For parents considering whether to have their kids participate in provincial Foundation Skills Assessments testing, School District #83’s superintendent suggests the pros far outweigh the cons.
This week, students in Grades 4 and 7 within the school district are bringing home an envelope addressed to parents or guardians from the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. In it is a form to school principals. The BCTF asks that parents sign this form requesting their child be excused from the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) tests. Above the form is a letter from BCTF president Teri Mooring addressing the teachers’ union’s ongoing concerns with the controversial provincial testing.
Mooring states that FSA testing does not count towards your child’s marks and does not help students learn or teachers teach.
“Teachers do not believe the FSA is a reliable method of measuring individual progress,” states Mooring, adding research says large-scale assessment is more useful for a broad evaluation of the educational system and its programs.
Mooring also raises ongoing concerns with how FSA results are “misused” by the Fraser Institute in its annual ranking of public and private schools.
School District #83 Superintendent Peter Jory shares that concern, and agrees the ranking of schools is not appropriate.
“When you assign a number to a school, what you’re doing is misleading because people perceive that to have a lot more meaning typically than it actually does,” said Jory.
But on the whole, says Jory, FSA test results are beneficial to the school district, teachers and students. He said the results can be used to address and support student outcomes on an individual basis, in classrooms and across the school district as a whole.
“From a district level, these are metrics that we use to assign resources, to figure out how we’re doing,” explained Jory. “It was a big part of our budgetary conversation.
“This is a district where we struggle with numeracy, and have for a number of years… We’re designing responses to that to improve our results and give our kids more opportunities as they move to and past graduation. This is really important. This is an important piece of that information and if we didn’t have the FSAs, I think we wouldn’t necessarily be doing what we’re doing.”
Jory said a small portion of students who have specific types of learning challenges are excused from FSA testing, but generally participation tends to be high in the school district – more than 90 per cent.
— School District 83 (@sd83schools) September 27, 2019
“We use it as a system check, but the classroom teacher can use it to determine their own practice, if they’re getting at the learning and the kids are understanding,” said Jory. “It’s also a way to determine if the kid is successful on an individual basis. So it’s very good information for teachers.”
In a message on the school district’s website, Jory asks that parents/guardians wishing their children to be exempt from the FSA process request a testing schedule from their school’s principal, and keep their children home during testing.
“While we are not permitted to excuse a student from the FSA because of a parent request, parents always have the right to keep their child at home, and this right will be respected during FSA testing, as it always would be.”