B.C. 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)

B.C. 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)

Cranbrook District Teachers Association calls for end to FSAs

Foundational Skills Assessment tests to start the week of January 11 across B.C.

The President of the Cranbrook District Teachers’ Association, Shelley Balfour, and the BC Teachers’ Federation are calling on the Minister of Education Jennifer Whiteside to end the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA).

In addition, Shelley Balfour is calling on the SD5 (Southeast Kootenay) Board of Education to petition the Minister to end the test amidst what will be a challenging and unprecedented school year. The FSA is scheduled to start the week of January 11 across the province.

The Foundation Skills Assessment is an annual province-wide assessment of all B.C. students’ academic skills in Grades 4 and 7. Its intention, according to the Government of B.C., is to provide parents, teachers, schools, school districts and the Ministry of Education with information on how well students are progressing in the foundation skills of Reading, Writing, and Numeracy.

“In a year where pandemic concerns are paramount, adding the stress of the FSA on teachers and students when they are already pushed to the limit is completely unnecessary,” Balfour said in a release this week. “The FSA is unnecessary and a waste of precious class time and resources at the best of times, but this is ridiculous.

“Students deserve better. Their classroom teachers have the knowledge and the history with the students to determine whether they are meeting expectations or not.”

The FSA is usually given in October/November but will hit desks in January and February this year.

“In recognition of the unique circumstances facing schools as they resume in-class instruction in the context of COVID-19 this fall, the timing for the administration of the FSA is being postponed until January 18- February 26, 2021, the Government of B.C. website said. “These new dates for administration will provide schools with more time to prepare for these assessments.”

The test covers reading, writing and numeracy skills and includes electronic and hand-written sections. Most students require one-and-a-half hours of writing time for each of the six components, and the results don’t count toward a student’s report card marks or promotion.

Balfour said the FSA results have no impact on improving student learning in the classroom.

“It is merely a data collection for districts and the Ministry of Education on the backs of students. The results do not reflect what else is happening in a child’s life at the time of the assessment: lack of breakfast, a sleepless night, test anxiety, COVID at home, missing their family members, etc.

The results of the FSA tests are used to compile the Fraser Institute’s “Report Card on British Columbia’s Elementary Schools ,” which ranks 931 public and independent elementary schools based on 10 academic indicators derived those test results.

“If the FSA results place a school at the bottom of the infamous Fraser Institute School Rating list, the school does not automatically receive extra funding, more teachers, more support staff, etc,” Balfour said. “Instead, it receives a public shaming when the results are published in newspapers. Teachers are advocating for the end of the FSA or, at the very least, a random sampling of students across the province in order to assess the quality of the education programming.”

Balfour added that teachers use a wide range of assessment tools in their classrooms to support student learning, which allows them to monitor progress and adjust their teaching to meet student needs. The FSAs are not a reliable method of measuring individual progress.