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

Readers write

Britannia remembers 100 years of growth and achievement

From September 2007 through June 2008, Vancouver’s Britannia Secondary School celebrates its 100th birthday! As the oldest operating secondary school in BC, Britannia has seen changes paralleling those in the province. From its roots as Vancouver’s east-side academic enclave and its "melting pot" slogan as early as the 1960s, Britannia has built its reputation on strong academics, superb athletics, and well-rounded citizenship. Britannia’s site, the prototype of a comprehensive community centre complex, paved the way for other complexes designed in its wake.

Dave Barrett, Robert Bonner, Angelo Branco, Simon Chang, Larry Doyle, Barbara Howard, Frank Iacobucci, Shiuchi Kusaka, Tong Louie, and Shirley Mayse are some of the ground-breaking graduates featured in Britannia’s photo-filled centennial memoirs book recapturing both the Britannia of yesteryear and Britannia of today.

On Friday evening, May 16, Britannia’s grads will gather to reminisce and celebrate Britannia’s 100th! Britannia will feature an Open House Saturday afternoon, May 17. Saturday evening’s Gala Event at the Agrodome, an evening to remember, culminates the weekend’s activities. Make plans to join us. Log on to www.britanniacentennial.com or phone 604-713-8266 for further information.

Diane Minichiello, Vancouver

Time for a wake-up call: FSA tests and the corporate agenda

Standardized tests are the subject of much discussion amongst teachers lately. Yet it perplexes me as to how few colleagues understand the issue.

The struggle against FSA testing isn’t an attack on standardized testing per se. It isn’t even about the inefficacy of these tests in evaluation of learning, as much as that is the case. It isn’t about valuable time taken from authentic learning while teachers, subjugated by administrators, ignore their own moral and professional standards and devote time to practicing for the tests. And, it certainly isn’t about improving literacy in a post-literate society—whatever that means.

Behind the struggle with FSA testing lies the largest struggle confronting education today: the struggle to retain, protect, and pass on to posterity, a truly publicly funded education system, equally accessible, regardless of geographic or socio-economic factors in the face of a relentless and ruthless attempt by the corporate sector to hijack education and replace it with a profit-driven free-market model. Thus, we are charged with protecting a greatly valued public institution, gravely threatened by private, greedy corporate interests determined to exploit our children as a potentially lucrative market. And, all under the insidious guise of accountability and fiscal responsibility. Privatization by proxy, if you will.

Skeptical? Check out the Fraser Institute web site. By their own admission, "The FI ranking of schools based wholly on FSA and provincial exam results, offers parents "competitive market solutions," when shopping for the "best" schools in BC and elsewhere. According to the FI, they use "objective data to rate the schools," (FSA results), so that parents "will be better prepared to ask relevant questions when [they] interview the principal and teachers at the schools [they] are considering." The Fraser Institute’s callous vision of our public schools is blatantly clear and transparent as revealed on its web site. Instead of lobbying governments and holding them publicly accountable for providing the best possible education to all of BC’s children, the organization advocates school "shopping" for those that perform the best on government standardized tests (we all know which schools those are), reducing our public education system to a market-based commodity to be bought and sold to the highest bidders. Do BC teachers really wish to participate in such a process?

The struggle against FSA testing may prove to be the most important battle of our era. I, for one, am not interested in replacing our publicly funded education system with something like the Pattison Education Group. Let’s work together to see that the quality of education for future Canadian children is not determined by their street address.

Dan Companion, Nanaimo

World music program

Thank you for including the photo of the marimba band in the launch of the Advantage Program (Teacher, October 2007). The band is Kutapira, and they are quite a success story. With roots in the world music program at Britannia Community Services Centre, they are an example of how young musicians can excel at playing percussion-based music from African and Latin cultures. If any teachers are looking to start a world music program in their school, they are invited to contact music teacher Paul Nicholls at Charles Dickens Elementary (604-713-4978 or 604-269-9201). Paul is a member of the World Music Continuum, a collective of Vancouver schools that incorporate world music in their band programs.

Who knows? Perhaps other students will follow in Kutapira’s footsteps and perform a private concert for the Queen, as the band did this summer at Balmoral Castle. Kutapira can be contacted at kutapira@shaw.ca.

Valerie Dare, Vancouver

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