assistants for students who have behavioral IPPs as they are often assigned elsewhere. We actually had a decrease in education assistants last year when our student body increased by almost 200 students.”

A Chinook’s Edge Grade 3 teacher wrote about the challenges in dealing with the impact of children with behavioural needs.

“The three very loud, disruptive, frustrated kids reading, writing, spelling at an early Grade 1 level tend to monopolize my attention,” said the teacher. “The five quieter kids reading, writing and spelling at a Grade 1 level tend to ‘suffer’ in silence and I get to them when I can. The other 18 kids don’t get enough of my attention. It’s not fair.”

In another case, a Grade 3 teacher in Red Deer wrote that no one person can do it and people should stop blaming teachers.

“I have spent thousands of dollars of my own money trying to make my classroom experiences a rich learning environment. So the challenges are time, money and having to do so much of it on my own in isolation.”

Moore-Kilgannon said his organization is deeply concerned that there may be thousands of teacher jobs on the line next year, in light of the dropping oil prices and an anticipated five per cent cut to education funding in the provincial budget.

“If they follow through on these massive cuts, these type of classroom conditions are going to multiply dramatically,” he said.

Parents also wrote about the lack of support for teachers.

In response to a question on the issue of impact of large classes, combined with complexity and high needs, one Blackfalds parent said the “teacher has too many children that have unique needs beyond the special needs children.

“Supports for these children are not funded the same way as children with special needs, requiring schools to pull resources for that pool to deal with it when the funds are for the special needs child,” the parent said. “Everyone suffers.”

A Lacombe parent whose son is non verbal and has severe global developmental delay said the teacher has so little help that some days she cannot eat lunch.

Go to www.pialberta.org view the survey results.

Public Interest Alberta is a non-profit, non-partisan, provincewide organization focused on education and advocacy on public interest issues.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,183 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

50.5% of all active cases are variants of concern

Whistle Stop Cafe owner Christopher Scott and his sister Melodie pose for a photo at the Mirror restaurant. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Alberta Health Services delivers ‘closure order’ to Mirror restaurant

Alberta Health Services says it has delivered a closure order to a… Continue reading

Flags bearers hold the Canadian flag high during the Flags of Remembrance ceremony in Sylvan Lake in this October file photo. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
New project to pay tribute to Canadians killed in Afghanistan

Flags of Remembrance scheduled for Sept. 11

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta vaccine rollout expanding to front-line health-care workers

More than 240,000 eligible health-care workers can begin booking vaccine appointments starting… Continue reading

File photo
Security and police block the entrance to GraceLife Church as a fence goes up around it near Edmonton on Wednesday April 7, 2021. The Alberta government has closed down and fenced off a church that has been charged with refusing to follow COVID-19 health rules. Alberta Health Services, in a statement, says GraceLife church will remain closed until it shows it will comply with public-health measures meant to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hundreds gather to support Alberta church shut down for ignoring COVID-19 orders

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — Hundreds of people are gathered outside an Alberta… Continue reading

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. The Canadian Armed Forces is developing contingency plans to keep COVID-19 from affecting its ability to defend the country and continue its missions overseas amid concerns potential adversaries could try to take advantage of the crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian special forces supported major Iraqi military assault on ISIL last month

OTTAWA — Some Canadian soldiers supported a major military offensive last month… Continue reading

A woman pays her repects at a roadblock in Portapique, N.S. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The joint public inquiry in response to the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia has announced a mandate that includes a probe of the RCMP response as well as the role of gender-based violence in the tragedy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Creating permanent memorial to Nova Scotia mass shooting victims a delicate task

PORTAPIQUE, N.S. — Creating a memorial for those killed in Nova Scotia’s… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Erin O’Toole says ‘I didn’t hide who I was’ running for Conservative leader

OTTAWA — Erin O’Toole assured Conservative supporters that he never hid who… Continue reading

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau, second from left, celebrates his goal with teammates, from left to right, Matthew Tkachuk, Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson, of Sweden, during second period NHL hockey action against the Edmonton Oilers, in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Jacob Markstrom earns shutout as Flames blank Oilers 5-0 in Battle of Alberta

CALGARY — It took Sean Monahan breaking out of his goal-scoring slump… Continue reading

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia's opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan's government, but they say Monday's throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province's economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s opposition parties acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented… Continue reading

A grizzly bear walks on a treadmill as Dr. Charles Robbins, right, offers treats as rewards at Washington State University's Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center in this undated handout photo. Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails like those commonly used by people, which can affect land management practices in wild areas, says an expert who has written a paper on their travel patterns. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Anthony Carnahan *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Grizzly bears prefer walking on gentle slopes at a leisurely pace like humans: study

VANCOUVER — Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails… Continue reading

FILE - In this July 27, 2020, file photo, nurse Kathe Olmstead prepares a shot that is part of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., in Binghamton, N.Y. Moderna said Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, its COVID-19 shot provides strong protection against the coronavirus that's surging in the U.S. and around the world. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)
The COVID-19 wasteland: searching for clues to the pandemic in the sewers

OTTAWA — When Ottawa Public Health officials are trying to decide whether… Continue reading

Most Read