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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 18, Number 5, March 2006

Bogus school rankings

Every year the Fraser Institute uses the results of government exams and the Foundation Skills Assessment tests to rank schools in the province. The Fraser Institute’s agenda is to privatize education and ranking schools is one approach it takes to undermine confidence in public schools.

It is no accident that according to the Fraser Institute’s very own formula for ranking schools, private schools come out on top.

The Fraser Institute is helped in this effort by Canwest newspapers across the country. Every year they provide hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of coverage over a period of three or four days. It is also not a surprise that Canwest supports efforts to privatize education. For example, The Sun, Province, and BCTV Global , all owned by Canwest, were all sponsors of a private school fair in 2005.

Last year one of the members of the BCTF Graphics Department wrote a letter to the principal of her children’s school to have them exempted from writing the FSA tests for this very reason. Following is her letter requesting that her daughters in Grades 4 and 7 be exempted from the tests. Her request was honoured and her children were not subjected to the tests. As March approaches and the Fraser Institute and Canwest once again prepare their public relations effort, we thought it would be timely to run the letter to the principal.

– Peter Owens

Principal,

This Saturday, The Sun newspaper, in partnership with the Fraser Institute, once again published a list of bogus school rankings based on last year’s Foundation Skills Assessment results.

Like many others, we were disappointed to see the test results misused in this way. Here is why: Many of the parents in attendance at a PAC meeting earlier this year were deeply moved by a presentation on the school’s ongoing Nicaragua fundraising project. Under the teacher’s guidance (and that of other teachers), our children have learned to work as a team, brainstorm ideas, assess feasibilities, make decisions, take on the role of spokesperson, be a group leader, and perhaps most importantly, to care about others less fortunate. These are lifetime lessons. In Grade 4, our younger daughter spent a wonderful day at the Art Gallery this year, where she learned about the tortured and talented existence of one of our country’s finest artists. Back home, excited and challenged by her day’s learning, our daughter painted four pages in the style of Emily Carr, explaining with solid understanding the theory and technique behind each stroke. Children do not flourish in darkness. It is critical that their musical and artistic sides are established and encouraged in these early years, along with other subjects.

At our school, our children have learned to accept and adapt to children with special needs. They have even received training in these areas, and have had opportunities to see the world through different eyes. Again, these are lessons to last a lifetime.

The Foundation Skills Assessments do not reflect these invaluable lessons learned. In fact, increasing importance placed on testing results such as these will pressure our teachers to take away time spent on broad learning experiences, and narrow the curriculum to achieve only quantifiable results. This should not be happening.

Although we are confident that our daughters would do well on these tests, we do not want them to be part of this process. We encourage other parents to rethink their support for the publication of these "school rankings."

Please excuse our daughters from writing these tests.

Thank you.



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