Thursday, March 27, 2008

Local input to BCTF resolution of last week

As we outlined last Tuesday here on the Podunk portal, Prince Rupert teachers were quick to the resolution table last week, with a request that their brothers and sisters in the Teacher's Federation vote in the affirmative on a bid to boycott the 2009 edition of the Foundation Skills Assessments.

The controversial tests were the subject of debate and a vote at last weeks Teacher's Federation meetings, the Daily News got up to speed on the issue from last week, providing some local input into the issue with a front page story in Wednesday's paper.

By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Pages one and three

The British Columbia Teacher's Federation is looking at strategies to eliminate provincial standardized testing next year, stemming from a resolution by the Prince Rupert District Teacher's Union to boycott the tests in 2009.

At their Annual General Meeting in Vancouver last week, delegates voted on and approved a plan for a boycott of the Foundation Skills Assessment tests for Grade 4 and 7 students, although the details of their campaign against the testing are not known.

What is known is that teachers across the province are united in their demand that the government return to the random sampling technique used prior to 2000, instead of testing every child.

PRDTU President Joanna Larson says that despite the massive failings of the online version of the test this year, Education Minister Shirley Bond is still claiming the test is an important tool in assessing children's learning outcomes, despite the fact that tests are taking students twice as long to sit as was estimated.

"Minister Bond claims the test allows learning challenges to be identified early, before they become real barriers to student success. If this were true, classes at our own Roosevelt Park Elementary School would not continue to violate Bill 33 with as many as six and seven students with special needs in some classrooms," said Larson.

"There were no additional supports or resources offered by Minister Bond, even after in the spring of 2007, Prince Rupert's Roosevelt Park school was featured on CBC after placing last in the annual Fraser Institute's list of school rankings as 'the worst school in B.C.'"

"Teachers are fed up, and last spring everyone across the country got to see how damaging these rankings are. It is clear from both watching the CBC report and the recent C.D. Howe Institute's report, which takes into account socio-economic factors, that Roosevelt is actually among the best schools in the province."

BCTF President Irene Lanzinger has said the union is not prepared to discuss the details of its plan yet, because it will ultimately be the members who will make the decision.

Lanzinger said it will take close to a year before any action, such as a work stoppage, would take place. At the annual meeting, teachers also supported a statement of principle that standardized testing has a negative impact on Aboriginal students, leading to further discrimination against them and reinforcing negative stereotypes.

"The one thing we all agree on is that the Fraser Institute rankings are not a valid reflection on the schools," said Lanzinger. "Despite the mistaken belief to the contrary, no additional resources flow to students who do poorly on the Foundation Skills Assessment. Standardized tests take valuable time away from teaching and learning and do nothing to address the real needs of our Aboriginal students.

Larson said it should come as no surprise that after watching the negative impact of the FSA for years, teachers across the province withdrew their own children from writing the test. However, she said this was not the case in Prince Rupert , where school principals and the board office informed all parents, including teachers, that by law their children had to write the FSA or miss school for a full two weeks.

"It is this sort of over-the-top propaganda that is causing teachers to say enough is enough," said Larson. "Teachers in our district also refused to mark the FSAs, despite the expensive offer of three days in lieu which they could use to extend their spring break. This is obviously money our district cannot afford, since it recently decided to close two schools for what they claim are necessary financial savings. Administrators marked the majority of tests in Prince Rupert."

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