Public Schools Slipping?

Commentary, Education, Frontier Centre

As usual, Prof. Rodney Clifton has it right on with his comments concerning standardized testing in the schools (Standard tests boost accountability, April 17). As usual, also, one of his first critics is Derwyn Davies, a past-president of the teacher’s union (Standardized tests no panacea, April 18).

When I first started teaching high school many years ago, departmental exams were an annual exercise, and part of school life. There was a school curriculum, which prescribed the course of study, and its content. Teachers were not permitted to do “their own thing” in whatever manner that they chose. This old nonsense about teachers “teaching to the test” is just that, nonsense. Teachers taught to the curriculum. Those teachers who taught well, and those students who mastered the prescribed material, did well on the departmentals.

We had an additional check and balance called school inspectors. Every teacher could expect an annual visit from one of these people, who saw to it that the curriculum was being followed. Among other things, I taught junior high English. I made sure that my pupils could spell, use proper grammar, and write in a coherent and lucid fashion. I was never afraid of either school inspectors or “standardized tests.”

Those who criticize Prof. Clifton should ask themselves: Why are organizations like Sylvan Learning Centres doing such a huge business? Why are private schools crowded to capacity, with long waiting lists? Why does the University of Manitoba need to have a general first year? Could it be because the public school system is no longer doing its job?

Clarence R. Koss