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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 20, Number 3, November/December 2007

Fall RA zeros in on support for teachers and students

Teacher leaders from around the province met in Richmond on November 2–3 to discuss the key issues facing BC teachers this fall, top amongst them being the negative impact of the government’s accountability schemes and class size, class composition, and support for students with special needs. The Representative Assembly, made up of local presidents and local representatives, meets three times a year to consider recommendations from the BCTF Executive Committee, consider motions brought forward by locals, develop action plans, receive reports, and deal with the Federation budget.

This meeting, the Fall RA, adopted a plan to counter the misuse and overuse of standardized tests and the obsession with measuring, ranking, and data collection. LRs lined up at the microphones to convey teachers’ concerns for their students and debate the best ways to support authentic assessment for learning. Through the Support for Teaching and Learning plan, the Federation locals and members will be promoting fair, effective, and reliable assessment and engaging parents and the public in discussion of the negative impact of current trends toward more and more mandated, standardized tests.

Prior to debating the elements of the plan, LRs heard from Dr. Wayne Ross, Professor of Education, UBC, on "Strategies for Countering the Accountability Agenda." Ross outlined the ways in which the accountability schemes change the very nature of teaching and learning, and undermine public education. He talked about the importance of advocating for students, the profession, and public education.

When the meeting turned to discussion of class size, class composition, and support for students with special needs, it was very clear that teachers around the province are gravely disappointed in the failure of Bill 33 (2006) to meet students’ needs. LRs and presidents expressed the frustration of their members who are striving to support their students with too few resources and too little time. The Executive Committee reported on the provincial grievance under way and a soon-to-be-launched public relations campaign on the broken promise of Bill 33, legislation passed in the spring of 2006. The BCTF continues to press the government to deliver on its promise to address classroom conditions and adequately fund the system.

Representatives of the Langley Teachers’ Association provided the meeting with a report on the Special Education Inquiry, sponsored by the BCTF and organized by the LTA, the CUPE local, and the DPAC in Langley. In recognition of the work being done by the teachers in Langley and the fact that this inquiry will benefit all teachers, the meeting voted to provide the LTA with additional funding to successfully complete the project and publicize the results province-wide.

The Federation table officers reported on Minister Bond’s recent changes to the funding of students in Grade 10, 11, and 12. On October 18, the minister of education sent an e-mail to school district secretary-treasurers announcing a mid-year claw back of secondary funding. The impact was estimated to be a loss to school districts of $40 to 50 million province-wide. In response, the RA called on the minister to reverse this directive and encouraged locals to work with trusteesand other stakeholders to this end.

The Representative Assembly also adopted an employment equity plan for Aboriginal teachers. The overall goal for this plan is to ensure that the Aboriginal teaching population in each district be proportionate to the ratio of Aboriginal students in the district. The Federation will be supporting locals in developing a local employment equity strategy.

A guest speaker from the Council of Canadian’s Stop TILMA campaign, Caelie Frampton, (www.Canadians.org/DI/issues/TILMA) brought LRs up-to-date on the implications of the Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement between the BC and Alberta governments. This agreement, signed with absolutely no debate in the BC Legislature, has significant ramifications for the ability of local governments and school boards to set policy and make decisions based on the needs of their communities, reducing the power of elected officials, and increasing corporate power.

Members are encouraged to ask their LR(s) for further information about these items and upcoming agenda topics. The next Representative Assembly, the Winter RA, will be held on February 1 and 2, 2008.

– Moira Mackenzie

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