Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Test BC Liberal Cabinet Ministers, not kids, with Political Foundation Skills Assessment!

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column

Tuesday January 27, 2009

Test Cabinet, not students


Standardized testing has become the arbiter of social mobility, yet there is more regulation of the food we feed our pets than of the tests we give our kids.

- Educator Robert Schaeffer

There's a controversy raging between the B.C. Liberal government and teachers over whether or not students should take what's called Foundation Skills Assessment test.

Education Minister Shirley Bond is demanding all B.C. Grade 4 and 7 students take the tests, which she says ensure they are meeting expectations.

The B.C. Teachers' Federation opposes the tests, saying that they don't help students learn or teachers teach but are used by the right-wing Fraser Institute to unfairly rank schools without considering social situation and other factors.

And guess what? Students at ritzy private schools in Shaughnessy do better than kids at East Vancouver public schools!


But I have a modest suggestion to end the controversy. With a minor wording change, all British Columbians could support this test.

I propose a Political Foundation Skills Assessment test - given to all B.C. Liberal cabinet ministers before the next election.

Here's a direct Education Ministry quote about the FSA - but I've changed a few words, which are in bold - to make this test worthwhile:

"The Political Foundation Skills Assessment is an annual assessment of British Columbia's Liberal Government Cabinet Ministers' skills, and provides a snapshot of how well B.C. Cabinet Ministers are learning foundation skills in Reading, Comprehension, Writing, and Numeracy.

The main purpose of the assessment is to help the province's voters evaluate how well B.C. Liberal Cabinet Ministers are achieving basic skills, and make plans to improve government achievement.

"The Political FSA is designed by British Columbia voters. The skills tested are linked to the provincial election."

Test kids?

Better to test politicians!

And the BCTF could partner with the Fraser Institute so all voters see the test results before the May election!
Massive convention centre overruns? Unfair pay hikes for top bureaucrats? The test would show what went wrong.

But there is one problem: Is it fair to force Premier Gordon Campbell to take the Political FSA test when he unfortunately has a disability that could affect the results?

Some people may be uncomfortable talking about this, but it's obvious that Premier Campbell has Political Attention Deficit Disorder.

Just look at his erratic record: Slash the public service, then give bonuses to government workers, gut environmental protection, then fight climate change, oppose Aboriginal treaties, then negotiate them, close schools, fire librarians, then make literacy a priority!

Nonetheless, I'm afraid we simply have to give Campbell this Political FSA test for the same reason the Education Ministry says kids have to take it.

Because the test will help: "Make plans for improvement."


Anonymous said...

Yes! Bring on the real accountability agenda.

BC Mary said...

Is there a factory in Victoria pumping out photo after photo after photo of our glorious leader?

Portraits of Mr Real Estate are everywhere!

What with the near-demise of CanWest, the expansion of the provincial Public Affairs Bureau and the proliferation of these Patriotic Portraits, is it any wonder that people begin to wonder if our particular May Day (May 12) may be our last election?

Accountability ... what's that.

Anonymous said...

We may not like his methods in the PR field but he somehow gets elected. My God, Gordo is down in Ottawa on our taxes to hear what Harper is going to dole out to the provinces, and maybe get a picture for his election campaign, with some worthy.

Many of us don't like his winning elections, but more seem to feel he is just great.

So what to do beyond talking about it?

Time to go down to the opposition party campaign office and get involved.

The teachers spend a large number of years preparing for their profession as do other professionals. When was the last time elected ones, get a test on their work? Only at the ballot box.

Im my chosen field it was each time we got airborne including frequent check rides.

Maybe the political equivalent is by elections?

Kids in lower grades should be left to do their best with the support of their teachers not some manditory exam. Each teacher has a handle on which kids need the most work, and do thier best to provide that help. Teachers and their students need more respect than this gang is giving them.

Anonymous said...


Hey Bill, I'm all for accountability, whether we're talking schools or politicians.

But if your political FSA is as useless as the original in terms of providing meaningful accountability, we'd just be deluding ourselves thinking we'd get anything useful out of it whatsoever.

They'd just get the spin doctors teaching to the test, the Premier gaming the system by making sure all his goofy cabinet ministers stayed home on test day, and the Fraser Institute fiddling the data to turn failing Liberal grades into the #1 "Best Political Party on Earth" ranking.

Anonymous said...

gee wiz ,I just had dinner do you have to show that ugly mug.they dont need to be tested they failed .My god bill please try not to use his photo its almost as hard to look at as the sun or the province and micheal smiyth and vaughn palmmer which are reporters i used to like before they got lazy harvey where are you?better yet lets revive Jack Webster.those bastereds feet would have been burnt off by now!

Anonymous said...

You trivialize a serious issue by gripping the union position, when the real story is that neither the union nor teachers care about accountability or the best interests of students.

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with you on the testing,it should be mandatory
for all elected officials.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 1:45 AM: The teachers are the union. The teachers are accountable and act in the best interests of the students much more so than the Ministry of Education. The FSA tests are not a valid tool for student or teacher evaluation.

Here is a science question for the FSA Politician Test.
True or False. Will an earthquake along the subduction zone of British Columbia between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate affect off-shore oil drilling?

Anonymous said...

Question should read:
Here is a science question for the FSA Politician Test._True or False. Will an earthquake along the subduction zone off British Columbia between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate affect off-shore oil drilling?

Anonymous said...

Here's a pop quiz for the Premier...

(please show your work....extra points for transparency)

Government +
expropriated $$$ business loss per year along RAV Line
X 3
= loss of democracy in BC.

What's wrong with this equation?

answer - EVERYTHING.

pip said...


Anonymous said...

Anon at 1:45 - no teacher has ever been held accountable for an FSA result, a) because it's a minimalist, ephemeral snapshot that tells you little or nothing about how the student is actually doing relative to his/her potential and b) because it's impossible to attribute success or failure to any one of a hundred contributing school and non-school factors (far less to any one of the minimum 5 different teachers responsible for the child's learning to that point), and c) because anyone with something to hide knows exactly how to game the system.

Anyone who truly wants to see accountability in our public education system would not be supporting the fallacy promoted by the BC Liberals that the FSA provides a useful tool for holding schools and teachers accountable.

And anyone who cares about their child's education would not be waiting until Grade 4 or 7 to find out if their child can read.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget the Liberals did not create the FSA...the NDP government did.

pip said...

Well fine then History Lesson...let's test the whole lot of them!

Anonymous said...

Ms. Steele,

If you are interested in seeing better days for teachers and students then you will hold your political defense of the union position at a minimum.

The FSA over time has provided a great deal of information in terms of trends and statistics that show both strengths and weaknesses in the system.

Many of the side issues you raise, like waiting until the Gr. 4 or 7 for reading comprehension initiatives, should be teacher driven. Are they not the experts? Should such an initiative not come from them?

The connection to the political powerplay by the union though makes no sense and is irrelevant.

The BCTF have long damaged education in this province, well before the Liberals were in power. IT was fine with them when the Clark government instituted the FSA, but not when it was the Campbell government. Where were they the last four years? Eight years? It has only now just occurred to them.

Ms. Steele, you make no sense.

Anon 1:45

Anonymous said...

History Lesson, the FSA was created as a high-level system performance indicator and it would still be useful for that purpose if the BC Liberals hadn't changed the format last year so as to prevent further comparison of annual data to historical trends.

The BC Liberals & the Fraser Institute have also done something even dumber by promoting the FSA as a tool for providing individual, teacher or school-level accountability - which is more or less akin to encouraging families to rely on the national debt-to-GDP ratio as a useful measure of how wisely they're using their personal credit cards or how well each city block is being served by its residents' credit card companies.

So the former NDP govt gets a C grade for implementing a tool that provides some limited usefulness.

BC Liberals get the F grade for spectacularly F-ing up what little value it ever offered.

Anonymous said...

History Lesson,

A comparison of annual data versus historical trend?

Who might be your preference as the arbiter of the historical trend? The same group as the one you wish could provide only their annual data: The BCTF.

The BCTF have manipulated this issue to serve their political masters--at the expense of a mechanism which assists educational development.

We rail against the police for being their own review board. That same standard must be set for teachers.

Bill Tieleman is the same individual who has openly fought for a change in the way police actions are reviewed. But with his journalistic integrity in question for the second time in as many weeks, he serves only to accommodate the NDP by not asking teachers why they wish to self-review. That's unfortunate since he has done us all such a service over Basi-Virk. Perhaps Mr. Tieleman will one day see the light. I will not hold my breath.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the dude in the picture has been on the chronic...about time too.

Anonymous said...

I don't think its politically correct to be comparing disabled people to politicians.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant idea, Bill. If you can get it going in BC, maybe we can start moving it East. I'd sure like to see it here in Saskatchewan, and certainly at the federal level. But why stop with cabinet ministers? Let's test 'em all, government and opposition!

NRF said...

Could we have them writing an annual ethics exam instead?