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SD5 pens letter asking for change to standardized testing

School District 5’s (SD5) Board of Education has sent a letter to Jennifer Whiteside, B.C.’s Education Minister, voicing its opposition to the Foundation Skills Assessment.

SD5 feels the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) does not benefit students or schools.

“Our Board agrees that classroom assessment information is extremely valuable in assessment and identifications of students’ needs,” said SD5. “However, as we indicated in our 2018 letter: 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.”

The school district also noted that FSA results are not used to calculate report card grades, nor are they used to diagnose learning problems.

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Frank Lento, SD5 Board Chair said the education system would benefit by looking at a different model of assessing students.

“We need meaningful, relevant, reliable, valid assessments, and without them, our efforts to improve student learning will be hollow and unconvincing,” said Lento. “We need to get assessments at the local district level.”

However, as the school district noted in its letter, former Education Minister Rob Fleming said in a letter that province-wide assessments ensure students across B.C. are getting an equitable educational experience.

“Along with classroom assessment information, the FSA provides valuable information to parents on how their child is performing, and allows educators to make early interventions that can enhance student success later in a child’s schooling,” said Minister Flemming’s letter.

The province uses FSA as an annual standardized way to look at a student’s reading, writing, and numeracy skills between grades four and seven.

SD5 feels this is not the best way to get a look at the skills that students may have.

“Standardized testing cannot adequately capture or reflect personalized learning, due to its inherently oppositional structure,” said SD5. “Personalized learning requires students to learn by exploring their interests and passion and then demonstrate understanding in uniquely personal ways, while standardized tests encourage and reflect ‘boiler plate’ learning, regardless of now suggesting students use collaboration and reflection then responding to test questions or providing them with a limited choice over reading topics.”

The district added that teaching and administering the FSA takes up valuable teaching and learning opportunities within schools.

SD5 suggests an alternative assessment method in its letter, with a random sampling of students, which it said is the standard international assessment method and is statistically sound.

Lento reiterated the need for school districts to decide how assessments are done.

“It may be sampling at various bands or various grade levels, but I really think, in the final analysis, it should be at the district level. We should be developing our own assessment policies, and getting our own data to enhance student learning and meet the needs of students in our district,” said Lento.

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