Friday, October 8, 2010

Local autonomy

Decisions about kids should be made by the people closest to the kids. It makes little sense to me to drive the decisions further and further away from the classroom teacher, but that is exactly what is happening in education systems all over the world. More and more people outside of the classroom are garnishing more and more power over those inside the classroom. 

In Red Deer Public School District, we talk a lot about differentiated instruction and how important it is for the teacher to know their children so that they may tailor instruction to the kids needs; however, in Red Deer, we are not applying that same pedagogy to our assessment practices. Rather, we are creating more and more command and standardized assessments that are being made by people other than the classroom teacher.

Last night at the Red Deer Public School Board Trustee open forum, a small number of concerned citizens showed up to listen to each candidate. Almost every single candidate voiced their sincere concern for local governance. Time and time again, trustees echoed the sentiment that decisions must be kept locally.

I agree.

But Trustees need to understand that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. It is just as wrong for the Provincial Government to rob local School Districts of their local autonomy as it is for the School Districts to rob local autonomy from the schools. (To take this a step further: it is just as wrong for the principal to rob local autonomy from his or her teachers as it is for a teacher to rob local autonomy from their students) 

If it is irresponsible to expect a student in Grande Prairie (city in northern Alberta) to be taught in the exact same manner as a student in Lethbridge (city in southern Alberta), then we have to understand that it is assessment malpractice to expect a student at Normandeau (a school in northern Red Deer) to be assessed in the exact same manner as the student at Westpark (a school in southern Red Deer). 

Remember that the heart of local autonomy is with the child, and the best decisions for the child are made by the child in collaboration with a safe and caring adult who actually spends time with the child.


  1. It is interesting to note that in Sweden teachers are given that local autonomy (and the professional respect) to assess their students.

    Glad to hear that you are taking candidates to task & helping to educate them on what is truly best for the students.

  2. Good for you. When I went to school in the 1950s and 60s in London, England, local autonomy was the norm, and I agree, movement away from that has not been in the best interest of either student or teacher.

    I recall having a conversation with my daughter's then School Principal the year after the UK had introduced its National Curriculum (1992) and he was complaining that he could no longer spend time teaching in the classroom because he was in his office nearly all day filling in forms. I think the left-brained administration of school education has increased beyond reason since then.

  3. Another great post, Joe! If elected as trustee in Okotoks, I am hoping to encourage alternate goals on school education plans to replace PAT results. My long term goal is to convince AB Ed that each school should develop its own assessment plan to be accountable to its unique shareholders. As an educator for 20 years, I feel it is time for more educators to move to the board table. Keep up with the great discourse!!

  4. Hi Mr. Bower,
    I'm Algia Autrey,a student in Dr. Strange EDM
    310 class, at the University of South Alabama. I agree with this post. I know the best way to teach a child is to first know what they want to learn. Since teaching starts at home I think that the parents and students, should play apart in what the child want to learn. I think more schools should engage in the pedagogy of autonomy , it will be very successful.


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