In a province-wide vote, BC teachers voted overwhelmingly to protect the interests of their students by opposing the government’s unfair Foundation Skills Assessment test (FSA). 85% of teachers voted YES. BCTF members will not prepare for, administer, or mark the FSA exams next February unless the government moves towards random sampling.
“With this vote, teachers across the province spoke very clearly,” said BCTF President Irene Lanzinger. “The FSAs drain much-needed time and resources away from teaching and learning. This particular standardized test is unfair, does not help students learn, and is not an accurate measure of student progress.”
Lanzinger made it clear that teachers believe in regular assessment and working with parents to improve education for every child.
“Teachers assess their students every day and they do so with great professionalism,” said Lanzinger. “Parents know that teachers are the best source of information about a child’s progress.”
The FSA is given to students in Grades 4 and 7 every February. They narrow the curriculum and put incredible pressure on students as young as eight or nine. The results are used by the Fraser Institute to rank schools and erode confidence in our public schools. This type of test and subsequent ranking is based on an American-style ideology that has already been widely discredited south of the border.
“The FSAs and the Fraser Institute rankings undermine the rich learning experience students need,” said Lanzinger. “They do not help students learn, teachers teach, or parents understand their child’s progress.”
Teachers have long argued that ranking schools based on this narrow test is unfair. It does not account for socio-economic conditions and does not measure other important aspects of education.
“If BC government really wants to improve student achievement the first thing they should do is keep their promise to reduce class sizes and improve support for children with special needs,” said Lanzinger. No amount of testing will make up for the resources they have stripped from our classrooms.”
BCTF members were asked the following question:
“Do you agree with the 2008 AGM decision that unless the Ministry of Education changes to a random sampling with neither schools nor students identified, teachers exercise their professional autonomy and not prepare for, administer, or mark the provincial FSAs?”
What they’re saying—education experts speak out
Standardized tests can’t measure the really hard learning outcomes like teamwork, initiative, courage, integrity, and responsibility.
John Myers, Curriculum Instructor, OISE, University of Toronto, Orbit magazine
When test scores are central to decision-making, people tend to treat test results as the major goal of schooling, rather than as a potentially useful but fallible indicator of achievement. The fact is that high-stakes tests are not accurate representations of students’ performance.
David Berliner, Arizona State University, author of Collateral Damage, How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America’s Schools
Teaching to the test narrows the curriculum, forcing teachers and students to concentrate on memorization rather than critical thinking. Instructional time increasingly means rote drill, preparing for (and predicting) specific test items and taking practice tests.
Sandra Matheson, E. Wayne Ross, UBC, Faculty of Education, High Stakes Testing Leads to Bad Educational Outcomes
As Aboriginal teachers:
• We believe the misuse and overuse of standardized testing further discriminates against Aboriginal children and reinforces negative stereotypes.
• We believe paper and pen testing does not acknowledge the gifts of our children.
• We believe this is a colonial tool that perpetuates negative feelings and undermines our children’s ability to learn.
• We believe there is a problem and more testing will not address our children’s needs.
• We believe our children are entitled to equal access to and appropriate support for their successful high school completion.
• We believe we need to focus on strategies and solutions to help Aboriginal children.
The BCTF Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee
BCSTA believes that the conclusions drawn by the Fraser Institute are incomplete and misleading because it ranks schools based on a narrow snapshot of information that fails to reflect the breadth and depth of activities occurring in schools.
BC School Trustees Association, e-Alert, May 6, 2008
The Fraser Institute’s relentless pursuit of school choice is a Trojan horse for its assault on taxpayer-supported public institutions. The FI appears determined to turn a public benefit into a private privilege by undermining confidence in public schooling.
Charles Ungerleider, former deputy-minister of education, Fraser Institute rankings mislead
The ultimate aim of the Fraser Institute’s school rankings is not to encourage choice among public schools, but to establish dissatisfaction with public schools in general.
Dr. Charles Bingham, Simon Fraser University, The True Purpose of School Rankings