Opinion

EDITORIAL: Scrutiny required

Want to rile up a teacher? Raise the issue of the Foundation Skills Assessment tests.

B.C. Education Minister Don McRae was in Parksville recently and he was asked about the FSAs. He said all the right things ("It's a snapshot of that day"), unless you wanted to hear him say FSAs should be immediately abolished.

It's a tricky piece of business, this student assessment thing. Any kind of testing is going to be a snapshot of that day, isn't it?

The real issues centre around accountability. This may be a terrible generalization, but from what we've heard from teachers and their professional association over the years, exercises in accountability are misguided and should be left to educators themselves, an in-house exercise with little or no public exposure.

That's not good enough.

Unless a school operates with 100 per cent private funding, the nature of taxpayer-funded entities dictates some kind of accounting, some kind of bang-for-the-buck scrutiny by someone or some group of someones who are not directly involved in the day-to-day spending of those public dollars.

Assessing schools, students and teachers is not a cut-and-dried exercise, however. Schools in neighbourhoods where the children barely get enough to eat, where they go home to witness or fall victim to abuse or witness constant drinking and drug use, are not always going to do well when it comes to raw test results. Data shows children do much better in school when they come from two-parent homes where mom and dad are educated, hold good jobs and are engaged in their kids'  education.

So, what's the answer? The teachers would have you believe the general public should just leave it to them. Some in government and unnamed institutes would suggest the employment future for a teacher should be tied to student achievement numbers. As per usual, something in the middle will be the best route.

We believe taxpayers have a right to data on how effective their money is being spent. Instead of shunning all publicly-released assessment models, we urge teachers and their professional association to come up with a middle-ground solution that can satisfy their concerns and the legitimate public accountability requests of the taxpayer.    — Editorial by John Harding

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