Saturday, January 17, 2009

Standardized testing in BC for students in grades 4 and 7

The National Post has an article about standardized testing in British Columbia. Like several other provinces, BC tests all its students in grades four and seven to see how well they are performing. After each school's results are given to the public, a group such as the Fraser Institute takes these results, adjusts them with data from Census Canada, and provides a score for each school. What is wrong with that?

In Ontario, I am a supply teacher for one of the Toronto area boards. The teaching is very good at all the schools where I teach. I am not writing that because I want to make teachers look good. We are great! I don't need to butter up my fellow colleagues.

Elementary students write the EQAO tests in grades three and six. These tests concentrate on reading, writing, and mathematics. The students are required to complete questions with multiple choice answers, short responses, longer story writing, and problem solving in mathematics.

What is wrong with the Fraser Institute assigning a school a score? When the Fraser Institute collects the EQAO aggregate school results, they calculate a decimal score from zero to ten and gives each school that score. One school where I have taught has several classes for gifted students. There are almost no students who require lower skilled special education. That school received a score of 1o out of 10.

A neighbouring school includes several classes for students who are developmentally delayed or have severe autism. These students do not write the EQAO tests. For some, it's a challenge just to write their names. The Fraser Institute includes their non-performance as being equivalent to receiving a zero. This distorts and lowers the Fraser score for that school.

At two other schools, parents at one school complained that their children's results were lower than those attending a neighbouring school. Those parents should have realized that many of their children are English Language Learners (formerly English as a Second Language students) while the children at the neighbouring school were less likely to be ELLs. The parents at the first school wanted to transfer their children to the neighbouring school because they had better test scores. The teachers at both schools are highly dedicated and do their best to meet the needs of their students. Some of the hardest working teachers are those who work at schools with lower test results. The results are not an indicator of how well the teachers teach. One could take the best teachers at Upper Canada College and have them teach at an under performing school. The EQAO test results for the next year may be the same or worse because those teachers would not have the time to understand and meet the needs of their new students.

Finally, in the weeks before the EQAO tests, the teachers do "teach to the test." They teach their students how to read questions and how to answer them in particular ways. Students learn little of the curriculum during those weeks. A high test result may indicate how well a student knows how to take the test, not how well he or she knows the curriculum.

As a professional, I won't suggest what parents in British Columbia should do if their children have to write the standardized tests. I will only suggest that the results may not be indicative of how their children may actually performing in school.

G&M: B.C. forecast - an NDP government and STV

I encourage everyone to read a Globe and Mail column by Gordon Gibson about the referendum on the Single Transferable Vote in British Columbia. He also writes about BC's NDP. Feel free to make comments below his column.

One commenter, Craig Anthony, wrote:

STV provides:
- fairness for voters
- fairness for parties
- fairness for MLAs
- more effective local representation,
- more voter choice,
- more accountability,
- better rural representation,
- better representation of women,
- more power to the voters and less to the politically connected,
- more consensual governing,
- more stable government because of less drastic policy swings between governments,
- a better investment, business and labour climate,
- and voters deciding how they want to be governed.

People who support FPTP evidently don’t want these things. Who wouldn’t want these things? Obviously, people who don't know enough about it or who personally benefit from the current system.

If you want these things, support BC-STV.

This is an exciting time for democracy. This is a chance for voters to have a say.

I agree.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Recommended reading: Samson Blinded

I found a downloadable book called Samson Blinded by an Israeli writer with the nom-de-plume, Obadiah Shoher, a politician.* He seems very hawkish when writing about the Israelis, Arab-Israelis, and Arabs in general. In his psyche, the Palestinians are a non-nation who like the Arab-Israelis should be forced out of a greater Israel. He makes Mark Steyn look like a caring liberal.

Here is a sample of Shoher's writing:

Short of driving the Israeli Arabs out, Israel should withdraw their political franchise. Following the Torah’s lead—of cursing idolaters to the fourth generation—Israel should enfranchise Arabs only after four generations of demonstrated loyalty and revoke the franchise the minute Arab loyalty comes into question.

I just read that two political parties representing Arab-Israelis have been banned from running their lists of candidates in the upcoming Israeli general election. The Central Election Committee voted to ban the United Arab List--Ta'al and Balad. These two parties have been accused of supporting terrorism according to the CEC.

Samson Blinded is written apparently by an Israeli hardliner. While many Israelis may not share all "Shoher's" viewpoints, enough of them might share some of them. I recommend everyone read this book. Progressive minded people won't like it. This book is available for download.

*Not verified

Friday, January 9, 2009

PB Vote Thresholds. "Oh yes, Cherniak, yes, yes!"

Starting at 8:30 pm. I checked how long blogs that achieved different minimum thresholds would stay posted on the Progressive Bloggers homepage in the main section. Here are the results:


0) 1 h 03 min
1) 1 h 07 min
2) 1 h 52 min
3) 2 h 04 min*
4) 3 h 03 min
5) 4 h 07 min
6) 4 h 10 min
7) 7 h 54 min**
8) 5 h 47 min
9) 6 h 57 min
10) 6 h 57 min

* PB default

** I can't figure this duration. It doesn't follow the pattern. I double checked it.

I am wondering if Progressive Bloggers needs to change the threshold setting.

I added Cherniak in my title to see if I can get extra votes.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Watch out for donation scams on behalf of Gazans or Israelis

I left this comment on Challenging the Commonplace: (Blogpost deleted)

With advice to everyone: be careful about anyone on the web who may ask for donations including credit card numbers on behalf of the Gazans or Israelis. You may lose more than your shirt.
There are legitimate organizations who may want your donations. Do your research before you donate or give your credit card number to anyone.


Challenging the Commonplace has decided to delete the letter from the Anti-Zionist Jewish youth group from their blog. The authenticity of the letter could not be verified. CtC did a good thing. Thank you.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

NY Times: Australia Says No on Detainees, and Britain Is Reluctant

From the New York Times: Australia Says No on Detainees, and Britain Is Reluctant:

SYDNEY, Australia — Australia said Friday that it would not agree to American requests to accept more detainees from the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and Britain signaled reluctance to take in significant numbers of former inmates, underscoring the difficulties both the departing and incoming administrations in Washington face in trying to close the camp, which has stirred bitter controversy around the world.

The Pentagon, in transferring three Algerian prisoners to Bosnia on Dec. 16, said some 250 inmates remained at Guantánamo. About 60 have been cleared for release but cannot be sent to their home countries, mostly out of concern that they would be tortured or persecuted. They are from countries including Algeria, China, Libya and Tunisia.

If the US government thinks that the detainees/prisoners are good enough for other countries to take for resettlement, why can't the US bring the prisoners to the US mainland for resettlement? The United States created the problem of imprisoning people in Guantanamo; the United States can send those prisoners cleared for release to the mainland (or Hawaii or Alaska).

Canada should not take Guantanamo prisoners cleared for release unless they wish to apply freely to immigrate from the continental US or from another country.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Happy Gnu Year!

This May, I wish for a successful referendum in British Columbia on the Single Transferable Vote. Voting is easy as 1-2-3.

I hope that British Columbians will get involved in supporting STV. Talk to your neighbours. Hand out pamphlets. Put up signs. Write letters to your local newspapers.

If you live outside BC, write letters to newspapers, write blogs, and donate money to the campaign. Even a small amount of money will help the campaign.

It's time to improve democracy in British Columbia and Canada.