Parents suggest flaws in school district’s information

NANAIMO – Standardized test results show students better academically

The Save the Cedar Schools Coalition said flawed Foundation Skills Assessment test numbers are one of seven reasons why Nanaimo school district should reconsider closing Cedar Community Secondary School.

The district announced a 10-year Enhanced Facilities plan earlier, which includes the closure of a number of schools.

The school is set to close at the end of the school year but the coalition is still hopeful that it can get the school board to overturn its decision. The group made its argument at a meeting Monday night, disputing the district’s claim that the schools results were below average and saying that students are actually doing better than the provincial average in many categories.

The tests are expected to be written by students in B.C. in Grades 4 and 7 and help the Ministry of Education get an overview of where students’ reading, writing and math skills are at. At Monday’s meeting, Stephanie Higginson, a member of the coalition, described how the coaltion came to the conclusion.

According to numbers from the Ministry of Education’s website, 65 per cent of the province’s Grade 7 students were meeting expectations in terms of writing skills while 67 per cent of school district students were meeting expectations, based on February 2013 results.

“On June 26, those numbers were presented (as) 79 per cent of provincial students were meeting (expectations) and 74 per cent of our students were meeting,” she said. “The numbers were off, they were incorrect, so that was one of the arguments for why we needed to have this Enhanced Facilities plan, because our students were doing poorer than the provincial average but in actuality we’re not. In many situations, we’re doing better.”

Coaltion spokesman Steve Rae said that one of the most compelling of the seven points was the skills test numbers.

“The whole basis of for the closure of our school, is the kids weren’t doing well enough and to find out that (the numbers) are wrong is horrifying to me,” Rae told the News Bulletin.

“The fact that they are wrong is extremely disturbing and if I was a school board trustee, I would be furious because the trustees voted based on the information provided to them by Superintendent [Dave] Hutchinson and the staff of School District 68,” he said.

Besides the Foundation Skills Assessment test results, the coalition is basing its argument on six other points, including whether trustees properly represented residents. District staff wrote the enhanced facilities plan but trustees have defended the plan to the public, rather than defending public interest to staff.

The coalition also said the consultation process was flawed for the Cedar area, pointing to unreturned phone calls and e-mail, saying that there was only one public meeting, at which North Oyster school parents had more of an opportunity to give their opinion, as opposed to Cedar parents.

The coalition wants an explanation into optimal school size, which the plan claims Cedar secondary does not meet. It also undertook a financial review and estimates that the 10-year facilities plan will cost more than the existing model.

Safety is also an issue, as some Cedar students would be going to John Barsby Secondary School, which is in the vicinity of the Colliery Dams. Should the dams fail it estimated there would be loss of life.

The coalition also said there have been changes to the plan since it was adopted in June. It says the changes “demonstrate how the plan was rushed to completion and not completely thought through.”

The coalition also presented its case to trustees at a regular board meeting Wednesday night.