Parksville Qualicum Beach teachers say requests from parents denied re: FSA tests

The provincial teachers' union says it is working with the province on a new testing plan to replace the FSAs

Local teachers renewed a call last week for a change to the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) tests administered to local students.

They may not have much longer to wait.

Norberta Heinrichs, president of the Mount Arrowsmith Teachers’ Association, asked the School District 69 Board of Trustees during its regular meeting last week to reconsider district policy for families that wish to exempt their students from the controversial exams.

“The FSAs have commenced in schools this month, and it’s MATA’s understanding that some parents’ request to withdraw their children from writing the test have been denied,” said Heinrichs. “It is disappointing that this district doesn’t uniformly accept the request for withdrawal, as such requests are accepted in Vancouver and in our neighbouring district of Nanaimo-Ladysmith.”

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation has previously sent letters to parents urging them to exempt their children from the exams, which have been administered by the Ministry of Education since 2000.

Much of the union’s concern is the use of testing data by the Fraser Institute, which it considers a right-wing think tank, to issue a report card on B.C. schools.

“Fundamentally, the test does not help students learn or teachers teach,” said Heinrichs. “The way the tests are used and reported out undermine what we do locally to augment and enhance students’ learning experience.”

Gillian Wilson, assistant superintendent of education for SD 69, acknowledged the tests were under way this month in local schools, but noted the district does not utilize the Fraser Institute results in its own evaluations.

“As you know, in our district we don’t use the FSAs the way certain institutes submit results of the FSAs,” Wilson said. “We use them to support a piece of data in terms of triangulating that data and looking at what classroom assessment looks like.”

The BCTF has been working on its own assessment plan to measure student achievement, and Wilson suggested that new model may be in place as early as next year.

“We know that this is probably the last year that FSAs are going to be administered,” she said. “We’re really looking forward to the assessment that BCTF has worked with in conjunction with the ministry, that we hope to be using next year.”

• Trustee Julie Austin used her time for “trustee sharing” on the meeting agenda to ask for a minute of silence for the community of La Loche, Sask., which was rocked Jan. 22 by a school shooting that took the lives of a teacher and an education assistant.

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