Continued FSA testing draws the ire of teachers' associations

Standardized FSA testing has long been a bone of contention for Cowichan teachers, shown here taking job action last spring. - Krista Siefken/file
Standardized FSA testing has long been a bone of contention for Cowichan teachers, shown here taking job action last spring.
— image credit: Krista Siefken/file

Foundation Skills Assessment tests being administered this month in public schools remain a sore point for the Cowichan District Teachers' Association and other B.C. Teachers' Federation members across the province.

The literacy and math skills tests for students in Grades 4 and 7 are going ahead, but seem destined for a revamp for a variety of reasons.

"I understand the BCTF has called for randomized testing,'' said CDTA president Naomi Nilsson. "It does make a lot of sense. It doesn't disrupt the classroom learning that's going on.''

Nilsson knows all about that from her years in the classroom.

With randomized testing, she added, "what I do see happening is schools or classes would find out certainly in September they won the lottery, if you will.''

One of Nilsson's concerns pertains to the timing of the tests.

"So many factors go into these tests,'' she said. "Some of the curriculum in these tests isn't going to be taught till June.''

Then there's the age-old question of how the Fraser Institute factors the test scores into its school rankings.

"It doesn't mean the teachers aren't trying the best they can,'' said Nilsson of the test's affects on rankings. "It doesn't mean our students aren't trying the best they can.''

Societal factors just add to the complexity of the situation for Nilsson.

Depending when the tests are taken and whether students are able to have a proper nutritional meal beforehand, it can also weigh heavily on the results.

B.C. Education Minister Don McRae conceded changes are being considered for future years.

But he said there will no change to the program this year and students will only be excused due to family emergency, illness or other circumstances beyond the control of the student.

"Any time we have a form of assessment, I think it's really important that after you give it, if you're going to give it again, you continually look at it to see if it can be done better or more efficiently, and meet the needs of the students, the parents and the educational system,'' McRae said.

— with a file from Tom Fletcher

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