Foundation Skills Test (FSA) on our minds in British Columbia

With the administration of the FSA scheduled for next week in BC’s elementary schools, combined with the growing dissatisfaction with its value, coverage of the issues of assessing students and evaluating schools has been in the news. The impending provincial election has ramped up the discussion as the NDP party, favoured to win the election, offers its views on the FSA, in particular, and student assessment and evaluation more generally.

Recent stories in the Vancouver Sun highlight the potential changes that might occur should the NDP win the election. While there are conflicting comments from various parts of the NDP party (Adrian Dix, leader of the NDP has suggested a sampling rather than census testing procedure while Robin Austin, NDP education critic has suggested expanding the testing to other areas) what is clear is that the conversation about student assessment and accountability in British Columbia has shifted. The NDP are responding to the BCTF’s longstanding opposition to the FSA (and more especially the ranking of schools based on the FSA results), but also a growing critique of the testing program from parents, school trustees, and the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils.

The dialogue about what next should be rich and lively, as not everyone agrees on where to go from here. At the moment, the NDP is suggesting a sample of students be tested, rather than the census testing that has been in place since 1998. The BCCPCA believes that educating parents about the test is more appropriate, although they provide little sense of how current practices can alter the school rankings, which they see as detrimental. The Great Schools Project, a group of concerned educators, offer a comprehensive platform for student assessment embedded within a more comprehensive plan for evaluating school quality.

Starting Monday, BC’s 4th and 7th graders will begin taking the FSA, but perhaps for the last time in its current form.

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