Monday, January 28, 2013



Les Blogs on Education 

Skills Assessment Test and teacher deal essential

Released Ben James, BC Liberal Caucus


s a proud father and grandfather, I know first-hand the importance of labour peace and the negative impact prolonged job action has on students, parents, and teachers.


That's why I am proud to be a part of a government demonstrating leadership to break the acrimony and put the needs of children at the forefront.


This week Premier Christy Clark and Education Minister Don McRae proposed a framework to reach a 10-year labour agreement with teachers that would bring stability to our education system. It would mean that children in Grade 2 today could graduate from high school without losing a single day of their education to a labour dispute. This isn't about the government or the union; it's about making sure classrooms are never closed to children because the adults can't agree. It's about being a good example to them.

And another important tool - one designed to help students - is the Fundamental Skills Assessment test (FSA). It's one this government vigorously believes is a way for parents and teachers to better understand how students are doing.

The FSA tells us how Grade 4 and 7 students are performing in reading comprehension, writing, and numeracy. Most importantly, it helps us identify young learners who may require personalized guidance and assistance to fully achieve their academic potential. We know from research that when we intervene with classroom supports early in a child's school career, we can significantly increase their chances of greater success in later years. The FSA allows us to do this.

The tests are supported by parent groups, educators, and the independent Representative for Children and Youth because they understand the information is a valuable tool to ensure vulnerable students do not fall through the cracks.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, British Columbia's Representative for Children and Youth, puts it best: "Some are suggesting a better approach would be to assess a sample of students in order to obtain a provincial picture of performance. This view overlooks the fact that the FSA is a useful predictor of individual success. Testing just a few students provincewide would eliminate an indicator that a child is in difficulty and needs help."

But that's exactly what Adrian Dix and the BC NDP want to do: take away this valuable tool and replace it with random sampling so the information is meaningless. Under the NDP's scheme, you would lose access to vital subpopulation data. In other words, you would lose access to critical information about how aboriginal youth, or children in care, are doing in school. These are the very children to whom we should be paying special attention.

Why would the NDP want to replace an effective system that is supported by parent groups, educators, and advocates with one that is meaningless? Well, because they promised the union they would.

Dix and the NDP would do away with a valued assessment tool - one that provides vital information about children potentially at risk - not because the tests aren't valuable, but because one of their biggest backers has issued their marching orders.

Our government will stand with educators, parents, and advocates to ensure the highest possible standard of education in this province. We will keep the FSA so we can help students do even better in school.

We owe students an education system that ensures they never fall through the cracks and is free of labour disruption. Under Premier Christy Clark's strong leadership, I am confident we can make this happen together.



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