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Posted: October 30, 2018

SD5 still opposed to FSA as measurement tool

School District No. 5 (SD5) School Board of Trustees are continuing to apply pressure on the Ministry of Education regarding the continued use of its Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) as a measurement tool for the district’s Framework For Enhancing Student Learning.

In an Oct. 15 letter to Rob Fleming, Minister of Education, the board points out that “on November 3, 2017, School District 5 (SD5) Board of Trustees sent you a letter endorsing the September 22, 2017 letter sent to you from the Cranbrook and Fernie Teacher’s Association (CFTA) regarding Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA).

“Our board received a response letter, dated December 29, 2017, from Deputy Minister Keith Godin confirming that the Ministry of Education (MoE) had received similar correspondence from other boards. He also provided his assurance that the MoE was taking this issue seriously and was committed to working with all British Columbia partner groups to address the issues outlined in these letters,” stated the SD5 board letter, signed by Chair Frank Lento.

SD5 board chair Frank Lento

“In his letter, Deputy Minister Godin stated that the Ministry’s approach with regard to the collection, use and release of the FSA “must be well informed and proactive.” He outlined the first step to this approach as an analysis of the legal framework of collection and release of FSA information as it relates to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), a review of policy, technical and program design and the identification of constraints and opportunities.

“As you may imagine, our board was therefore surprised and disappointed to learn – almost a year following receipt of this letter—that the FSA would be once again be used as a measurement tool in the district’s newest Framework For Enhancing Student Learning,” the board letter said.

Following a presentation to the board at its October 9 meeting on the Framework document, the board carried the following motion: “That the board write a letter articulating our continued opposition to the FSA on a province-wide basis for all students in grades 4 and 7.”

The board letter says it “understands that the FSA will now be conducted toward the beginning, rather than the end of the school year. We assume this change was made for the purpose of negating the highly unethical manner in which the Fraser Institute is able to simplify the data generated by these standardized tests and publicize the “results” by school.

“However, this change does not address a number of other concerns our board, and other stakeholder groups have with the FSA, as outlined in our letter of November 3, 2017:

  • According to the final report of the Advisory Group on Provincial Assessment (AGPA) past provincial assessments have been misinterpreted and that there is need for “…assessment within the educational system [to] be performed in an ethical, equitable and consistent manner.”
  • Random sampling has been the standard international education assessment method for many years and has been proven to be statistically sound.
  • 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.
  • FSA results are not used to calculate report card grades.
  • FSA results are not used to diagnose learning problems.
  • Lower overall FSA scores for a specific school does not result in additional funding or resources for that school.
  • Teaching to and/or administering the FSA consumes valuable time and precious teaching and learning opportunities within our schools.
  • The MoE and stakeholders have expended years of research and expertise and considerable financial resources in order to revise the BC curriculum so that “students can succeed in the 21st Century.” Yet, standardized testing cannot adequately capture or reflect personalized learning (the focus of the revised curriculum), due to its inherently oppositional structure.
  • Personalized learning requires students to learn “by exploring their interests and passions” and then demonstrating understanding in uniquely personal ways, while standardized tests encourage and reflect “boiler-plate” learning.

“Over the past decade, prior Ministers of Education have been asked to –at the very least—administer the FSA on a random, sample basis. Given the overwhelming rationale outlined above, our board does not understand why this approach has not been considered, especially given your prior comments, Minister Fleming, as education critic 
to the previous government, regarding the unfairness of ranking schools and the negative implications this has for the public K-12 education system,” the SD5 letter said.

“It is still our hope that, under your leadership as Education Minister, the FSA will be replaced with randomized testing, and eventually with valuation methods that reflect and assist the innovative revised curriculum teaching and learning practices our district continues to embrace.

“Once again we look forward to your timely response to our concerns regarding the Ministry’s current standardized method for testing the foundational skills of students,” the board concluded.


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