New Brunswick

Proposed changes to student assessments bring accusations and analogies on political panel

Unpacking the province's plans to have teachers do assessments that school psychologists usually do

Education minister says he wants to hear from parents, not "folks who have a vested interest.”

Last week Education Minister Dominic Cardy introduced a bill that would see 25 specialized resource teachers trained to do assessments of students. (Karissa Donkin/CBC)

New Brunswick's education minister said the groups that have come out against his plan to have some resource teachers, rather than psychologists, do assessments on students have a vested interest in opposing the idea.

Last week Education Minister Dominic Cardy introduced a bill that would see 25 specialized resource teachers trained to do some assessments.

The goal would be to help deal with the shortage of psychologists in the province's schools.

But the College of Psychologists of New Brunswick and the Learning Disabilities Association of New Brunswick have both raised concerns about the plan.

Cardy said the groups are doing so for professional reasons and he won't be swayed from his path.

"I'm interested in hearing from the parents of kids who've been waiting for years," said Cardy. 

"This is a tool that's worked in other places and I'm pretty confident it's going to work here as well, despite the interested folks who have a vested interest."

But People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin said it's not just professional groups that are concerned about the idea.

"I'm hearing from parents with children that they know have special needs and they're telling me unequivocally ... they have real concerns that what's going to happen is when they get their assessment, they're going to be misdiagnosed or not have the proper assessment. And that's going to carry this student all throughout the year," said Austin.

Cardy said the province has been down this road before, and cites the move to give pharmacists and LPNs a greater role in health care as examples, or the decision to allow advanced care paramedics in the province's ambulances.

"We've had the same concerns raised by people who said 'Oh, these people are pretending to be doctors and pretending to be nurses and they don't have the qualifications. And what have we seen? Advanced care paramedics offer excellent service and care."

“This is a tool that's worked in other places and I'm pretty confident it's going to work here as well, despite the interested folks who have a vested interest.” (Mikael Mayer/Radio-Canada file photo)

But Austin said there is a distinct difference between advanced care paramedics and school psychologists.

"Can you imagine walking [into an ER] and hoping that an ER surgeon is there — a doctor trained in emergencies — is there to help you, and instead you get an advanced care paramedic," said Austin. 

"Advanced care paramedics are on the road to get you to the ER to treat you."

But Austin continued the hospital analogy, saying this was all a matter of triage.

"The first level of triage is the classroom teacher and if they identify a problem, then it goes to this first level of the care team and maybe it goes right to a psychologist," said Austin.

“I'm hearing from parents with children that they know have special needs and they're telling me unequivocally ... they have real concerns." (CBC)

Liberal MLA Benoît Bourque said another key difference between the advanced care paramedics and school psychologist situations is that the former had some professional buy-in.

"Maybe we didn't have the full support of some orders, but we certainly had the support of the paramedics association," said Cardy. 

"What we're finding out here is that you have the College of Psychologists, which is clearly completely opposed, and we're not finding any orders that are supporting this. So to me, that is a clear red flag that something is missing."

Regardless, Green Party MLA Megan Mitton said there are still lots of unanswered questions about the plan.

"What type of training exactly will they be receiving," said Mitton. 

"I've heard the minister refer to a specific number of hours of training, but I'm curious, what exactly is that training? Where does that training come from and are these going to be new hires? Because I don't think there's anyone in the school system that is sitting around twiddling their thumbs with not enough work to do."

With files from Information Morning Fredericton

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now