Central Okanagan school trustees have received a request from the Central Okanagan Teachers Association (COTA) to cancel the controversial Foundation Skills Assessment testing for the 2020-21 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
COTA has also asked the school board to support parents who choose to withdraw their child from the FSA testing for extenuating circumstances related to COVID-19.
The request generated discussion among the trustees, raising some contentious feelings about why the tests still continue despite an NDP promise prior to the last provincial election to eliminate them, and how the Fraser Institute misuses the test data results to rank public schools against each other and private schools on student education performance.
This year, because of the disruption caused by COVID, the FSA testing, normally done in the fall, has been delayed until February.
Moyra Baxter, chair of the Central Okanagan Board of Education, said her ongoing frustration has not been the test itself, given to Grade 4 and 7 students, but the publicizing of the data.
“It has never been the intent of these tests to rank schools, but that is what the Fraser Institute does every year and that information then get publicized by the media,” Baxter said.
Susan Bauhart, president of COTA, said that publicity can have a negative impact on staff and students, which she has seen first-hand in her teaching experience.
Vivian Evans, vice-president of the Central Okanagan Parents Advisory Council (COPAC), told the trustees she asked her son not be part of the testing because of the stress it placed on him, the feeling he was competing with other students.
Kevin Kaardal, superintendent/CEO of Central Okanagan Public Schools, said the FSA testing is mandated by the ministry of education, meaning all school districts have to comply and report the testing result findings to the ministry.
Kaardal said the tests can provide valuable research data, when combined with all the other factors that go into assessing the learning performance issues of students in every school, but he was also is critical of how the data is used by the Fraser Institute.
But trustees also acknowledged that parents do look at the FSA findings posted by the Fraser Institute in helping them determine what school they want to enrol their kids in.
The school board opted to defer the two COTA requests to the education and student services committee Nov. 18 meeting to further discuss the issue and make a recommendation to the board on how to proceed.