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Manitoba’s Test Scores — Are We Actually Surprised?

October 12, 2014 9:55 AM | Columns

By Ken Waddell, myWestman


(Empty classroom image via Shutterstock)

In a column that was posted on-line Tuesday morning, Winnipeg Free Press columnist Nick Martin said, “Manitoba is dead last among Canadian provinces in math, science, and reading — and this time it’s Canadian ministers of education doing the testing.”

(Editor’s note: read more about the student testing here.)

It’s devastating news for our education system.

Results of the 2013 Pan Canadian Assessment Program, random testing of 32,000 Grade 8 students last year, show Manitoba at the bottom in all three core elements of education.

That’s even worse than Manitoba did compared to other Canadian jurisdictions in the recent OECD international testing that has caused a crisis among educators.

In science, our kids scored 465 on the scale used by the Council of Ministers of Education in Canada, compared to a Canadian mean score of 505 — Alberta and Ontario were tops.

Math? We scored 471, Canada was at 507, and Ontario and Quebec were by far the highest.

When PSAC was last conducted in 2010, our kids were ahead of Prince Edward Island in math, but this time around PEI showed significant, some might say remarkable, improvement.

In reading, we were at the bottom with 469, far below Canada’s 508; Ontario children were miles beyond everyone else.

“Education Minister James Allum will hold a news conference this morning.”

By the time you read this in the Neepawa and Rivers Banner newspapers, the minister of education will have faced the media and tried to explain away the problem that has existed for quite a while in Manitoba schools.That’s no surprise as education ministers have been trying to explain away our problems for a lot of years.

The problems aren’t as simple as they appear. The apparent problem is poor ratings by students in core subjects. The real problem is much deeper.

Many many students and hundreds, if not thousands of teachers, bust themselves every day to do better, to learn more, to advance education. And we have many brilliant students and many brilliant, dedicated teachers. Lack of good students and lack of good teachers isn’t the problem.

However, the problems are severe and multiple:

1. The Manitoba Teachers Society has been taken over by a leftist union mentality that mouths platitudes about how they only have the good of the students at heart. They are deceiving us and themselves. On two memorable occasions I have been told that student well being is not their main motive, once by a former teacher who became a provincial political party leader and once by a former teacher who became an administrator. The first priority of the MTS is to promote the well being of teachers, not students.

2. Teachers are asked to do too little and too much. Many teachers don’t do a lot of things teachers used to do, like noon hour supervision and sports team coaching. Many still do but it is certainly on the decline.

3. Education is subject to trends. On the other hand teachers are asked to be health care providers, counsellors and environmental activists.

Many kids today can’t read, write or do simple math to save their souls and that is a failure of the system and its trends.

So the minister of education can stand up and explain all the shortcomings and how they have hired more teachers and how they are forever striving to better our education system but he can save his breath. In fact, he should take a deep breath and face the real shortcomings of the education system including those noted above.

Just ask the retired teachers. Just ask the current teachers.

Most teachers don’t want to be associated with the MTS as it has become a wing nut, leftist organization dedicated to the teachers’ well-being and never being measured for performance. Therefore, the MTS controls education in Manitoba, they control the government, they control the trustees association and they control the administrators. In fact, the MTS controls us all and it’s not working out that well for anybody.