The numbers are in from last years’ Foundation Skills Assessments (FSAs), and things seem to be improving in our district – at least overall.
The FSAs are given annually to Grade 4 and 7 students in an attempt to evaluate how well students are achieving basic skills in literacy and numeracy across the province and help school districts make plans to achieve performance standards.
The 2014/15 test results in School District 72 (SD72) showed 29 per cent of Grade 4 students district-wide were “Not Yet Meeting” expectations in the “Reading” component of the test, while last years’ tests saw that number drop to 27 per cent, which is a continuation of that trend from 2013/14, when that number was 32 per cent.
Unfortunately, despite that decrease, SD72’s numbers are still well above the provincial average of 18 per cent.
The Grade 4 “Writing” test results saw an even greater improvement, where the number of students not meeting expectations number fell from 32 to 20 per cent, which is around the provincial average.
Grade 4 “Numeracy” results showed a seven per cent reduction in Grade 4 students not meeting expectations, as well.
The Grade 7 results didn’t show the same level of improvement, however.
The 2015/16 FSA showed that 41 per cent of Grade 7 students in our district are not meeting reading expectations, holding steady from the year before, which was an increase of nine per cent over the 2013/14 numbers. The provincial average in this category is currently 22 per cent.
The “Writing” results for Grade 7 are better, however, with only 21 per cent of students not meeting expectations in that category – a decrease of four per cent.
There was also an eight per cent drop in Grade 7 students not meeting expectations in Numeracy last year over the year before, though that only brought the number of students not meeting expectations down to 44 per cent, which is 17 percentage points above the provincial average.
SD72 superintendent Tom Longridge says it’s important to look at the test results in the proper context.
“Do we discount the FSA? Absolutely not, but we do have to use it as only one set of data points in an array of other indicators that we use for assessment,” Longridge says.
While it is certainly concerning that, for example, the numbers in Grade 7 numeracy are very low, there are other factors that could contribute to that fact, Longridge says, which is why it is important to use the FSA as one tool in the toolbox of assessment.
Longridge acknowledges that there seems to be a drop-off between Grade 4 and Grade 7, particularly in numeracy and particularly in girls, drop off seems to have corrected by Grade 10, based on other district assessments, he says.
“Is it because things like academics have taken somewhat of a backseat to other things in their lives around that time in their development, for example?” Longridge asks. “That’s why it’s important to use these results as just one of many indicators of proficiency, because there are so many factors to take into account.”
Another of those factors, he says, is the politicization of the FSA itself and the way it’s viewed in some circles.
“You also have to look at the level of importance that parents and students themselves place on the test and factor that in,” Longridge says.
After all, if a student thinks a test doesn’t matter, for whatever reason, they’re not likely to perform well on it.