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)

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.

BC legislatureEducation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

That’s Houston physician Dr. Stefanie Steel receiving her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine Jan. 19, 2021 from RN nurse manager Cindy Cockle. (Northern Health photo)
First Houston vaccinations take place

Long term care residents, health care workers on list

This BC Hydro map shows some of the power outages across Northern BC. Many were caused by high winds. (BC Hydro Website)
Power out across much of Northern BC

BC Hydro anticipates some may be without power overnight

Administering naloxone to a person experiencing a benzo-related overdose event won’t help. Naloxone is used to neutralize opioids. (Jenna Hauck/The Progress file photo)
Northern Health warning drug users of potential benzo contamination

The drug does not respond to naloxone, and is being included in street drugs

COVID-19 exposure reported at Houston Secondary. (Houston Today photo)
COVID-19 exposure reported at Houston Secondary School

Self-monitoring for symptoms encouraged

Silverthorne Elementary School
Students staying at home would not receive special treatment

Know that our schools are safe and clean. We are very diligent in our COVID protocols.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Throughout December, RCMP conducted CounterAttack road checks as police worked to keep roads free of impaired drivers. (BLACK PRESS file photo)
‘You can’t make this stuff up’: Stories from the B.C. CounterAttack campaign

Amusing, yes, but a reminder impaired driving affects ability to drive and to make good decisions

(Thesendboys/Instagram)
Video of man doing backflip off Vancouver bridge draws police condemnation

Group says in Instagram story that they ‘don’t do it for the clout’

Most Read