Superintendent of Schools/CEO Peter Jory discusses the upcoming FSA test
From February 15th to March 12th, students in grade 4 and grade 7 will be participating in the Foundation Skills Assessment Test, also known as the “FSA”. This is a provincially mandated standardized test that uses broad metrics to determine whether students are meeting curricular expectations at grade level in literacy and numeracy.
Though it is a standardized test and subject to the same limitations as other standardized tests, we believe it provides important information on individual student learning. We use it in conjunction with other forms of district and classroom assessments to provide a comprehensive picture as to how each student is doing, and to provide important feedback to school and district staff in regard to instruction. School District No. 83 has often used information from the FSA and Ministry Graduation Assessments in budget conversations to allocate additional staffing for the purpose of better supporting teachers with their instructional practice in our classrooms.
In past years, the FSA was scheduled for the end of the school year, but has been moved in recent years to beginning of the year, then back to the middle of the year because of the school closures in the spring. This has allowed our students’ current classroom teachers greater opportunity to prepare our students, but still use each student’s results to inform their instruction over the balance of the school year and make sure student learning needs are being met.
The time spent on the FSA testing cycle amounts to approximately six hours in grade four, and another six hours in grade seven, not including practice (with the secondary assessments adding just another six hours in total). This amounts to just over one-half of one per cent of their instructional time for that school year, with the two test cycles taking up just a tenth of a per cent of instructional time from kindergarten through grade twelve. We think that these assessments provide a tremendous amount of information given the time spent, and that it is an incredibly efficient way to collect that information. In fact, the need for this insight may be even greater, given the interruptions to learning that we have recently experienced.
We do agree with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) perspective that the results have been misused by the Fraser Institute, and that it is both wrong and misleading to rank schools in this way. We do, however, believe the test is worthwhile is spite of this, and we would be in favour of using it even if it were not mandatory in our province’s schools. It should be noted that this light assessment regimen is a completely different experience than what student endure in some U.S. jurisdictions, who may issue general skill or even more curriculum-specific tests monthly instead of just a few times from Kindergarten through Grade Twelve as we do in British Columbia.
If you remain unconvinced of the FSA’s importance and wish your grade four or grade seven student to be exempt from this month’s testing process, please ask your school principal for an FSA testing schedule, then keep your child at home during the testing times. While we are not permitted to excuse a student from the FSA because of a parent request, parents always have the right to keep their child at home, and this right will be respected during FSA testing, as it always would be. As a courtesy in this regard, please note that I have asked the principals not to have students make up the tests at a later time if they were kept at home by parents for the purpose of test exemption. We will also be reaching out to parents whose students are participating in an online program to make arrangements to join an assessment session at their neighborhood school in a separate setting or at an alternate site.
Additional information from the Ministry of Education: