BASS: No need to overreact and eliminate tests completely
The B.C. NDP is not government — although, it seems the body that represents teachers see this as little more than a foregone conclusion.
Why else would Susan Lambert, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, declare the end is near for the ever-controversial foundation-skills assessment tests?
To be fair, Lambert didn’t come out and say she expects the tests to disappear but, rather, that she believes Education Minister Don McRae doesn’t see any value to them.
And, anyone with any interest in politics knows NDP Leader Adrian Dix has said he will replace the tests if he and his party win the May 14 election.
The problem with this scenario is that, once we establish the tests are controversial, the story always shifts to the way the Fraser Institute uses them to rank schools in the province.
Notwithstanding the way the media, teachers and administrators twist it, the two are not intrinsically linked.
One is a tool that, used properly, can help guide school districts and the education ministry in assessing what is working, what needs tweaking and what should be abandoned.
The scores, used properly, can help teachers assess how their students are doing.
There is nothing wrong with that.
The other is a silly, useless, indulgent, publicity-seeking move to further the profile of the Fraser Institute, while catering to those who look down on public education, preferring the private system in the belief — backed by the institute — it is better.
It would be unfortunate to see some sort of basic assessment like the tests tossed out just because their results are misused and then misinterpreted by many people.
Tests can be good if they are done properly.
They help with evaluation and provide data that, put into the right hands for analysis, can lead to improvements.
In a very simple way, they can provide a student with an idea of how they’re doing.
If they’re struggling to complete the test, they know there is work to be done. If they breezed through it, they’re either in for a major surprise or, more likely, they are learning what is being taught and, more importantly, retaining it.
Test results give parents feedback and, given the hissy many threw when teachers stopped doing reports last year during their job action — how can we know how Johnny and Janey are doing without them? — they provide a bit of input to those parents who only cross the school’s threshold for the Christmas concert.
As a kid, I hated tests.
They started when I was in kindergarten.
Back then, there was an over-reliance on IQ tests in my hometown and, for reasons that became obvious later, I was flagged for every one they wanted to administer.
But, every year, I knew there would be tests.
There would be pop quizzes, term-enders, chapter reviews, exams and, yes, those silly IQ tests some of us had to do.
It was part of going to school.
I didn’t stress over them — much — and my parents didn’t make all their educational decisions based on their results.
They were just another bit of information.
So, when I hear the people who govern our teachers say it’s time to get rid of them, I cringe.
I really worry when I hear a politician say he’ll bring in something else — but not tell me what it is.
We know what the foundation-skills assessment tests are.
They’re a gauge.
We know the Fraser Institute will hijack that gauge and recalibrate it.
We can pay attention — or we can just ignore it.