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Part 5: Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

Chilliwack trustee candidates answer the fifth of 10 questions from the CTA
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The Chilliwack Teachers’ Association has presented Chilliwack School Board candidates with 10 questions leading up to the 2022 municipal election Oct. 15, 2022. (Ben Hohenstatt / Black Press Media)

The Chilliwack Teachers’ Association (CTA) sent a questionnaire to the 15 candidates running for the Chilliwack School Board in October’s municipal election.

The CTA posed 10 questions, and the Chilliwack Progress will publish the questions and answers one at a time. See links to previous questions and answers below, and we continue today with part five. The remaining questions and answers will be released through next week, as election day approaches on Oct. 15.

Today’s question is, ‘The Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) does not accurately reflect student progress or give enough salient information for teachers to use to adjust or update instruction. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?’

Answers below are presented in alphabetical order by first name. Candidates Elliott Friesen, Lewis Point and Richard Procee didn’t provide responses before the CTA deadline.

RELATED: Part 1 - Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

RELATED: Part 2 - Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

RELATED: Part 3 - Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

RELATED: Part 4 - Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

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Barry Neufeld:

I agree that the FSA is flawed and does not provide enough useful data regarding student achievement. Furthermore, it has been changed so often, that one cannot find a trend going on over the years. There are many other assessment tools, and they also keep changing. I do believe in standardized testing. But we need a better tool. The FSA scores have been used inappropriately in the past. When a new reading and math program were introduced about 7 years ago, the board was shown FSA scores that seemed to indicate these programs were increasing academic achievement. So the board allocated $1.5 million to support these programs with resources and professional development. But then four years ago, we discovered that the FSA scores we were given were flawed. Student achievement was flat lining or decreasing despite the extra money for these experimental programs. No one was held accountable for this expensive mistake.

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Brian Van Garderen:

I agree with this statement because as our curriculum evolves and changes a standardized test doesn’t accurately represent all of the diverse communities and needs that are in a school system. It is one way to assess students learning but if we look at the curriculum there are many ways to represent your learning and outcomes to help provide the most opportunities for each student to share the knowledge they know. FSAs can be a useful tool as a larger body when looking at the performance of averages across B.C. but it does not accurately reflect every school district’s unique needs and diversity that can impact the average rating of the district.

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Carin Bondar:

I agree that the FSA should NOT be used to update instruction, but I do see some value in the FSA as a universal metric shared across many districts. The FSA measures a limited set of questions and skills, which means that it should not be used in an extrapolative way (ie this INCOMPLETE measure does not say anything about the COMPLETE student). However, as one metric for comparison of one skill set across different districts, it is a useful metric to obtain.

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Darrell Furgason:

Objective tests are only 1 important way to measure SD33’s academic outcomes. They must be taken into consideration, however, with other local data.

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Darren Ollinger:

I am not sure whether to agree or not that the FSA does not accurately reflect student progress because I don’t know what the FSA is. I suspect that, through it, it is a piece of work that is the basis for editing where it can be improved whether currently being accurate or not.

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David Swankey:

I agree. It provides a snap-shot, complete with faults, and does not track progress. To my knowledge it does not provide enough information for teachers to adjust or update instruction. Teachers are in the best position to speak to whether or not the FSA provides value in updating or adjusting their practice; my discussions with SD33 teachers have not suggested this is the case.

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Greg Nelmes:

I partially agree. October testing is good for teachers to find out how individual kids are doing in the key areas of literacy and numeracy. It enables them to determine starting points for the year. May testing is no longer necessary and the Fraser Institute must not publish the results in the media.

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Heather Maahs:

The FSA is the only standardized measure we have left in this province. Whether they are 100 percent accurate is of course up for debate, however they do provide the board with a benchmark for measuring where we need to put funds to help students with the most important skill sets.

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Kaethe Jones:

I believe the FSA is intended to be a measuring stick for how schools in our district perform, how our district compares with others in our province, how our province compares with other provinces in Canada and lastly how Canada compares with other G7 countries and other 78 participating countries globally. It is not to be used as a measure to necessarily inform teachers of how to adjust or update instruction on a daily basis. That is what authentic assessment is for, and which teachers use to inform them of a student’s progress and make adjustments in their instruction to the pupil or class.

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Margaret Reid:

We can educate students, or teach them how to take a test. It’s difficult to do both. I understand the desire to use these tools to attempt to find metrics to evaluate our students’ learning, and our staff’s teaching, but they simply don’t reflect core competency. These types of tests have also consistently shown bias against already marginalized students and schools. Overall they’re incomplete- it’s just a snapshot, and students’ learning can be shown and assessed in many different, and more accurate ways. Teachers need to be involved in finding new assessment tools that reflect the new curriculum directions. As a parent with a child that has high test anxiety, I am personally frustrated that her teachers are required to administer a stressful test that won’t be used to make her school life better. Until the FSA can be replaced, the opt-out system needs to be changed to be lower barrier.

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Teri Westerby:

I agree with this statement, in the sense that, a student’s ability to learn and absorb information is highly dependent on a number of things in their life that are not noted or remarked in the FSA. Things such as home life and stress, cognitive and learning abilities, learning style, other accessibility challenges and more that I could name for a long time, including whether or not the student ate that morning. These are nuances, or “soft data”, that a basic test cannot pick up or help the teacher adjust to the specifics of the student’s needs. “Hard data”, such as whether the student knows their 2 times tables, is not relevant to the reality of how well the student is absorbing the content and knowledge of mathematics, or how well they are progressing.

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Willow Reichelt:

I have administered the FSA. I found it to be a waste of time, and it did not inform my instruction in any way. I have heard that there have been some improvements in the years since I have taught grade 4, but from what I hear, teachers do not find this test useful. It is important to note, however, that the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) is a passionate defender of the FSA, because they see it as an equity-seeking tool. They are adamant that we need to have a province-wide, standardized test in order to track and fix disparities in education outcomes between Indigenous and non- Indigenous students. Therefore, I believe we need to stop trying to get rid of the FSA and focus on creating a new version of the test that is less time consuming and more useful for informing instruction.


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eric.welsh@theprogress.com

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Eric Welsh

About the Author: Eric Welsh

I joined the Chilliwack Progress in 2007, originally hired as a sports reporter.
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