Once again, Grades 4 and 7 students in Sea to Sky School District and across the province wrote Foundation Skills Assessment tests (FSAs) last month. Teachers have long-standing professional concerns about these measurements and the misuse of the data by external organizations such as the Fraser Institute, an ideologically extreme right wing “think tank” whose goal is to undermine public education and privatize public services such as education and health care. While government officials have expressed misgivings about the use of FSA data to rank schools, these tests continue to be administered and the data continues to be used to promote the Fraser Institute’s destructive assault on public education. In fact, our current Minister of Education, Don MacRae, expressed support for FSAs in a recent letter to the Vancouver Sun, despite teachers’ professional concerns. He claimed that the FSA “helps us identify students who might need extra help. It also assists school districts in targeting and planning the supports that are needed the most.” This statement is highly misleading and disingenuous, given the massive cuts that have been inflicted on public education since Mr. MacRae’s Liberal government assumed power in 2001, especially in supporting students with learning challenges. Special education, ESL and other supports for these students have been decimated. As BCTF president Susan Lambert stated in her response to Mr. MacRae’s statement above, “We’ve never seen a shred of evidence that any student has ever received additional learning support due to their FSA scores.”
Professionally, teachers are genuinely concerned that FSAs do nothing to help students learn or teachers teach but do take away valuable time from more meaningful learning and student engagement. Teachers accept that testing is an important part of the learning cycle, and are trained in the appropriate use of tests. Moreover, we understand that because no specific test or assessment is completely reliable, it is essential that a wide variety of assessment methods and instructional strategies are used, including authentic assessment where students perform real-life tasks to demonstrate their learning and project-based learning, which allows for a range of assessment techniques.
As highly trained professionals, B.C. teachers continually reflect on our practice and stay current in the most effective instructional and assessment methods. Locally, teachers are basing much of their assessment of student learning on the most current, student-centered instruments, including student self-assessment and performance-based measures. These are far more meaningful and relevant than an anxiety-causing, high-stakes standardized test. Parents who share our concerns are encouraged to write to your child’s school principal requesting that your child be exempted from the FSA. We also encourage parents to discuss their children’s progress, including the real assessments of their learning, with their teachers. This provides the most meaningful, appropriate feedback for parents.
Sea to Sky Teachers’ Association