School District 27 trustees have supported a motion by the BC School Trustees Association to work with the B.C. Teacher’s Federation on developing an alternative to the controversial Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) tests.
After considerable discussion during the BCSTA’s annual meeting in Vancouver last weekend, Chair William Van Osch says a resolution was drafted which supports an alternative form of testing that would stop the Fraser Institute from using the FSA information to rank schools.
“The FSA is a snapshot in time rather than a true evaluation of student performance,” Van Osch says. “It isn’t an accurate way to evaluate schools, student performance or staff performance.”
While the FSAs are not without value when it comes to Ministry of Education and district planning, Van Osch says that too often the Fraser Institute’s use of the test results to rank schools has been used as a political or public relations tool to criticize the public education system.
“It would be more productive to get rid of it and replace it with something else,” Van Osch says.
In their current form FSA tests in reading, writing and numeracy are required to be delivered to students in Grades 4 and 7 each year.
The alternative to be worked out between the BCSTA and BCTF is to use a random sampling method of delivering the tests instead of the current blanket testing.
“This is a very much needed win for the BCTF and we are thrilled that the trustees of the province have heard our concerns with the FSA,” says Joan Erb, Cariboo Chilcotin Teachers Association president.
“A random sampling is what we have been encouraging the government to do so we are very pleased that the voice of teachers is being acknowledged. Thank you, trustees!”
Van Osch says another negative aspect of the FSAs in their present form is that teachers end up teaching students how to do well on the tests at the expense of the overall curriculum.
He says so much negativity has also developed around the FSAs that a lot of students don’t take them seriously anymore and some parents won’t allow their students to take the tests.
If a student doesn’t take the test the mark for that student is zero which lowers the overall mark for that school.
He adds that just because some students don’t do well on exams doesn’t mean they don’t know the material.
In other news out of the BSTA annual meeting in Vancouver over the weekend, Van Osch says the School District 27 trustees were able to meet one on one with the minister of education.
While it wasn’t this district’s turn to meet with the minister he says Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett arranged for a short meeting with the minister which turned into an hour-long session.
He says the local board had put together a comprehensive set of questions and issues to discuss with the minister which are still in camera.
“But I can say it was a productive meeting,” Van Osch says. “We want the minister to know we are appreciative.”