Parents of children enrolled in Grades 4 and 7 will be receiving letters shortly – if they haven’t already – outlining the annual Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) testing that has begun province-wide.
School District 72 (SD72) Superintendent Tom Longridge issued a public letter to parents and guardians of the children of the district this week addressing the controversial nature of the tests, saying they are required by law, and therefore participation is not optional.
The FSA is a series of tests that are administered by the province to assess basic educational competencies in reading, writing and numeracy to assess B.C. performance standards and develop curriculum, and are happening now through Feb. 19.
“You will hear various viewpoints around the Foundation Skills Assessment,” Longridge tells parents in his letter, “and you may receive information shortly from the local teachers association.”
“The assessment is considered controversial among some groups as people may use the results to make comparisons or judgments about districts, schools, classes and students,” Longridge says, such as the Fraser Institute’s ranking of public and private schools in the province.
“Many of these comparisons will be based on small differences that are neither statistically or educationally significant,” Longridge writes, adding the school district would not use FSA information in any way that would negatively affect a child.
“Our district considers and uses the information we get from the Foundation Skills Assessment as a part of the Assessment For Learning cycle,” Longridge explains. “This information, along with other classroom and district data, tells parents, teachers, students, and the district what our students are doing well and where further growth is needed in relation to the three basic skills expected by the province in that grade level.”
Although the FSA testing is legislated and therefore mandatory, Longridge says, “a few students with exceptional needs or extenuating circumstances may be excused from some or all of the assessment.”
Extensive adaptation requirements, illness or a family emergency would all qualify for exemption from the testing. Each school’s principal will identify students, if any, who are being excused from any component of the assessment, and be contacting parents or guardians of those children prior to the administration of the test. If parents or guardians feel one of these reasons applies to their child and haven’t heard from the school, they should contact their school’s principal.
Longridge encourages parents and guardians to learn as much as possible about the different types of assessment used in schools and provides links to various websites where more information can be found. Longridge’s full letter can be found under “District News” at sd72.bc.ca.