Even current secondary school teacher and TToC (on-call teachers) union representative Tobey Steeves must contend: not all teachers are created equal. But a punitive model, he says, is the wrong path toward teacher assessment.
The war over working conditions and remuneration fought between the BC teachers’ federation and the provincial government has gone on since the early 20th century (1919, in fact!). Let me repeat that: the early 20th century. Needless to state, the battle between the two sides still exists to this very day and the bad blood continues to stain our provincial school system.
“There are pieces on the board that were here before [we] got here and they have certain expectations of how you can move about on the board and you can tweak those expectations if you’re lucky or if you’re clever,” said Steeves. “But you have to learn the board, you have to learn the lay of the land, and you have to learn how the other pieces move before you go on assuming you can just do whatever you want.”
Steeves is an advocate of a professional growth model over any punitive one. The latter, he said, doesn’t foment a healthy teaching environment, by any means, likening it to being under a microscope, or surveilled even.
“The professional growth model I think is what, generally, teachers more prefer. In that case you have lots of like different rungs on a ladder that kind of build in support. Now, is it working as well as it might, could, or should be? that’s a great conversation to have, and part of the challenge with that process working is when teachers are continually being terrorized by additional accountability schemes and having their work cut through unconstitutional policies.”
Steeves is not against measuring teachers, but he asserts the current system is fraught with problems, referencing the current Foundation Skills Assessment administered to Grade 4 and 7 students across Canada, since 2000. The FSAs judge students’ in three areas: reading comprehension, writing and numeracy.
The results are published with the information available via freedom of information requests.
Teachers, however, have long criticized these examinations as being unfair and bias across socio-economic lines. Aboriginal students, for instance, tend to perform much poorer than non-Aboriginals.
The FSA results are notably used by the Fraser Institute and various media to, in effect, rank schools across the districts. But, this process is said to be humiliating, discouraging and perhaps disparaging of those communities with poorer test results according to the BCTF and other critics. Essentially, how does the school with the children ranked 357th feel versus the 15th or 10th?
Teachers have even encouraged parents to exempt their child from taking the FSAs allowing exigent circumstances as a plausible reason. For example, the Tyee reported, “In 2007, in 13 B.C. elementary schools, less than half the students took the Grade 7 reading part of the test, and in 26 more schools, a quarter of the students opted out of that portion.”
Flyers released by the BCTF and currently available for download online further claim that, while “the proponents of increased standardized testing, data collection, and ranking imply that teachers are afraid of assessment,” it is a myth.
“There’s no question I need to evaluate teachers,” said Steeves, “but do I support teachers in the professional growth model or the punitive model?”
“Supported, not terrorized,” was the form he used.
Yet, he admits, there are indeed weak links within the profession.
“I do understand there are teachers who are problems in front of the classroom. I’ve been in the classroom with some and I would be a liar if I said this wasn’t the case.”
“In my career as a student I had no examples of what I would hold to be outstanding educators,” Steeves said.
But, despite recognizing there exists broken cogs within our provincial education machine, he reiterates his position against any punitive measures and failure of the FSAs, or almost any standardized test, as a true measuring stick of a teacher’s effectiveness.
The underlying reason: parents and the indeterminateness of student success.
Steeves reveals another glaring truth that, just the same as teachers, not all parents are created equal.
This is, in a nutshell, the reason for the hesitance, or perhaps outright rebellion, against teacher assessment based around student performance, especially in regard to standardized testing.
He explains: A student with great parents may not succeed in school and achieve a good education outcome. The same is true in reverse. The essence is that the outcome of a student—of any individual—is indeterminate. Standardized tests only exacerbate the problem for certain student groups.
Furthermore, Steeves asserts, “We’ve got less librarians, we’ve got less school councillors, less services across the board. I mean 200-plus schools have been closed across B.C. since 2001-02.”
“I think there is a strong need for a non-rosy kind of picture here, there are some worms in the apple that we do have to address. But we are so far away from being able to address that in an equitable and professional way.”
Steeves put the situation in terms of a threat, terrorizing. Perhaps that’s the problem as human instinct when feeling threatened is to lash out in return.
What’s clear is there’s no solution in store. Provincial parties continue to push for teacher assessment, with the NDP on record stating it would remove standardized testing, but plan to replace it with some other, remodelled province-wide examinations.
What’s even clearer is that with nearly a century of negotiating, both sides know how to play this game and the children remain pawns on this ever-evolving board.
Surrey’s Sullivan Heights Secondary opens new expansion for incoming students
Students at Sullivan Heights Secondary will be learning in 28 new classrooms this school year. Construction on a four-storey, $34.3-million expansion has finished and is ready to welcome students for the fall semester.
“Our board is so excited to welcome Sullivan Heights students into this new addition,” said Laurie Larsen, chair of the Surrey Board of Education, in a press release. “Students and families in the community have been waiting patiently for this additional space, which will allow staff and students to move out of a portable and into a bright, open, and engaging learning space.”
The expansion includes a new outdoor basketball court alongside a gym and a connector to the existing building, so there is a shared main entry and admin workplace. There are also additions to align with 21st-century learning objectives like breakout spaces, education preparation areas, lifestyle labs, a science super lab, large multi-purpose spaces that can be used by the community after hours, and a group of computer labs organized to maximize collaboration and innovation.
This new space brings the total number of classrooms at Sullivan up to 68, the most of any school in the district, and will provide seating for up to 1,700 students.
The expansion has been needed for a while—the school had a capacity of 1,000 students but enrolled 1,646 students in October 2021.
The high school was using 14 portables to accommodate all the students, but those will now be removed.
This expansion will also allow Sullivan to move away from the staggered scheduling system it was forced to adopt to accommodate the growing number of students.
In the same press release, principal David Baldasso said, “This 700-seat addition means that we are no longer on an extended day, students and staff will more easily be able to collaborate, and extracurricular activities are no longer impacted by the length of the day. These new modern learning spaces such as the tech lab, maker spaces and foods labs will also allow us to offer more choice and opportunities to students for years to come.”
Surrey Libraries Offers Access to O’Reilly eBooks and Videos
Surrey Libraries is excited to announce the addition of O’Reilly eBooks to its list of online resources. This platform offers over 35,000 eBooks and 30,000 hours of video courses on technology, business, design, science, engineering, travel, hobbies, health and more, all free with a Surrey Libraries card!
O’Reilly has books and videos for makers, gamers and tinkerers. There are more than 100 hobbyist titles including a STEAM Lab for Kids and The Lego Build-It Book, Volumes 1 & 2. More than 900 books from the “For Dummies” series are included, as well as over 150 titles on job-seeking and career development.
The resource also has technology learning paths like SQL Fundamentals – SQL for Data Analysis and Database Design, case studies like “Pinterest’s Journey to the Cloud,” and countless hours of video instruction on topics like Microsoft Azure Fundamentals, Linux Fundamentals, or Amazon Web Services.
We’re excited to welcome you back to our branches! Check our website for information on hours and available services and what we’re doing to keep everyone safe.
Canada’s Top Digital Marketing School Partners with MNBC to Launch Scholarships
Métis Nation BC and Jelly Academy collaborated in order to provide growth within New Collar Employment for Indigenous people and together provided 20 scholarships to Jelly Academy’s digital marketing course. Thanks to this partnership, there will be more Indigenous people with the skills and know-how when it comes to online and digital marketing.
The Indigenous skills training that have previously been available have typically focused on great blue collar jobs such as construction and trades, but this collaboration provides a chance to diversify the available training for Indigenous people with a new focus within varying industries.
Increased demand for digital marketing
Online marketing has had a huge rise in demand especially since COVID-19 and the increased job opportunities opening up in Canada. Indeed reports that by February 2021, jobs in media, marketing, and communications jobs had clicks higher than the economy average per posting, which is why having the necessary skills and training will give job seekers an advantage. Additionally, Indeed reported 28.9% job growth for digital advertising during a forecast period of 2019-2024.
Jelly Academy has been operating for 5 years with over 600 grads with a successful hiring rate. Over 82% of grads who come with an existing employment get a raise or promotion within 6 months of graduating the course and over 94% of grads who are students or without employment get a job within 4 months of graduation. This is due to in-depth training within the course as well as the additional skill-enhancing certifications provided through Jelly Academy.
The program focuses on equipping students with the certificates that hiring managers from agencies and individual brands are looking for. Jelly Academy grads will leave the course with evergreen Hootsuite, Google, SEMRush and Facebook certifications that each have transferable skills.
While these additional certifications can be taken online through providers such as Udemy; data shows about 96% of Udemy students don’t finish a course whereas an official curriculum from Jelly Academy will aid students in completing relevant courses.
By providing these new scholarships for a course that has a successful hiring rate, it allows for further career opportunities for Indigenous members of Métis Nation BC.
Jelly Academy was created by industry expert, Darian Kovacs, in order to have a course that provided the foundation in digital marketing. The course is taught by other industry professionals who provide clear understanding in online marketing topics such as social media, PR, SEO, Google Ads, Google Analytics, and Facebook Ads. Learn more about Jelly Academy here.
Surrey Students Awarded Scholarships, New Scholarship Created By Cloverdale Rodeo Youth Initiative Foundation.
CLOVERDALE, BC: In June 2020, while the world came to a halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Cloverdale Rodeo & Country Fair postponed, one of the things that didn’t stop was the Cloverdale Rodeo Youth Initiative Foundation annual scholarship. Seven grade 12 students from across the city of Surrey were awarded $1000.00 scholarships for post-secondary education by the Cloverdale Rodeo Youth Initiative Foundation.
“As a Board we collectively agreed to proceed with awarding scholarships during the pandemic, whether there was a rodeo or not, because people are in a time of financial need more than ever, and this is not a time to hold back, but to give and lend a helping hand”, says Foundation Chair Nicole Reader.”
The recipients, all of whom were part of the graduating class of 2020, will use their $1000.00 scholarships for a variety of post secondary institutions across British Columbia.
The 2020 Cloverdale Rodeo Youth Foundation recipients:
- Vincent Labador – Johnston Heights Secondary
- Nisha Niijar – Fleetwood Park Secondary
- Aashna Thapar – North Surrey Secondary
- Natasha Kalinic – Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary
- Alexander Thornton – Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary
- Taya Suttill – Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary
- Skye Graham – Clayton Heights Secondary
“Each of these graduates are incredibly deserving of these awards,” says Foundation Chair Nicole Reader. “The entire community should be proud of these young people.”
The foundation adjusted its scholarship criteria, so applicants did not require having previous volunteer experience at the Cloverdale Rodeo in order to be eligible, as long as they had volunteer experience with another organization.
The Cloverdale Rodeo Youth Initiative Foundation will also be awarding scholarships this year under its new criteria. The application deadline for the 2021 scholarships is Friday, May 21st, 2021.
Scholarship applications can be found here.
Not only has the Cloverdale Rodeo Youth Initiative Foundation continued to support the youth community throughout the pandemic, but the organization has also been provided the opportunity to establish an additional scholarship through its organization called The Isabella Olson Scholarship Award “Rising Above”.
The “Rising Above” scholarship was established in loving memory of a Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary student, Isabella Olson, on behalf of her loving family. Isabella was an extraordinary and inspirational young individual who strived to ‘Rise Above’ the various obstacles she faced while always remaining determined to succeed.
To honour Isabella’s legacy a $2,000.00 scholarship has been created to recognize an inspiring Lord Tweedsmuir grade 12 student who is “Rising Above” obstacles, whether personal, mental health, bullying, or family related complications.
A student who has the determination to continue doing well in school, who may participate in school activities community services and/or may have work experience.
“Isabella’s inspiring spirit was a source of strength to all who knew her, and it is our esteemed honour to be able to present this award and assisting inspiring students in achieving their dreams, says Foundation Chair Reader.”
The application deadline for the 2021 Isabella Olson Scholarship Award “Rising Above” is Friday, May 21st, 2021.
Scholarship application can be found here.
Fossil Discovery Deepens Snakefly Mystery
Fossil discoveries often help answer long-standing questions about how our modern world came to be. However, sometimes they only deepen the mystery—as a recent discovery of four new species of ancient insects in British Columbia and Washington state is proving.
The fossil species, recently discovered by paleontologists Bruce Archibald of Simon Fraser University and Vladimir Makarkin of the Russian Academy of Sciences, are from a group of insects known as snakeflies, now shown to have lived in the region some 50 million years ago.
The findings, published in Zootaxa, raise more questions about the evolutionary history of the distinctly elongated insects and why they live where they do today.
Snakeflies are slender, predatory insects that are native to the Northern Hemisphere and noticeably absent from tropical regions. Scientists have traditionally believed that they require cold winters to trigger development into adults, restricting them almost exclusively to regions that experience winter frost days or colder. However, the fossil sites where the ancient species were found experienced a climate that doesn’t fit with this explanation.
“The average yearly climate was moderate like Vancouver or Seattle today, but importantly, with very mild winters of few or no frost days,” says Archibald. “We can see this by the presence of frost intolerant plants like palms living in these forests along with more northerly plants like spruce.”
The fossil sites where the ancient species were discovered span 1,000 kilometers of an ancient upland from Driftwood Canyon in northwest B.C. to the McAbee fossil site in southern B.C., and all the way to the city of Republic in northern Washington.
According to Archibald, the paleontologists found species of two families of snakeflies in these fossil sites, both of which had previously been thought to require cold winters to survive. Each family appears to have independently adapted to cold winters after these fossil species lived.
“Now we know that earlier in their evolutionary history, snakeflies were living in climates with very mild winters and so the question becomes why didn’t they keep their ability to live in such regions? Why aren’t snakeflies found in the tropics today?”
Pervious fossil insect discoveries in these sites have shown connections with Europe, Pacific coastal Russia, and even Australia.
Archibald emphasizes that understanding how life adapts to climate by looking deep into the past helps explain why species are distributed across the globe today, and can perhaps help foresee how further change in climate may affect that pattern.
“Such discoveries are coming out of these fossil sites all the time,” says Archibald. “They’re an important part of our heritage.”
About Simon Fraser University
As Canada’s engaged university, SFU works with communities, organizations and partners to create, share and embrace knowledge that improves life and generates real change.
We deliver a world-class education with lifelong value that shapes change-makers, visionaries and problem-solvers. We connect research and innovation to entrepreneurship and industry to deliver sustainable, relevant solutions to today’s problems.
With campuses in British Columbia’s three largest cities—Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey—SFU has eight faculties that deliver 193 undergraduate degree programs and 127 graduate degree programs to more than 37,000 students. The university now boasts more than 165,000 alumni residing in 143 countries.
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