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Curious timing for evaluation talk in Qualicum School District

As picket lines formed around local schools, trustees decided to weigh in on a wider discussion about how to measure success and evaluate teachers.

Trustee Ross Milligan introduced a motion at School District 69's regular board meeting last week to establish a committee to advise the board on "performance measurements that should be utilized as indicators of academic performance," considering social/economic factors, establishing targets, a plan of action and reporting system.

"When I look at the thousands of person hours that go into a student walking across the stage to graduate, (that) represents a huge amount of standards that have already been set for achievement," said trustee and former teacher Barry Kurland.

He pointed to issues with the accuracy of the provincial foundation skills assessment (FSA) tests, controversy over the Fraser Institute’s annual school rankings and the difficulty of comparing different students across different districts.

Chair Lynette Kershaw said she supports the idea, and it was interesting coming in the same meeting as a presentation from Island Health school health officer Paul Hasselback, showing the district slightly below the Island average in a number of health and early education indicators.

“It’s a little disconcerting to me that we aren’t a lot (better),” said Kershaw. “I would like to look at ways to evaluate what we’re doing well and what we need to change.”

She said the controversy around the Fraser Institute’s annual report cards is exactly why she would like to see local measures.

“For me, this motion says okay, what do we want to use. As a trustee in this district I’d like to see what we’re doing in this district.”

Trustee Julie Austin agreed: “My understanding is that province wide there’s dissatisfaction — parents and teachers are asking to bring it back to a local level, bring it to the people that are working closest with our children.”

Kurland suggested there are already a lot of people “very highly educated in the field of educational socio-metrics, or whatever you want to call it, that look at this data all the time.”

“Given the current climate, work load and everything else, to establish a committee is just going nowhere and is going to take up a bunch of time,” he said. “I think we’re going to reinvent the wheel.” He also brought up the spectre of introducing teacher evaluations in the current environment, suggesting teacher evaluations are already set by the collective agreement.

Mount Arrowsmith Teachers Association vice president Norberta Heinrichs said later that teachers look forward to seeing how the committee would work and they hope it wouldn’t impede the collective agreement.

Assistant superintendent Gillian Wilson said the district already has active “assessment and evaluation committees” at the elementary and middle school levels, and that there are various forms of assessment built into the district’s education planning. Milligan said he was looking to start the conversation with their stakeholders, summing up that there is “no more important thing we have to do as trustees as to assure the academic performance of our children, and to assure ourselves of that we have to measure it.”

The motion to establish a committee passed with Kurland and Eve Flynn opposed.

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