Teachers look for action on FSA promises

Katharin Midzain isn’t holding her breath over recent proclamations made by Liberal leadership candidates.

Katharin Midzain isn’t holding her breath over recent proclamations made by Liberal leadership candidates.

MLAs George Abbott and Moira Stilwell, both gunning for the premier job, recently announced they’d be making changes to the highly controversial Foundation Skills Assessments (FSA) tests if elected.

Abbott said the tests would likely be modified under his regime, while Stilwell all out denounced them stating they were no longer appropriate.

But for Midzain, president of the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association (CTA), words mean nothing without action.

“I think we will hear a lot from the Liberal leadership candidates in the next month and I look forward to what permanent changes may result once they are the actual leader of the party and premier of the province,” said Midzain.

“I have learned not to hold out any hope if it requires holding my breath.”

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

The CTA has fought against the tests for years.

Because the FSAs are used by the Fraser Institute to rank public and private schools, they are inappropriate and put too much pressure on teachers to perform well, said Midzain.

The B.C. Principals’ and Vice Principals’ Association is also rejecting the tests, claiming they come with too much political baggage.

However, the Ministry of Education continues to advocate on behalf of the FSAs. In a recent letter to parents, Minister Margaret MacDiarmid emphasized their importance in providing a necessary snapshot into how students are performing across the province.

She also noted the tests were not optional, that the only authority who could exempt a child, and only for extenuating circumstances, is their principal.

A highly contentious statement for Chilliwack school trustee John Henry Harter, who has also long been opposed to the FSAs.

“It is inappropriate for the government to suggest somehow that they can be the arbitrator in what a parent can and cannot do,” Harter said at last week’s board meeting. “I have a real problem when boards of education put out letters to parents telling them something is not optional … that’s a parents right.”

Province-wide administration of the FSA tests started on Jan. 17 and will continue until Feb. 25.

kbartel@theprogress.com