Students will soon be taking the Foundational Skills Assessment (FSA), an annual test required by the B.C. Ministry of Education. (Black Press file photo)

Students will soon be taking the Foundational Skills Assessment (FSA), an annual test required by the B.C. Ministry of Education. (Black Press file photo)

Teachers union wants a break from FSA tests during ‘challenging’ year

Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association asks board to help lobby ministry

The Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association is calling for an end to the Foundation Skills Assessment tests, at least for the present year.

“This year, COVID-19 has caused enormous anxiety for students and teachers alike, and taking significant time from an already chaotic year to write these tests just adds further anxiety,” said MRTA president Trevor Takasaki.

The controversial tests have been widely criticized by teachers across the province, who complain the Fraser Institute uses the tests to create rankings of schools. The unions say the agenda-driven rankings tear down the public school system, while making private schools appear to be a better option.

Takasaki said the results of the tests are “utilized in unscrupulous ways” by the Fraser Institute to “malign schools, teachers and students for their own ends, at the expense of education.”

He noted that the methodology used by the Fraser Institute to give each school a ranking from 1-10 has been criticized. He said it would be better for the public education system if the results were kept within the system, for evaluation by local boards and the ministry, and not made public, and they are useful only as “a snapshot” of how students are learning.

The FSA tests have been mandated by the Ministry of Education since 2000, and test students’ knowledge on reading, writing and numeracy. The tests are given to Grade 4 and Grade 7 students.

But Takasaki said this year the tests should not be taken. He is asking the school board for School District 42 to petition the education minister to end the tests in a challenging year, if not permanently.

“We believe that, until the specific results of individual schools and districts are kept confidential, there is significant need to abstain from participating in a highly manipulative and unfairly politicized process that does not add to the overall educational experience for students.”

READ ALSO: BCTF, school boards giving mixed messaging on FSA testing

The annual Fraser Institute school rankings were once widely published in newspapers, but that is happening less in recent years. Takasaki argued a private school, with limited numbers of ESL or special needs students, and where “socio-economic issues are taken off the table,” are bound to post higher scores than inclusive public schools.

He noted private schools are not able staffed by better teachers than are working in the public system.

“Those private schools are hiring the same teachers we have in our system,” said Takasaki.

They do, however, “siphon off” students who come from backgrounds that give them an advantage in the education system.

School Board chair Korleen Carreras said the board would have to discuss the request from the MRTA. She said in 2017 the board did write the education minister saying the district gets limited particpation in FSA testing, “due to the way these results are being used by outside organizations to rate and rank schools.” The letter asked that the results not be reported on a school-by-school basis, but on a district-wide basis.

In recent years, the BCTF and MRTA has encouraged parents to request their children be allowed to opt out of the tests.

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