The head of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation this week said the controversial, province-wide Foundation Skills Assessment tests could be scrapped if the NDP wins this May’s election.
We think that would be a bad idea. A better idea would be to scrap the Fraser Institute, which annually publishes province-wide rankings of schools based largely on FSA results as a way to push its agenda of school “choices” for parents — read: a free market with private schools for the wealthy at the top and (underfunded) public schools a tier or two below.
Unfortunately, last we checked, scrapping the right-wing think tank wasn’t within the government’s authority. Darn it all, eh?
The FSA has long been unpopular with teachers for a variety of reasons, among them the fact that like most standardized tests, they can be subject to cultural biases that skew the results, and the contention that they don’t contribute to student learning. What’s more, teachers abhor the way the Fraser Institute uses the test results to rank schools, making it appear that private schools are doing a better job than public ones when, for myriad reasons, that may not be the case at all.
Interestingly enough, a previous NDP government actually brought back mandatory FSA testing in 1998, arguing that parents wanted more information than random-sample testing could provide. Fortunately, NDP education critic Robin Austin this week said the party has no plans to scrap standardized testing of Grade 4 and 7 students, if it wins power.
Instead, the party is proposing to remodel the tests to measure more than just reading, write and math skills. And according to CBC News, “Austin says the NDP’s redesigned school tests will not be a rubber-stamped wish list by the teachers’ union.”
That’s good news, because while we think the current tests are flawed, some form of standardized testing is needed as one way to ensure B.C.’s education system as a whole is doing an adequate job over time. In the smaller picture, parents need to recognize that school rankings are nothing but a smoke screen for a group putting its own spin on the information that’s publicly available.
— David Burke