My Unfailing Optimism was Severely Shaken!

by Lyne des Roberts alias La Dame dragon

When I thought things could not get worse, but only better; I have been confronted with harsh reality… The crushing news came in Wednesday and I have to admit I reacted physically by literally throwing up! My first reflex was to jump on that computer of mine and write a post… Then, I thought it would be wiser to calm down first because I would probably (well… certainly) have used a language that does not suit my classy and sophisticated personality. Actually I was ready to go on the rampage and attack almost any living soul on earth (that bad!)!…

Yesterday, although I felt a little less vindicative, I chose to postpone my writing and I took Dave to the movies instead of having our regular class: I truly believe in the therapeutic virtues of pedagogical activities when frustration level reaches a critical point. Although I could feel he was upset with the news as well, I thought he was displaying stoicism under the circumstances: something I cannot do myself… you see, I am French… therefore I have character and I have been cursed at birth with a latin temperament (or should I rather say “temper”???). Anyways, watching “Astérix aux Jeux Olympiques” had an immediate soothing effect on both of us… We crowned the afternoon with a beer and some nachos on a patio, on the Québec side of the Ottawa River. That was the perfect setting to discuss calmly about the next step to take following the negative response from the PPC (Personnel Psychology Centre).

I doubt the lady who wrote that response will ever come across my blog, but I would suggest her to adopt another tone when addressing people’s requests or comments. Although a psychologist, she totally lacks interpersonal skills! Without mentioning writing skills… because the explanation she gave to justify the Commission’s decision not to review Dave’s results (in spite of their own wrong doing) is not clear at all… I suspect it is on purpose: more confused the explanations are, chances are the reader will feel inadequate regarding the technical aspects of this field of expertise and, consequently, will drop the case. Too bad for her, but Dave will only bring the issue one step further on a higher level of the hierarchy (that alone should annoy her enough! A little taste of her own medicine will be more than a beneficial lesson for her…)…

In that maze of lies and hiding games, I must say though there is at least one sensible individual among the PPC staff who attempted to attenuate the impact of such a decision on Dave’s spirits… of course, probably being one of the last in the PPC food chain and one of the last survivors of a dying out species (i.e. reasonable, fair, understanding, humane), she does not have the power to overturn the decision that was made… but she took the time to write him an email inviting him to call her if he ever wished to discuss the issue further. What struck me was that she did not cc that memo to any of her supervisors… rather unusual in the Public Service of Canada!

Without getting into details right now (at this point I do not have all the info I need to confront the Commission and, then, prove them wrong), the current debate (which is of a very intellectual and statistical nature) is around standard scores vs raw scores. Apparently, the cut-off scores of the 80 question version of the written test were standard scores, but the cut-off scores of the new 65 question version of the same test are raw scores. To make a long story short, this is the reason why the PPC refuses to convert Dave’s results into percentage. “It would not be appropriate or meaningful”… to quote the nice lady! Pardon me? What are we talking about here? Between October 1, 2007 and June 2, 2008 people’s marks would not have been their raw scores?

I have been contacting people who have taken the 80 question version written test while it was in effect… none of them ever received the usual form officially issued after having taken either reading or written tests showing their marks and the cut-off scores for each level (all of them in raw scores). Only one of my contacts did not get back to me and I suspect his answer will be exactly the same: no official documents to prove anything! Unless he got one in October… he was one of the first candidates to take the 80 question version (he failed so he had to take the test again in February)… before the standard scores came into effect… Because I think the shift occurred some time after the new test was implemented (after the Commission realized the failure rate was dramatic!)…

Right now, it is where we stand… in the middle of something that is even more complicated than anticipated… furthermore, the monumental flop of the written test reform would have been shadowed and covered up (I have a document claiming that the 80 question test was a valid and reliable measurement tool… and most tested people achieved their levels… why to convert their raw scores into standard scores then? And why to come up with a new 65 question version?)… Questions, questions, questions… and so far, no answers! I do believe it is time for the Commission to account for its flaws and wrong doings and to be transparent… It is the least past, present and future tested civil servants deserve…

This blog moved here, if you ever are interested in reading more on those issues…


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