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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 16, Number 5, April 2004

Large-scale testing is bad for students

Teachers are concerned that FSA tests are having a negative effect on student learning and that the results are being misused.

According to the research, common negative effects of large-scale testing include:

  • Loss of instructional time to practise tests.
  • Narrowing of the curriculum and instructional methods by teachers who are under pressure to have their students do well on the tests.
  • Less successful students’ concluding that they are unable to succeed and reducing their effort to learn.
  • Inappropriately generalizing test results to overall value or intelligence.

Research shows that, in contrast to the negative effects of external tests like FSA, effective classroom assessment can improve students’ learning substantially and helps low achievers the most. Prior to large-scale testing in the UK, there was no correlation between self-esteem and academic achievement. After the introduction of large-scale testing, low-achieving students had lower self-esteem than higher-achieving students did.

The results of the FSA test are being abused. The Fraser Institute purports to rank schools based on FSA results. The media reports the Fraser Institute rankings as if they represent valid conclusions. The results are frequently reported without enough information to tell if they are meaningful. If a school has 30 or fewer pupils per grade, the results are not reliable. If the participation rate goes down but the results go up, the test is not reliable. The FSA results are not reliable for half the elementary schools in the province.

The FSA tests are not an accurate measure of our students or our schools, and the results are misused. We want parents to know that FSA testing can have negative effects on their children, especially children struggling with academics.

The ministry’s participation guidelines (www.bced.gov.bc.ca/ assessment/fsa/04_participation.pdf) contemplate parents exempting their children:

"In instances where a parent withdraws a student from participation (e.g., via a letter to the school principal), the school concerned is obliged to mark that student as ‘absent’ and not as ‘excused‚’ on the student’s answer forms."

We are asking that school boards not use FSA results in district accountability contracts and that schools not use the results in school plans.

Our children deserve to be supported in their education, not undermined by ill-conceived forms of testing.

For more information, go to www.bctf.ca.

– Anita Chapman

Education campaign about FSA

The BCTF is launching an education campaign to raise awareness of the limitations and misuse of the Foundation Skills Assessment.

The campaign will provide parents, the media, and the public with information about the limitations of the tests and the difficulties created by including FSA results in school plans and accountability contracts.

Locals will receive a package that includes a brochure for teachers and parents and a resource booklet from the Assessment Reform Group in the U.K. arg.educ.cam.ac.uk.

The kit will include suggestions for raising the issue with parents, administrators, trustees, and the public.

The FSA will be administered to students in Grades 4 and 7 during the week of May 10, 2004.

For copies of the brochure on FSA, contact Lise West, 604-871-1870, 1-800-663-9163, or lwest@bctf.ca. The brochure is available in Chinese, English, French, Korean, Punjabi, and Urdu.

– Peter Owens