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Teachers teaching students to lie?

The B.C. Teachers Federation had teachers across the province send home a note to parents that will teach kids to be deceitful, says a local man.

The note urges parents to have their children excused from taking the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) tests. The Education Ministry tests are given to students in Grades 4 and 7, and the Fraser Institute uses the results in a controversial ranking of schools.

The note from the BCTF lists several problems the union has with the FSA: The process is expensive; they “do not help students learn, or teachers teach”; they take away from classroom time; and “the results are misused to rank schools and promote privatization.”

The note, signed by BCTF president Susan Lambert, asks parents to either write their principal, or detach the bottom of the note and return it, to request their child be exempted from the FSA.

The bottom of the note has three boxes parents can check beside reasons, which include “family emergency,” “lengthy illness” and “other extenuating circumstances.”

“That’s blatant lying – I don’t lie,” said local businessman Dan Kosicki. “They [teachers] have got their agenda, and it’s being put onto kids.”

“What are teachers telling our kids? And are they pushing their political agenda in schools?” he asks. “We need teachers to do what they’re paid to do.”

He said students will know they are getting out of the three tests, and that there is no family emergency, lengthy illness or other circumstances.

“Kids should not be taught to lie,” said Kosicki. “Kids should learn to be accountable for their actions, big or small.”

While the 51-year-old’s children graduated long ago, he said he speaks as someone who pays school taxes, and someone with grandchildren, ages five and two.

He learned about the note from an employee, whose child told their teacher “in our house we don’t lie.”

Kosicki said the notes could put kids in an awkward position. There is unsubtle pressure placed on the students, who generally want to please their teachers and do their bidding.

“The teacher will ask them, ‘Did you bring the paper?’ That’s B.S., and I have a problem with it.”

The FSA tests have been conducted from mid-January until the middle of February, so most schools will have finished with them already.

George Serra, president of the Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association, said there has not been a backlash to the BCTF note.

“We provide information, and parents make an informed choice whether their child will take the test or not,” he said.

Asked whether the note asks parents to lie, he countered that “other extenuating circumstances” can mean a lot of things.

In his view, children should not be taught to blindly do whatever the government tells them to.

“We want to teach kids to be critical thinkers, and to question things,” said Serra.

Serra noted there are strict rules regarding what the BCTF is allowed to send home to parents, and the note was approved by the BC Public School Employers’ Association.

The union president expects the FSA tests will ultimately be discontinued, because even education administrators do not use the results.

“They are on the way out,” he predicts. “School boards don’t find the results they get from these test to be valid in any way.”

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