The government’s report on the results of this year’s FSA test results are confusing, and contradictory—and proves that such tests are completely unreliable as a means of assessing student progress. Scores are down dramatically from last year and the government claims that participation in the tests was up slightly.
In 2008, 70% to 74% of Grade 4 students were meeting or exceeding expectations; last year’s numbers were 77% to 90%. For Grade 7 students, the 2008 numbers are 69% to 71%, while last year they were 72% to 86%.
While education minister Shirley Bond attributes the difference to “testing methods,” the principal conclusion that can be drawn from the results is that such tests are virtually useless in assessing individual students. Unlike previous years, the score—zero—of those not taking the test were averaged into the results. The tests were done in midyear and the marking was inconsistent—done locally, not provincially. There was system-wide chaos in the computerized math and reading tests. Just how the government can now use these tests results given the dramatic differences from past years has not been explained. A school that actually improved year-to-year may have received a lower score.
The report also claims that 91% took the tests, 2% more compared with last year. While at first blush, this might suggest the campaign to have parents try to exempt their children was ineffective, another factor was at play. Students who were in the past officially exempted—ESL students and those with special needs—were included this year.