Learning from the World: Alberta, Canada

International Learning

Our Purpose

The National Public Education Support Fund (NPESF) organized a U.S. delegation of 46 education leaders on a study tour of Alberta, Canada as part of its continuing series of international visits to top-performing educational systems. Our purpose was to explore how aspects of the system change process in Alberta could inform U.S. policy and state strategies to accelerate educational progress and attainment in the American context. The U.S. delegation included national and state policy makers, educators, thought leaders, and members of the Education Funder Strategy Group (ESFG), a peer learning community of leading foundations focused on education policy. Our special thanks to the Hewlett Foundation, NEA Foundation, Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Rodel Foundation of Delaware, and Stuart Foundation for their help and support in enlisting a diverse delegation of state and national leaders to participate in the learning journey.

Under the guidance of the College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS), the delegation examined the policies and practices that continue to drive Alberta’s high-performing education system and its new provincial strategy to prepare all students as “engaged thinkers, ethical citizens with an entrepreneurial spirit” for today’s rapidly changing world. The delegation would like to recognize the ministry officials, education leaders, and other dignitaries who shared their insight and expertise with the group.

Our goals were to:

  • Understand how Alberta has become a top performing education system and examine the drivers deployed to transform a complex system.
  • Gain insight into how the public school system continues to adapt and innovate in order to meet the challenges of preparing students in a world characterized by dramatic technological and economic change. 
  • Consider how insights from the Alberta experience may contribute to current challenges of implementing changes such as the college and career readiness standards, new assessments, and 21st century learning. 
  • Learn how Alberta is progressing in the development of its province-wide approach to early childhood development and education. 

Before arriving in Alberta, the delegation reviewed background materials on Alberta’s reform efforts, including the Government of Alberta’s discussion paper and foundational pillar, Inspiring Action in Education. This document laid out a discussion framework for the vision, values, principles, and policy central to school transformation within the province. Researcher, author, and worldwide authority on educational reform and systems change, Michael Fullan of Michael Fullan Enterprises, served as the trip’s intellectual guide and cultural interpreter. Joanne Quinn, Senior Associate, Michael Fullan Enterprises, served as a co-designer and moderator for the trip. Paulette Hanna, Director of Education, College of Alberta School Superintendents, served as the trip’s local facilitator. 2

This report reviews and summarizes a number of the key takeaways and lessons learned from Alberta, Canada. Upon reflecting on the abundant insights gained from the trip, we hope delegates will cultivate further discussions about the lessons and follow-up actions from Alberta that can help inform and deepen their work in the U.S.

Read the full 2014 Report from the U.S. Delegation of Education to Alberta, Canada.

Download PDF.

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