RUSHTON: Tests should be seen as helpful, not harmful

What, I wonder, is so wrong with testing school children on what they have learned?

Is it because some teachers, and thus the entire BCTF union, believe that if a child fails, or does poorly, it reflects not on the student but the one who has provided the education that resulted in failure?

Well, so it should, for the Foundation Skills Assessment tests are not difficult . . . I even took one and passed it, though I admit I didn’t get a perfect mark. In one of the reading examples I just sped through it, not bothering to properly digest the information.

There is the ability, however, and it is also available to the kids when taking the test, to go back over the text to determine what the correct answer could be. I didn’t bother because, believing I should be smarter than a fourth grader, I didn’t think it fair to reread the piece from which the questions were drawn.

What I decided at the end of the test was that it was not difficult, and that it not only determined the ability to read but what information was retained from the reading.

How can that be wrong? How can anyone, particularly a teacher, not want to know how much children absorb what they are taught?

If a kid does well, a teacher should take comfort that a child is learning the skills the teacher was trained to pass on. If a child does poorly, then it should be an indication he or she needs more help – not that the teacher is doing a bad job.

Unfortunately, there are, among so many good teachers, a few not so good. And that is what the union should be addressing, and for their own professionalism perhaps some should be weeded out, or at the very least, like a weak student, given additional help in passing on the skills they were trained to dispense.

However, this isn’t about the good and the bad of the teaching profession, but in support of general education.

When little Sam or Sally completes school, he or she, for their quality of life and their ability to gain employment, must be able to read material, and comprehend what it means.

If a child has not learned to comprehend and retain information, they are going to make poor rocket scientists, doctors or teachers.

And anyone who says it isn’t fair to test kids, has never lived in the real world where there is a test – granted not often a written one – every day. To succeed in this world you are constantly being challenged, and if you don’t come up with the correct answers, response or action you will find your current and future worth diminished.

It is in schools and in homes where those lessons need to be learned. And if, for a number of children, that doesn’t occur in the home, then it falls to the skills and compassion of a teacher to provide the support.

If a teacher, and the BCTF, believes it isn’t their role, then perhaps they should consider an alternative career. There are many wonderful teachers in our system – I’ve seen them at work with my children and grandchildren. They are the ones who create in children an appreciation for learning, an appreciation for life and a desire to keep on learning.

And I would bet that those fine educators are not the ones disputing the need for Fundamental Skills Assessment tests. They are the ones who take pride seeing how well their charges do, and make certain that those who didn’t do so well will the next time.

As for the tests being “too difficult” or “too challenging” why not take one? They are available on-line on the Ministry of Education’s website (go to www.awinfosys.com/eassessment/fsa_sample.htm)

It’s not difficult to follow the directions, and the questions are multiple choice.

If nothing else, you’ll be able to determine if you are smarter than a Grade 4 student. For rocket scientists, try the Grade 7 tests.

markrushton@abbynews.com