Teachers and other government union workers hold strike rally at the B.C. legislature in 2012. At the time, the BCTF was demanding a 16 per cent pay increase, more than other unions were accepting. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. VIEWS: Public school ‘crisis’ doesn’t exist

More teachers pour in, union wants results suppressed

As school districts around B.C. hire and train every qualified teacher they can find to fill an allegedly drastic shortage, the education ministry has put out the latest low-key update showing that the actual performance of the B.C. school system has no relationship to the hysterical political and media narrative that surrounds it.

The latest data released by the ministry show the slow but steady improvement in high school completion rates is continuing. The average for B.C.’s 60 school districts reached 84 per cent last year, rising by more than five per cent in the past 10 years.

The improvement for students designated as having special needs is even more impressive. High school completion within six years for special needs students was up 2.4 per cent last year alone, and up 25 per cent in the past decade. Similar results have come in for Indigenous students, closing the gap between those groups and the general student population.

And how are B.C.’s public schools measuring up nationally and internationally? Here are quotes from the current education ministry fact sheet, taken from a 2014 Conference Board of Canada report comparing B.C. to the rest of Canada and 16 “peer countries” around the world:

• B.C. finished ahead of all provinces.

• Only Finland and Japan finished ahead of B.C.

• More than 91 per cent of B.C. residents aged 25 to 64 have a high school diploma, higher than all other provinces and peer countries.

Note that the latest high school completion results are for the 2016-17 school year, before the B.C. government began pouring money in to hire 3,500 new teachers to meet the terms of a Supreme Court of Canada decision last year.

How much money? In the government’s court submission in 2014, it estimated that restoring class size formulas removed in 2002 would add $40 million to the Surrey school district’s payroll costs in the first year alone. That’s just one of 60 districts.

Was this decade-long court battle about improving performance, or hours available for one-on-one instruction time with students, or individual learning plans, or integrating special needs? No, it was not. None of that is mentioned in the reams of legalese produced by three levels of courts.

Instead, it was a narrowly focused attack by the B.C. Teachers’ Federation to capitalize on an earlier Supreme Court of Canada ruling in favour of the Hospital Employees’ Union. Essentially, in 2007 the high court invented a constitutional right to collective bargaining, overturning decades of case law. It ruled that the B.C. government had failed to meet its new standard, in legislative action that occurred five years before this judge-made standard was created.

So what will be the effect of these 3,500 new teachers, many in non-classroom roles such as librarians? That remains to be seen. Perhaps the school completion rates will increase even faster, or the already impressive gains in Indigenous students making it to Grade 12 will accelerate. (This seems unlikely, since that rate is almost 90 per cent now.)

Perhaps B.C.’s already world-leading academic performance will improve, surpassing even the famously rigorous schools of Japan. Testing will continue to determine this.

One of Premier John Horgan’s post-election statements on the subject was to carry on the long assault on the tests of student performance in B.C.’s elementary schools. The Foundation Skills Assessment has been a target of the BCTF since its inception, which is easier to understand when you know the annual results can be used to track individual teacher performance as student cohorts move from grade to grade.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Port Alberni Black Sheep win match against Island rivals

Black Sheep squared off against the Nanaimo Hornets for TC Cup action

11th annual Magic Cottage kicks off this weekend in Port Alberni

Cottage will be open over two weekends in November

Port Alberni RCMP hold second bike registration event

Project 529 will be at Canadian Tire on Saturday, Nov. 17

Husky Gas Station robbed on Third Avenue

Port Alberni RCMP still searching for suspect

New Coast Guard radar boosts marine traffic monitoring off B.C. coast

Six radar installations set up for Georgia Strait to Queen Charlotte Strait to Prince Rupert

Saving salmon: B.C. business man believes hatcheries can help bring back the fish

Tony Allard worked with a central coast First Nation to enhance salmon stocks

High-end B.C. house prices dropping, but no relief at lower levels

But experts say home ownership remains out of reach for many for middle- and lower-income families

Worker killed in collision at B.C. coal mine

Vehicle collision occurred at approximately 10:45 a.m. this morning

B.C. asking for tips on ‘dirty money’ in horse racing, real estate, luxury cars

Action follows a Peter German report on money laundering in B.C. casinos

Canadian dead more than a week after plane crash in Guyana: Global Affairs

Global Affairs said it couldn’t provide further details on the identity of the Canadian citizen

Children between 6 and 9 eligible for $1,200 RESP grant from province

BC Ministry of Education is reminding residents to apply before the deadline

Victoria spent $30,000 to remove John A. Macdonald statue

Contentious decision sparked controversy, apology from mayor

Privacy concerns over credit card use for legal online pot purchases

Worries follow privacy breaches at some Canadian cannabis retailers

NEB approves operating pressure increase to repaired Enbridge pipeline

The pipeline burst outside of Prince George on Oct. 9, now operating at 85 per cent

Most Read