VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Every fall, BC students in Grades 7 and 4 are supposed to write a series of tests collectively called the Foundation Skills Assessment.
They’re meant to evaluate how well students are performing in writing, reading and numeracy.
But this past fall, only 52 per cent of students in the Vancouver School District wrote the tests.
The relatively low participation rate could be attributed to the fact parents are asked by the BC Teachers Federation to exclude their kids from writing the test.
An excerpt from the letter issued to parents reads:
“As we have for the past several years, teachers are asking you to request that your children be excused from these tests. The FSA tests do not count toward your children’s marks and they do not help students learn or teachers teach. Teachers have long been concerned about these tests and the misuse of the data by the Fraser Institute to unfairly and inappropriately rank schools.”
Principals may also ask for certain students to be exempted if they’re not proficient in English and parents can also have their kids opt out if there’s a family emergency or lengthy illness.
Vancouver School Board Chair Janet Fraser points out more students actually wrote the test this year than in recent years.
“The numbers are increasing slightly over the last three years, from 45 per cent to 52 per cent. Maybe the district has a slightly better handle on how students are performing.”
She says the participation rate should be factored in when analyzing the data, particularly when looking at performance averages for individual schools.
Despite the BCTF’s opposition to the tests, she believes there’s still merit in them.
“To help individual teachers in classrooms work with their students but also to look at a higher level – how is the province doing, how are the districts doing, what interventions could make things better.”
But Fraser shares the same concern about how the results are interpreted by the Fraser Institute, which issues a yearly ranking of BC schools, based on FSA results.
“What’s difficult with the FSA test is that it’s used to rank schools, and it’s not a true picture of what’s happening in public education in BC.”
It’s not known what the FSA participation rate is for BC overall.school