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Alberta Education — Processes to Manage the Student Class Size Initiative Followup

Report of the Auditor General — February 2020
 

CHANGED CIRCUMSTANCE

As the department has eliminated targeted Class Size Initiative funding, our 2018 recommendation is no longer applicable.

Background

In the early 2000s, the Department of Education examined analysis that concluded reducing student class sizes can have a positive impact on improving learning outcomes. The department decided in 2004 it would implement a Class Size Initiative to reduce average student class size in each school jurisdiction. School jurisdictions would use initiative funding to hire and retain teachers to reduce class sizes. Total funding provided to school jurisdictions under the Class Size Initiative to March 31, 2019 was $3.4 billion.

In 2018, we audited the design and operating effectiveness of Department of Education processes to define the desired results of the Class Size Initiative, to develop an action plan to achieve those results and to measure, monitor and report on the initiative. We found the department did not have effective processes as the department:

  • did not have an action plan since the end of the 2006-2007 school year to achieve the desired results of the initiative
  • stopped requiring school jurisdictions, from the 2008-2009 school year onwards, to report on how they were using initiative funding
  • had not analyzed since the end of the 2006-2007 school year why school jurisdictions have not achieved the department’s desired result for the kindergarten to Grade 3 group
  • used average class sizes as its target which has inherent limitations as it obscures the actual number of classes that have not met the Alberta Commission on Learning suggested levels

We recommended that if the department decided to continue the Class Size Initiative, it develop an action plan and improve processes to regularly monitor and report on the initiative.

Update

On October 15, 2019, Alberta Education released its 2019 Class Size Initiative Review report. The department reported that targeted grant funding to reduce school class sizes – especially from kindergarten to Grade 3 – did not deliver desired results. The department concluded that “Alberta’s Class Size Initiative does not appear to be effective, and the class size grant’s targeted funding may be better put to use to support other priorities to improve student learning”.2 The department cited research that classroom complexity and teacher quality be potential focus areas.

The department also reported school jurisdictions' desire to roll targeted class size initiative funding into the base instruction funding amount as this would provide greater funding flexibility and local autonomy on spending. Budget 2019, released October 24, 2019, eliminated targeted grant funding under the Class Size Initiative, reallocating funding to base operational funding for the school year 2019-2020.4 The department is currently developing a new kindergarten to Grade 12 Assurance and Funding Framework with planned completion by September 2020.

 
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