Kootenay Columbia Teachers’ Union president Andy Davidoff. Photo: Jennifer Small

Kootenay Columbia Teachers’ Union president Andy Davidoff. Photo: Jennifer Small

An open letter to Premier Horgan and Minister Whiteside: Let’s stop harming our children during a pandemic

A letter from Andrew Davidoff, President Kootenay Columbia Teachers’ Union

Dear Premier Horgan and Minister Whiteside,

We hope that you and your loved ones are well and have not been bitten by the pernicious COVID-19 bug that has created a global pandemic and caused so much pain and anxiety for all of us.

We are writing this open letter to you with an appeal to reconsider your government’s decision and apparent directive(s) to School Districts forcing them to administer the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) testing regimen to our students this year.

We are also very concerned that you are forcing School Districts to write letters to parents informing them that they will not be able to excuse their children from this assessment because you, apparently, do not recognize a pandemic and a declaration of a provincial state of a health emergency as an “extenuating circumstance.”

We have been writing to you for many years about the misuse of the FSA results by the Fraser Institute and the harm that this has caused to children who are led to believe that private schools are “better” than public schools because of some random rating system adopted by the Institute.

We are no longer allowed to post test results or grades or charts with “gold stars” for attendance or spelling test results because this is not considered “best practice” and causes harm to our students, but you continue to support the public shaming of schools by permitting the posting of school rankings that focus on one test a year of students in a couple of grades.

We understand that you are under some pressure from those within your Ministry of Education who are trumping the need for “data” because it is the apparent “eighth lever to manage education” in our province and they are apparently prepared to shame School District superintendents into ensuring higher FSA participation rates to populate the Fraser Institute’s rankings and are advising you to take away parental rights to excuse their children from this misused assessment even during a pandemic.

We understand that Boards of Education are also appealing to you to cancel the FSAs during the pandemic and stop the misuse of assessments of our students by organizations like the Fraser Institute.

One District Superintendent has eloquently summarized why we all need to take a sober look at what we are doing to our children:

“Assessment has to be meaningful, it has to be purposeful and it shouldn’t, in the end, cause any harm, and when you start ranking you cause harm,” she said. “It’s supposed to be helpful in a positive way. So, to me, they’re harmful the way the Fraser Institute uses them.” (Christine Perkins, SD8 Kootenay Lake, Nelson Star, Jan. 18, 2021)

We have all being asked to apply trauma informed principles and practice in the education sector during this pandemic, so we are respectfully requesting you and your government apply these same principles with respect to the forced collection of the FSA data and results and their misuse and stop the harm.

Respectfully requested,

Andrew M. Davidoff, President,

Kootenay Columbia Teachers’ Union

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