BCTF head leads campaign against FSAs

Test scores were on the tip of Susan Lambert’s tongue Monday as the president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation prepared to touch down in Kelowna Tuesday.

In the city for an induction ceremony at the Central Okanagan Teachers’ Association, Lambert took time to address the media and respond to the latest move from B.C.’s Minister of Education, who spent the weekend actively encouraging parents to let their children take the Foundation Skills Assessment tests.

“As a parent, you have the right to know how your child is performing,” Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid said in an open letter to parents issued Sunday.

“The FSA program, which takes less than 10 hours of your child’s time between kindergarten and Grade 8, is an important building block for your child’s future success.”

The minister contends the test is a way to measure individual student achievement and teacher success by asking standard questions to see if each student performs at par; but Lambert is quite insistent that’s not the case.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” she said in a telephone interview before her arrival.

The teachers’ union contends the testing assumes there is an average student population in a given school, when in fact, schools and students vary greatly with some geographical areas coping with things like higher levels of immigration, for example, and others hampered by severe economic disparity.

As the tests leave no room for these human variables, Lambert says the test only encourages teachers to teach to the test, rather than facing the complex student variables of the day and trying to ensure students learn from that point.

The BCTF contends the tests devalue the level of teaching that goes on rather than ensuring students meet a unified standard.

“You want the assessment to be based on the teaching that goes on in the classroom,” said Lambert. The testing covers reading, writing and numeracy (math).

The FSA battle is nothing new with a similar war of wills played out in the media each year; and the attention seems to be catching on.

The minister’s own numbers indicate more parents are allowing their children to be excused from the testing.

Asked why the BCTF has not achieved any movement toward having the test format dropped given the controversy, Lambert said simply, “There hasn’t been an ear in the ministry.”

The teachers would like to see a scientifically based, randomized test developed to accomplish the same ends as FSAs.

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