I support a standardized testing régime in BC

…though not necessarily the current one.

There’s a re-ratcheting up in the rhetoric regarding the Foundation Skills Assessment testing system used in BC schools. You can read more about it here, and a raft of materials against it here. I think it’s worth noting that two of the main points from the BCTF leadership bear unpacking:

The FSA results are misused by a private organization to rank schools based on a very narrow measure.

Absolutely. The Fraser Institute uses these test scores to rank schools in BC. It’s facile, lacking rigour (2 tests=calibre of teaching and learning, not), and conveniently ignores things like economic, political and social capital in different districts and schools across the province. But I also doubt (m)any parents would base their entire decision-making process when it comes to school selection based on these rankings. Or scores. Give parents a bit more credit please.

The FSA tests do not result in any additional funding or support for students.

Correct. But they also don’t result in any funding being withdrawn, or even re-apportioned. In fact, I’m struggling to think of any specific assessment that does in BC.

Test  test baby

There are a number of pluses to standardized testing across the province–not the least of which is identifying where things can and must improve, in terms of educational outcomes. It can give parents confidence in their kids’ education, which is important, since we seem to forget we have one of the best public education systems in the world in BC. Yes, the world: why else would offshore BC high schools be enrolling so many students overseas? And parents moving their families here so their kids can access these schools?

As well, there’s always a whack of people holding forth on how important it is for our schools to prepare students “for real life”. Well…comparative assessment of performance is pretty important in our society: in school, in sport and in the economy. Participating in assessments like these is an integral piece to that preparation. Keeping these scores arm length from students grades for years 4 and 7 (when the assessment is given) makes this medium (rather than high) stakes testing. And in many fields–professional ones for sure, but also trades–standardized high-stakes testing is part of the credentialing process. It’s not just in university that these sorts of assessments are found. at the post-secondary level.

Finally, there’s the “teachers will just teach the test” argument. Yes, yes they will. And if it’s a rigorous, reliable, well constructed test teachers will need to create rigorous, reliable and well constructed materials. And delivery them to that performance standard. Teaching the test is only a problem when the test is flawed. Have problems with the methodology of the FSA, or its construction? Great–there are ways to improve assessments. There are alternatives. Let’s get working on that then.

For the record

BTW I’m not a huge fan of testing as assessment, generally. In fact, there are many times where I think other forms of assessment–particularly integrative assignments–are a better tack. But for assessing core knowledges and skills, testing is a reasonable assessment strategy.

PS: I have exams in my current French class. Not fun. But not a human rights violation either.

About John P Egan

Learning technology professional.
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