The B.C. Teachers’ Federation is calling for an end to the Foundation Skills Assessment tests, citing concerns around the data collected and shared.
The BCTF makes an annual call for an end to FSAs, and the 2023-24 school year is no different. But BCTF president Clint Johnston said this year the union is really trying to call to attention the use of the data that is collected from the tests. He said the BCTF is in ongoing discussions with the province about provincial assesments.
The tests this year take place from Oct. 2 to Nov. 10.
“There’s other concerns about the validity of the test and the data it provides and the fact that it doesn’t seem to direct resources to identify gaps, but the main one that we are really trying to get dealt with, in a sincere way, this time is the data that’s used to rank schools by the Fraser Institute.”
The BCTF and education advocates have been vocal for many years against the Fraser Institute’s school rankings, which Johnston said can do a lot of harm to students and school communities. The Fraser Institute is a Vancouver-based think tank that ranks elementary and secondary schools.
Foundation skills assessment were originally intended to be a “snapshot, systems check,” explained Johnston, but he said the data from the FSAs can be used to tell people looking to purchase a home how good – or ‘bad’ – the school in the catchment area is.
“Success doesn’t have a postal code.”
However, the Education Ministry told Black Press Media that “all schools in B.C. work to be places where students can succeed and meet their full potential.”
Ranking schools based on FSA results, according to the ministry, “doesn’t provide a full picture of student success and can stigmatize and marginalize school communities.” It added the ministry “proactively releases only aggregated” Kindergarten to Grade 12 provincial and district level FSA results through the BC Data Catalogue and the Student Success website.
FSA results are only available to schools and districts administrators, but can be released through a Freedom Of Information request.
The ministry added the Student Learning Assessment Order requires boards and district staff to ensure the FSAs are administered and information is collected according to assessment protocols. It’s required for all students in grades 4 to 7.
According to the ministry, the overall participation rate for public and independent schools, with students in Grades 4 and 7 combined, was 73.5 per cent. That was up by 1.2 percentage points compared to 2021/2022.
But Johnston said it’s a standardized test on a limited range of subjects, and because it’s so well known it can lead to a lot of anxiety for students. That’s despite the test not counting toward report cards and grades.
“You can’t teach students that their education matters and that they’re assessed in order to help them know where they have gaps and how to learn that and then tell them, ‘But not this thing. Don’t worry about it. Just write this.’”