SD5 joins teachers in calling for end to FSAs

School District 5 has sent a letter to the Ministry of Education to replace FSAs with alternate testing

(Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

Provincial Foundational Skills Testing has been further postponed until the weeks of February 15 to March 12, 2021, as school districts and teachers associations call for an end to the tests all together.

The FSA tests in B.C. were originally postponed until this week, January 18th, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have been further postponed and the scoring and score entry deadline is now April 9th.

At the beginning of the month, the President of the Cranbrook District Teachers’ Association, Shelley Balfour, and the BC Teachers’ Federation called on Minister of Education Jennifer Whiteside to put an end the FSAs. Balfour also called on School District 5 (Southeast Kootenay) Board of Education to petition the minister to end the testing.

SD5 has sent a letter to Minister Whiteside, calling for FSA testing to be replaced by randomized testing, and eventually with “evaluation methods that will reflect and assist the innovative revised curriculum teaching and learning practices our District continues to embrace”.

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 the January 7 letter to Minister Whiteside, the SD5 board draws on a similar letter they sent to the Ministry of Education back in 2018.

“We reiterate the strong sentiment of our 2018 letter: standardized testing cannot adequately capture or reflect personalized learning (the focus of the revised curriculum), due to its interhently oppositional structure,” reads the letter.

Indicated in both the letter from 2018 and the letter just sent, SD5 says that lower overall FSA scores for a specific school does not result in additional funding or resources for that school. They add that FSA results are not used to diagnose learning problems or to calculate report card grades.

“There is zero proof that when all students write an assessment, parents, teachers, schools and the province receive accurate information on how students are learning,” says the letter.

The SD5 board goes on to say that teaching to and administering the FSA consumes valuable time and precious teaching and learning opportunities.

This echoes what Balfour said in her initial press release.

“The FSA is unnecessary and a waste of precious time and resources at the best of times, but this is ridiculous,” she said, referring to testing taking place during a school year made even more stressful due to the pandemic.

SD5 seems to agree, asking Minister Whiteside to consider the pandemic as another reason to do away with the FSA and replace it with a different kind of assessment.

“Given the unprecedented challenges to financial resources, the additional burden of hand-washing on classroom instruction time and the increased anxiety of students due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no better time than now to replace the FSA with an assessment tool(s) that allows students, parents, teachers, schools, boards of trustees and the province to receive accurate information on how students are learning with the ongoing aim of improving outcomes for all students.”

With files from Barry Coulter

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