Reforming teaching profession discipline

Overview

Taking steps to improve the safety and wellbeing of Kindergarten to Grade 12 students.

Overview

We are continuing to put students first by taking steps to fix Kindergarten to Grade 12 teacher and teacher leader disciplinary processes in Alberta.

Our actions will improve the education system by providing greater accountability, transparency and timeliness while ensuring legislation and related regulations that oversee these processes do not present a conflict of interest. Alberta Education continues to meet regularly with the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

We will consider any area of the discipline process for the teaching profession that needs improvements in legislation, related regulations and provincial policies.

The Education (Reforming Teacher Profession Discipline) Amendment Act received Royal Assent on May 31, 2022. It creates the Alberta Teaching Profession Commission and appoints an arm’s-length commissioner to oversee teacher and teacher leader conduct and competency complaints for the profession. The hiring process for the arm’s-length commissioner is currently underway. 

Teacher discipline in Alberta

Alberta is the only Canadian province where a teachers’ union has the sole responsibility for overseeing complaints of alleged unprofessional conduct and professional competence filed against their union members.

Almost all other Canadian provinces and territories, except Ontario and Saskatchewan, have models where the provincial government:

  • is responsible for issuing teaching certificates (a licence to practice)
  • is fully or partially responsible for addressing teacher discipline matters related to certification
  • plays a role in professional discipline matters with additional checks and balances in place, such as hearing and appeal committees comprised of teachers and public members who operate at arms-length from government to address and make judgements on these matters.

Other professions within Alberta have professional regulatory organizations that oversee matters of professional discipline for their members such as nurses, some doctors, and social workers. These organizations are self-regulated and are not part of the union, where one might exist.

Very few teachers in Alberta experience the teacher discipline process. When this process does take place, it must be fair, effective, and transparent.

Numbers at a glance

  • ~53,000 total practicing teachers and teacher leaders in Alberta.
  • ~46,000 members of the Alberta Teachers’ Association employed in public, separate and francophone school authorities.
  • ~7,000 teachers and teacher leaders currently employed in other schools.
  • 0.25% of practicing Alberta teachers and teacher leaders had complaints filed against them in 2020.
  • ~0.018% of Alberta teacher and teacher leaders had their certificates suspended or cancelled due to unprofessional conduct in 2020.

Transitioning to the Alberta Teaching Commission

Alberta is the only Canadian province where the teachers’ union assumes full responsibility for overseeing complaints of alleged unprofessional conduct and professional competence filed against their union members that questions a teacher’s suitability to hold a teaching certificate.

The Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) represents about 46,000 practicing teachers in the union.

The Registrar’s Office at Alberta Education oversees the remaining 7,000 practicing teachers and teacher leaders not part of the union. This includes teachers and teacher leaders employed in independent (private), charter, and First Nation schools, as well as superintendents and other central office teacher leaders.

From January 1, 2023, the Education Act Transitional Regulation will ensure a smooth transition once the Education (Reforming Teacher Profession Discipline) Amendment Act takes effect to create the Alberta Teaching Commission. For discipline matters that are underway when the new Act takes effect, transitional regulations will allow, throughout the first half of 2023, for matters to continue in accordance with the rules under which they were started. This regulation will see discipline responsibilities shift where appropriate to the Commissioner, Registrar and newly appointed members of hearing and appeal committees. This will allow for procedural fairness while also ensuring an efficient transition into a fully operational single model for teacher and teacher leader professionalism in Alberta. 

  • Current roles and responsibilities (until January 1, 2023)

    Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA)

    The ATA is a professional organization and is also the union for teachers and many teacher leaders (including school principals) employed in public and separate school authorities and francophone regional authorities across Alberta. The ATA also promotes and advances public education and serves as the advocate for its members.

    The ATA provides many services to its members, including:

    • collective bargaining
    • member services
    • pension and retirement services
    • oversight of professional conduct and competency (practice review) matters for its active union members
    • professional development
    • teacher qualifications service

    Registrar

    The Registrar at Alberta Education is appointed by the Minister of Education to issue the following certificates of practice to both teachers and teacher leaders in Alberta giving them the appropriate authority or licence to practice:

    • teaching certificates
    • leadership certificates
    • superintendent leadership certificates

    The Registrar’s Office oversees complaints of alleged unprofessional conduct and unskilled or incompetent teaching and leadership practice for members of the teaching profession who are not active members of the ATA to ensure student safety, public interest, and competent practice, while maintaining the honour and dignity of the teaching profession.

    The Registrar’s Office is also responsible for establishing and overseeing the review of standards of practice that are currently established by Ministerial Order for the teaching profession. This includes the Teaching Quality StandardLeadership Quality Standard, and Superintendent Leadership Quality Standard.

    The Registrar’s Office sets direction through the development of provincial policy, such as the Teacher Growth Supervision and Evaluation Policy that helps enable school authorities to develop and implement local policy to support practicing teachers in their professional growth, in areas such as annual professional growth plans.

    This policy also outlines the important role school principals play to support and guide teachers in their practice, through effective supervision. As well as specific circumstances in which an evaluation of a teacher’s professional practice may be required for purposes of certification, employment or determining competence. The Teaching Quality Standard is used in conjunction with this policy to ensure effective practice in teaching.

    The Registrar’s Office is also responsible for the regular review of legislation and related regulations that help ensure Alberta has excellent teachers and teacher leaders.

  • Current ATA disciplinary process (until January 1, 2023)

    Complaints filed with the ATA fall into 2 categories: complaints of alleged unprofessional conduct and complaints of professional competence (practice review) and are governed by the Teaching Profession Act and related bylaws established by the ATA.

    Alleged unprofessional conduct

    Under the Teaching Profession Act, unprofessional conduct is behaviour that is considered to be:

    • detrimental to the best interests of students, the public, or the teaching profession
    • does not meet the ATA’s Code of Professional Conduct
    • is the basis of a criminal conviction by indictment under the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Food and Drugs Act or the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

    Learn more about the Alberta Teachers’ Association Complaint Process - Alleged Unprofessional Conduct (PDF, 441 KB).

    Professional competence (practice review)

    The ATA defines professional competence (practice review) as the quality of a teacher’s professional practice in meeting the requirements identified in the Teaching Quality Standard.

    Under the Teaching Profession Act, the ATA has bylaw-making authority to develop a process to deal with professional competency complaints. The process to handle competency complaints is set out in the ATA’s Practice Review Bylaws.

    Learn more about the Alberta Teachers’ Association Complaint Process - Professional Competence (Practice Review) (PDF, 457 KB).

  • Current Registrar disciplinary process

    Complaints filed with the Registrar’s Office at Alberta Education also fall into 2 categories: complaints of alleged unprofessional conduct and complaints of alleged unskilled or incompetent practice, and are governed by the Practice Review of Teachers and Teacher Leaders Regulation established under the Education Act. The regulation sets out the complaint process.

    Alleged unprofessional conduct

    Under this regulation, unprofessional conduct involving a teacher or teacher leader is behaviour that:

    • is detrimental or harmful to the best interests of students, the public, teachers or teacher leaders
    • does not meet the professional conduct requirements found in the regulation
    • is the basis of a conviction by indictment under the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Food and Drugs Act or the Youth Criminal Justice Act

    Read: Alberta Education Registrar’s Complaint Process - Alleged Unprofessional Conduct - Teachers and Teacher Leaders (PDF, 507 KB)

    Read: Professional Conduct Requirements for Teachers and Teacher Leaders (PDF, 498 KB)

    Alleged unskilled or incompetent practice in teaching or leading

    The Registrar defines unskilled or incompetent teaching or leadership duties as a:

    Read: Alberta Education Registrar’s Complaint Process - Alleged Unskilled or Incompetent Practice (PDF, 507 KB)

Improving the process

Our goal is to ensure the new governance structure addresses matters of unprofessional conduct and professional competence in the teaching profession by putting student safety and the public interest first.

As a union, the ATA is tasked with representing the best interests of their members. If the same union or association also oversees discipline processes of these same members it presents a clear conflict of interest.

The Education (Reforming Teacher Discipline) Amendment Act, 2022 creates the Alberta Teaching Profession Commission, and appoints an arm’s-length commissioner, to oversee teacher and teacher leader conduct and competency complaints for the profession. This process would apply equally to all teachers and teacher leaders, whether they are members of the Alberta Teachers Association or not.

  • Improving roles and responsibilities

    Improving and clarifying the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders and government is critical to making sure future changes effectively deal with matters of professional discipline. Ensuring student safety and well-being, and providing Alberta students the best possible education, must always be the top priority.

    Government has a responsibility to provide effective legislation to address matters of professional discipline to ensure student safety. Like other professions where due diligence is required, teachers and teacher leaders are held to high standards because they are entrusted with the care and responsibility of children and youth.

    Every student in Alberta's Kindergarten to Grade 12 education system deserves the best possible education in a safe and caring manner from excellent teachers and teacher leaders.

  • Expedited discipline process

    The Students First Act introduces an expedited discipline process in situations where a teacher or teacher leader is convicted of serious offences under the Criminal Code (Canada) that threaten student safety and public interest. This will save time and resources by permitting the Minister of Education an alternate option to move directly to certificate cancellation, while maintaining procedural fairness.

    A teacher or teacher leader would have 15 days to respond to the Minister of Education’s intent to use the expedited process and share any relevant information they wish the Minister to consider. The Minister would still make the final decision to cancel a certificate(s) or to send the matter to a full hearing.

    Prescribed offences from the Criminal Code that apply to the expedited process would be identified through regulation and will be communicated at a later date.

  • Better notification requirements

    The Students First Act amends the current Teaching Profession Act requiring the ATA to notify the Registrar at Alberta Education of all complaints filed against teachers and teacher leaders at various stages during the complaint process. This better aligns the complaints and investigation processes between the ATA and CASS as set out in the College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS) Act (upon proclamation).

    This key change is now law and ensures accountability by keeping government informed on all disciplinary complaints received by the ATA.

    The Reforming Teacher Profession Discipline Act strengthens the duty to report requirements within the education system to notify the registrar when conduct-related employment action is taken against a teacher or teacher leader and the requirement to file a complaint.

    In addition, ATA and CASS would notify the commissioner if a member’s status is suspended or cancelled in their organizations.

Legislation

  • Education Act

    Under the Education Act, teachers and teacher leaders are part of a regulated profession requiring them to hold a certificate to be employed in their roles.

    This unique position of trust and influence comes with the right to practice and a professional obligation and responsibility to meet standards of practice and codes of conduct.

    Disciplinary processes occur through a complaint process set out in legislation either under the Practice Review of Teachers and Teacher Leaders Regulation established under the Education Act, the Teaching Profession Act and CASS Act (upon proclamation).

  • Teaching Profession Act

    The Teaching Profession Act establishes the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) as a corporation that advances education in Alberta, including improvements in the teaching profession and increasing public interest in, and awareness of, important education matters.

    The Act identifies ATA responsibilities, such as promoting teaching excellence, supporting teacher preparation and certification, contributing to positive working conditions, advancing professional development and conducting professional practice reviews.

    It also outlines ATA membership requirements, governance of the Association, and procedures to address complaints of alleged unprofessional conduct filed against teachers who are active members of the ATA. This act also enables the ATA to develop practice review bylaws and oversee the complaint process to address complaints of professional competence made against its active members.

  • College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS) Act

    The College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS) Act will grant CASS legislated status as a professional organization and allow CASS to assume authority over the discipline process of its regulated members and oversight of mandatory professional learning for its regulated members. The Act will come into effect upon proclamation.

  • Students First Act

    The Students First Act amends 3 different statutes in Alberta – the Education Act, Teaching Profession Act and College of Alberta School Superintendents Act (upon proclamation).

    The Students First Act increases transparency and accountability in the teacher discipline process and elevates the status of the teaching profession.

    It further addresses gaps, issues and inconsistencies in Alberta’s system of oversight and discipline for teachers and teacher leaders and shares information about the professional standing of all Alberta certificated teachers and teacher leaders.

    The Students First Act received royal Assent on December 2, 2021. As of September, 2022, all parts of the Act are in effect.

  • Reforming Teacher Profession Discipline Act

    The Education (Reforming Teacher Profession Discipline) Amendment Act creates the Alberta Teaching Profession Commission and appoints an arm’s-length commissioner to oversee teacher and teacher leader conduct and competency complaints for the profession. This process will apply equally to all teacher and teacher leaders under the Education Act.

    The commission will oversee a new model for teacher and teacher leader professionalism and disciplinary matters that would bring Alberta in line with best practices used in comparable provinces and other regulated professions. This will further protect students and enhance accountability and transparency.

    The act received Royal Assent on May 31, 2022.

  • Education Act Transitional Regulation

    From January 1, 2023, the Education Act Transitional Regulation will ensure a smooth shift from the current system of teacher and teacher leader professionalism to the new commissioner model.

    For discipline matters that are underway when the new act takes effect, transitional regulations will allow, throughout the first half of 2023, for matters to continue in accordance with the rules under which they were started.

    During this transitional period, the responsibilities will shift, where appropriate, to the commissioner and newly appointed members of hearing and appeal committees, but the previous rules will be followed. This will allow for procedural fairness while also ensuring an efficient transition into a fully operational single model for teacher and teacher leader professionalism in Alberta.

  • Enhanced standards

    Professional practice standards for principals and superintendents were introduced in 2019 along with new certificate requirements for teacher leaders. These standards ensure teacher leaders practicing in the system are competent in their professional practice.

    Also in 2019, a revised Teaching Quality Standard was introduced to ensure teachers are current and competent while engaged in the practice of teaching.

Improving teacher discipline: a timeline

  • September 1, 2019
    • Professional practice standards come into effect for principals and superintendents, along with new certificate requirements for teacher leaders and a revised standard for teachers.
  • April 22, 2021
    • The College of Alberta School Superintendents Act receives Royal Assent. Parts of the Act are proclaimed on September 1, 2021, where Ministerial approval to appoint a Superintendent of Schools is no longer required, with an obligation to only notify the Minister of a superintendent’s appointment.
  • December 2, 2021
    • The Students First Act receives Royal Assent.
  • December 15, 2021
    • Order-in-council implements the provision in the Students First Act impacting the Teaching Profession Act, requiring the ATA to notify the Registrar at Alberta Education of all complaints received about their members and at various stages throughout the complaint process.
  • February 2022
    • Engagement with education partners and victim advocacy groups to inform the governance structure of how matters of professional conduct and competence are handled in the teaching profession.
  • May 31, 2022
  • June 15, 2022
    • The Education Act Transitional Regulation is signed to ensure a smooth shift from the current system of teacher and teacher leader professionalism to the new Alberta Teaching Commission, effective January 1, 2023. 
    • Transitional regulations will allow, throughout the first half of 2023, for discipline matters to continue in accordance with the rules under which they were started.
  • September 2022
    • Sections of the Students First Act that amend the Education Act, Teaching Profession Act and College of Alberta School Superintendents Act come into force upon proclamation.
    • The Teacher and Teacher Leader registry is publicly accessible online upon proclamation of parts of the Students First Act.
    • Government launches a public survey asking Albertans for input to help develop a single code of professional conduct for all teachers and teacher leaders regardless of where they are employed. In addition to the public survey, government continues to engage with a broad spectrum of victim advocacy groups and key education system stakeholders, including the Alberta Teachers’ Association.
    • Julia Sproule is appointed as commissioner of the Alberta Teaching Profession Commission. Sproule, B.A.(Honours), LL.B., is an experienced legal advisor with a diversity of legal and leadership experience in private practice, industry and non-profit. She also has knowledge of the education system with prior experience as a member of the school council at her local school and on the board of directors at Die Kleine Kinderschule preschool.
  • January 2023
    • The Reforming Teacher Profession Discipline Act sets out the new proposed disciplinary model under the direction of the Alberta Teaching Profession Commissioner and would come into force on January 1, 2023.
    • For discipline matters that are underway when the new Act takes effect, transitional regulations will allow, throughout the first half of 2023, for matters to continue in accordance with the rules under which they were started.
    • A new unified code of conduct for teachers and teacher leaders, as informed by public and stakeholder engagement earlier in 2022, is expected to come into effect.