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Highly qualified

April 11, 2017 Cory Hare, ATA News Managing Editor
The Teacher Qualifications Service is a 12-person department (one missing from photo) that processes 4,000 evaluations per year. March 23 marked the 50th anniversary of the service being housed at the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

Teacher Qualifications Service reaches
50-year milestone

Everyone wants to get paid what they’re worth, and for Alberta teachers the mechanism that makes that happen is the Teacher Qualifications Service (TQS).

The service evaluates the coursework of new education graduates and working teachers who have completed additional study so that their educational credentials are taken into account in their salary grid placement.

While the service operates out of the Alberta Teachers’ Association building in Edmonton, it’s an arm’s-length operation that’s administered by a board comprising membership from the Association, the Alberta School Boards Association, Alberta Education and the universities of Alberta, Calgary and Lethbridge. March 23 marked the 50th anniversary of that partnership. 
“This is not an ATA-driven board. It is at arm’s length and it needs to be at arm’s length because you are talking about the implications for teachers’ compensation,” said ATA president Mark Ramsankar, who chairs the TQS board.

He called TQS a valuable part of a system that helps maintain high teaching standards and fair compensation.

“There’s value in maintaining the standard in quality of teaching that’s coming into Alberta, and it’s just one more check and balance to make sure that teachers are being compensated for the education that they have,” he said. 

TQS has been a valuable partner for Alberta Education and an important service for teachers, said Lindsay Harvey, press secretary for Education Minister David Eggen.

The partnership has allowed each party to focus on its core functions and support one another in ensuring that teacher education is recognized fairly and appropriately, she said.

“The longevity of the [memorandum] is a testament to the effectiveness of the collaborative effort exhibited by the ATA, school authorities and Alberta Education,” Harvey stated via email.

Working well

TQS is a 12-person department ­composed of a receptionist, four reviewers and seven evaluators. One of those evaluators is also the department manager, Susan Knechtel.

“Everyone here is so supportive of each other in what they do and what they ultimately do for the members,” Knechtel said. “I’m really proud of what they do on a daily basis.”

The team processes an average of 4,000 evaluations each year, assessing the validity of every single course listed on transcripts and ensuring that courses don’t overlap and are from recognized institutions.

Depending on the number of institutions that make up a teacher’s education, and whether or not these are located in foreign countries, an evaluation can involve a few minutes of checking or days’ and weeks’ worth of research and correspondence.

“I’ve been researching one since ­August, which has come to a conclusion,” Knechtel said.

If a teacher doesn’t like the result of an evaluation, which sometimes occurs, they can request that it be re-assessed by a committee that’s been established for that purpose, and then, if desired, appealed to the Teacher Salary ­Qualifications Board.

TQS can also advise teachers on ­additional courses or programs they might take to improve their placement on the salary grid. 

TQS evaluator and department 
manager Susan Knechtel.

Trending up

While the volume of evaluations has remained steady in recent years, Knechtel’s team has noticed a steady increase in the number of foreign applications and an increase in the number of educational institutions that teachers are attending.

“There used to be a day when they went to one institution and did their whole academic history there,” Knechtel said. “Now we’re seeing anywhere from three-plus, minimum.”

In her 10 years with TQS, Knechtel has seen a dramatic increase in the size of the department, in response to demand, and greater autonomy for evaluators.

“I feel proud to be part of an organization that has reached this milestone, that is still deemed to be relevant to how our members are paid in the province,” she said.

For Knechtel the work is about ­collaboration within the department and interaction with teachers.
“To be able to speak to them on a daily basis and provide them with that information that allows them to increase their financial status within their career, it’s a good feeling.” ❚

About TQS 

The Teacher Qualifications Service (TQS) is the agency in Alberta responsible for evaluating a teacher’s years of education for salary purposes. All public, separate and francophone school boards in the province, as well as some private boards, accept evaluations issued by the TQS for the purpose of helping to determine a teacher’s placement on the salary grid. 

TQS operates according to principles established by the Teacher Salary Qualifications Board (TSQB), which was established March 23, 1967, under an agreement between the Alberta Teachers’ Association, the Alberta School Trustees’ Association (now the Alberta School Boards Association) and the Department of Education. 

The ATA operates the TQS as an arm’s-length service. The TQS is not governed by the ATA or subject to its policies. TQS is governed by and accountable to the TSQB. The operation of TQS is largely funded by the application fees collected, and the ATA is responsible for housing the service. 

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