Heather has inspired me with all her letter-writing. I have drafted a letter to my local health food store about bulk products, and am ready to fax this one off to the Honorable Shirley Bond, Minister of Education. (This is my second post this evening - if you haven't already read my earlier one, then scroll down after you read this!)
Here it is, in its entirety.
The Hon Shirley Bond
Minister of Education
cc Mr E Vanderboom
February 19th, 2008
My children are enrolled with Wondertree’s Self Design program. They are currently in Grade 4 and 7 and as such have been forced to sit the FSA examinations this month.
I have many objections to these tests. I cannot speak for the children in the public schools, but expect that they are “taught to the test” and that most have a reasonable chance of getting through the 4.5 hours of numeracy and literacy testing with a “Meets Expectations” mark.
However, many children who learn at home are not taught specific skills at a specific age. In our home, we don’t say, “Oh, you’re in Grade 4, you have to learn this because you need to keep up with the public school kids.” My children learn things because they are interested in them and because they want to, and that could mean that they are “behind” in some subjects and “ahead” in others.
Being able to get through the mind-numbing tests that the Government has invented is not a true reflection of the child’s intelligence or ability.
Many of my fellow homeschooling parents were annoyed that the Grade 7 children were asked to write an article telling Grade 6 children how to make the most of their Grade 7 year. This was totally biased towards children in “bricks and mortar” schools, and I know that many of the homeschooled children, when faced with this topic, chose to write down the reasons why they would recommend that those poor Grade 6 kids should get out of school, get a life and spend their Grade 7 year homeschooling!
I have heard that the markers of the tests are praised for speed and do not spend much time actually reading what the children have written. This is very disrespectful to the children who have made an effort and spent much time writing something that is not going to be appreciated, just scanned briefly.
I have also heard that the marks given out are dependent upon the result that the Ministry wants to get. In other words, you set the “passing percentage” before the papers are marked. That is not an honest and fair way to go about things, it’s a way of ensuring that it makes it look like the schools are doing a good job which then makes you look good.
If my children had been in public school, I could have kept them home on the day(s) of the tests with no repercussions. However as a parent of children in a distributed learning program, I was told that I could not philosophically oppose the testing and refuse to let my children participate as I could then be asked to leave the program. I was also concerned that my refusal could cause problems for Self Design, possibly leading to a withdrawal of funding, which I certainly wouldn’t want, as I think they have the best program in the province and I want them to continue doing their good work. So I was stuck between a rock and a hard place and my children sat the tests.
Please do not reply to this with a form letter. If you cannot be bothered to write a personal response that refers to the points I have raised, I would prefer that you save the cost of the stamp.