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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 20, Number 2, October 2007

President’s message

Irene Lanzinger

All over the province teachers are resisting attempts by the government to reduce the breadth and complexity of teaching and learning. Increased standardized testing, obsessive data collection, and bureaucratic accountability schemes limit teachers’ professional rights and autonomy and do nothing to help students learn.

In Sooke, a primary teacher, Kathryn Sihota, refused to administer a standard district-wide reading exam to her Grade 3 class. In her judgment, the test put unnecessary stress on her students, was not a useful assessment tool, and took valuable time away from teaching and learning.

Sihota was disciplined by the Board for refusing to administer the test.

Alfie Kohn, a renowned American lecturer on education, psychology, and parenting wrote a letter of support. He said: "I respect [Sihota’s] reasoning as much as her motives. I believe that her judgment about how best to teach and assess her students is better than that of provincial officials."

He’s right. British Columbia teachers are rightfully proud of the first-class public education system they have helped to build. As professionals, teachers know that learning is a complex process and that students learn in different ways and at different rates. No single test or assessment strategy is completely reliable, so teachers use a wide variety of assessment tools—projects, presentations, goal setting, quizzes, classroom tests, and more—to guide their students’ learning.

On the day of Sihota’s discipline hearing, teachers, BCTF Executive Committee members and local leaders from all over the province rallied to support her.

Katherine Sihota represents what is best in teaching—our willingness to put our students above ourselves even when it involves some personal risk. And in rallying in support of her we represented what is best about the BCTF—our determination to support each other and oppose top-down, bureaucratic standardization measures that don’t do anything to help our students.

When asked who they trust most on educational issues, the public always puts teachers at the top of the list. We must trust our professional judgment, speak up about what is best for students, and stand up for what we believe in.

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