A commentary by a senior fellow and retired director of school performance studies at the Fraser Institute.
Over my 25 years of working on the Fraser Institute’s school rankings, I have had the great opportunity to speak with teachers, principals, school board administrators, parents, and even a few teachers’ union presidents now and then.
During that period I have seldom received such an upsetting message as the one I recently received from a teacher in B.C. It is in quotes below, in its entirety, other than the deletion of information that might identify the author.
“I am a grade 11/12 teacher. At one time our Fraser Institute awards hung proudly on the walls of our school. Unfortunately, the past 10 years have been hard on our results and a disappointment for many of us at the school. I do my best, but as a grade 11/12 teacher I see the negative effects the new literacy approach is having on student outcomes and behaviours.
“I am at a loss for how to fight this ideological movement. We now work in silos even within our departments.
“Young teachers have no clue how to assess themselves or their students. They look at teachers who taught with provincial exams to guide their practice as dinosaurs; relics from the past.
“This view is supported by our administration. Our school, which was once a leader in the district, is now described as ‘behind.’ For a few years, I advocated that we should keep standards and consistency but with the race to implement competencies, our voices are drowned out and ignored by the administration.
“We have lost honours classes and often the students with good or gifted abilities are the ones that are losing the most. The concept of mastering math or science is lost.
“The focus seems to only be on understanding in the moment and self-exploration. There is little focus on the permanence of learning. The competency approach being used in our district is misguided.
“The content is no longer as important as how it is implemented through the competency lenses.
“I have looked for like-minded teachers, but most are silent about the wave of incompetent and illiterate students who are graduating at this time. Would you know of any organizations that are advocating on behalf of standards in the province?”
Of course, this teacher speaks of turmoil in a single school, and it is my hope that the principal can bring the teachers at this school more closely together. But, if this is an indicator of what is happening in schools across the country, then there is indeed much work to be done.
Parents must demand it.