Students in midst of controversial tests

School superintendent Wendy Hyer said information handed out by opponents of the standardized test administered to Grades 4 and 7 students are “misleading” parents into thinking they can excuse their child.

School superintendent Wendy Hyer said information handed out by opponents of the standardized test administered to Grades 4 and 7 students are “misleading” parents into thinking they can excuse their child.

“The ministerial order is quite clear that students are expected to write, and while I cannot comment on what other districts are doing, students are expected to write the FSA, unless excused by the principal, based on the guidelines,” said Hyer. “Parents cannot excuse their child from the FSA in School District 67.”

Kevin Epp, president of the Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union, continues to stand by the opinion that the Foundation Skills Assessment test on reading, writing and number skills for elementary school students aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

“I hope that parents, if they feel strongly about this, speak to their school principal and ask that their child is excluded from the FSAs and not be forced to write,” said Epp, adding material has been sent home with students on how parents can do so.

Foundation Skills Assessments are being administered in Grade 4 and 7 classrooms across the province right now until Feb. 25. According to information from the school district, the only students who can be exempted from writing the tests are those who have previously written it for their grade level, students who have the Individual Education Plan documenting a disability that significantly impacts their performance in reading, writing or numeracy, or those students with English as a second language. The information then states principals will notify parents if they intend to excuse the student from participating. Principals can also excuse a student in the event of a family emergency, lengthy illness or other extenuating circumstance.

Epp said teachers are continuing to speak out about the many reasons for opposing the standardized tests given to nine and 12-year-olds. The teachers believe the test results are used unjustly for the ranking of schools.

“We are troubled by that because they like to say things like some of our local schools aren’t very good, when in fact we believe our local schools are phenomenal,” said Epp. “It turns into an evil thing when the Fraser Institute jumps in and decides whether or not you have a good school or not.”

Epp said he has heard of the rankings being used in child custody cases, where lawyers have brought the data forward stating a child should live with one parent because they live closer to a higher ranked school. He has also heard of Lower Mainland real estate agents using the data to help sell houses.

The B.C. Teachers Foundation reports that there is a growing decline in participation in the FSAs. They say between nine and 11 per cent of Grade 4 to 7 students did not take the test in 2008. That number grew in 2010 to 16 to 19 per cent.

Two B.C. Liberal leadership candidates have also called for change to the province-wide testing. George Abbott , who was briefly education minister before running to succeed Premier Gordon Campbell, said the tests are important but the regime could be modified to make it work better. Leadership rival and former advanced education minister Moira Stillwell suggested the FSA tests be scrapped and replaced with new ones.

Penticton Western News