Chilliwack teachers call LRB ruling unethical

Final grades for Chilliwack students in grades 10 and 11 will be issued, but many teachers say they won't be accurate.

Hundreds of members of the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association took part in a demonstration walk along Spadina Avenue following a study session at the Landing Sports Centre on Monday morning.

Final grades for students in grades 10 and 11 will be issued, but several Chilliwack teachers say they won’t be accurate.

Last Friday the Labour Relations Board ruled that marks for grades 10 and 11 courses would be determined based on the last report cards issued.

That means only the first half of the course will count.

According to the LRB ruling, school principals will determine final marks based on what’s been reported to the BCeSIS system, and teachers are to review those marks and make changes they deem necessary.

“Teachers know their students, they know the work students were doing up until strike action, so they have an opportunity to review and change the mark or confirm and keep it the same,” said Chilliwack school district superintendent Evelyn Novak.

Several Chilliwack teachers, however, are calling the ruling not only offensive, but unethical.

Most teachers don’t use BCeSIS other than to record marks for end of term and final report cards. Grade books are still in the schools, and the only way to access them is to cross picket lines.

“So unless I’ve memorized 120 term 4 marks, I have no way to know what to change their marks to,” said Sardis secondary school teacher Joe Massie.

“It’s a real ethical dilemma for us. Most of us are saying we’re not going to do it, we’re not going to say these marks are right or wrong.

“A report card is a legal document … it’s unethical to assign inaccurate grades.”

That means that a student who may have been failing in the first half, but worked hard to improve their grade to a passing level during the second half will fail, or a student who had a passing grade in the first half, but neglected to complete the work in the second half, will pass.

“Bottom line, students are being given marks that are not accurate in any way,” said Massie. “It makes the second half of the year a waste.

“Their marks are being based on 50 per cent of the whole course; that is not a reflection at all of their whole learning.

“And their report card, a legal document that shows their mark for the year, is going to be a lie.”

G.W. Graham middle-secondary school teacher Paula Aquino agrees.

“A mark generated based on the April report is only based on about half the [prescribed learning outcomes] for the course,” she said. “It negates two months of time and effort students have put into learning, as well as breaks a legal statute.”

Chilliwack secondary school teacher Steve Anderson is appalled.

“This idea of it all being boiled down to a formula set by group of people in offices in Victoria, or board offices locally, or even principals in offices in many schools is absolutely ridiculous,” he said. “That maybe works in a board office for manufacturing widgets, but these aren’t widgets.

“The disconnect is too complete.”

Still, the LRB ruling is an essential service designation; teachers are legally obligated to follow it.

Chilliwack Teachers’ Association president Clint Johnston said that while the union is working alongside the school district, they are not doing so willingly.

“To be forced, and let’s be clear, teachers are being forced by a legal order to participate in the creation of at best inaccurate at worst false grades is just repugnant to them,” said Johnston.

“It’s an incredible insult to the professionalism and ethics of teachers. I think teachers, I think parents and students should be outraged. I think people should be questioning our school board trustees and our district on what the positive purpose is of creating these grades. How will this help students, parents, and other interested parties assess the learning. What is the rationale for creating these grades, which clearly can’t reflect learning.”

kbartel@theprogress.com

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