Skill test stirs controversy

Chilliwack teachers fear the wrong message is getting out regarding the Foundation Skills Assessment test after the Minister of Education wrote an open letter to parents on her MLA website.

Chilliwack teachers fear the wrong message is getting out regarding the Foundation Skills Assessment test after the Minister of Education wrote an open letter to parents on her MLA website.

Last Friday, Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid posted the letter urging parents to ensure their child writes this year’s FSA.

The FSA is an annual province-wide assessment of students’ academic skills in reading comprehension, writing and numeracy in Grades 4 and 7.

In the letter, MacDiarmid said the purpose of the FSA is to provide parents and teachers with a snapshot of how students are performing across the province. She also noted a strong correlation between a child’s FSA scores and their future success in completing school.

“As a parent, you have the right to know how your child is performing and the FSA is an essential tool to help students achieve positive educational outcomes,” MacDiarmid wrote.

However, while Katharin Midzain, president of the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association, isn’t opposed to the FSA as a general assessment tool, she is opposed to the results being used in a “harmful” way.

FSA results are shared with the Fraser Institute, which publicly ranks B.C.’s private and public schools based on the results.

“You can’t use one test to rank a school,” Midzain said.

“The FSA doesn’t show the whole life of the school. It will not show you the amazing job Central elementary did with Hunger for Halloween last year or that Central was responsible for raising $30,000 for Haiti last year, but it will show you that Central has high-need students.”

In recent years, the BC Teachers’ Federation has led a campaign against the FSAs encouraging parents to withdraw their children from the test.

In Chilliwack, approximately 16 per cent of Grade 4 students and 25 per cent of Grade 7 students didn’t write the test last year.

“Our goal is to invalidate the Fraser Institute,” said Midzain.

Province-wide administration of the FSA tests started on Monday and will continue until Feb. 25.

kbartel@theprogress.com