The transformational change needed in Saskatchewan is in health care. Our health care system pays out millions upon millions to CEOs and VPs each year while cutting front line staff – the people who actually make a difference in this world. By cutting management positions and putting some of that money towards front line services, Saskatchewan would have a quality health care system we could be proud of and will actually work for the people. Health care facilities should have LOCAL VOLUNTEER (or per diem) boards that report to the ministry as no one cares about their facility more than local people. They will be able to balance budgets and put the health of their communities first, not their paychecks. Health care is the most vital service in our province and often receives the most cuts in the most important places. Primary care is only making money for the province, it does not focus on the needs of the people. Yes, preventative medicine is a wonderful theory, but other situations arise that cannot only be solved in a clinic environment.
We must get away from the standardized testing– skill and drill– “quick fix” approach to improving educational outcomes– that would be my number one suggestion for real transformational change with regard to education policy in Saskatchewan.
More tests won’t help, It’s just not that easy. If we don’t improve upon poverty rates, determinants of health indicators, and structural and individual racism, educational outcomes will not improve. As Pasi Sahlberg (2015) reminds us,
..research on what explains students’ measured performance in school concludes 10-20% of variance in measured student achievement can be attributed to classrooms– that is, teachers and teaching– and a similar amount of variance comes from factors within the schools– that is, school climate, facilities, and leadership. In other words, up to two-thirds of what explains student achievement falls beyond the control of schools. (pp.134-135) Sahlberg, P. (2015). Finnish Lessons 2.0. NY: Teachers College Press.
Furthermore, a substantial portion of the differences found on standardized tests results can be attributed to the background socioeconomic conditions of the students’ family and peers. In fact, combined, these two factors alone accounted for 50% of the variance on PISA tests in reading, math, science.
Although our province has not adopted provincial-wide standardized testing per se, Saskatchewan students are actually being administered several standardized tests on a regular basis, throughout their school years; among these, depending on the division, are: the Early Years Evaluation (EYE) reading tests for Kindergarten-Grade 1 students, the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark reading assessments in Grade 3, the Diagnostic Numeracy Assessment (DNA) tests for math in grades 3, 6, and 8, and the Reading Assessment District-36 (RAD) tests in grades 6 and 8, as well as several other tests not mentioned. Combined these tests cost the education system millions each year.
We, as province, cannot continue to mandate more of the same “testing approach” to teaching and learning, and expect to find improvements. If we truly want to effectively address educational concerns, inequity, and positive improvements in graduation rates and later life outcomes, we must once again place our trust in our talented professional educators and increase the opportunities for our students to be taught by teacher-role models from a wide-diversity of backgrounds, with improved supports made available to classrooms as required. All of these must be implemented within a context where we as a collective seek drastic improvement to the deplorable socioeconomic conditions that wrongly hold so many back throughout our province.