Nanaimo school district, teachers’ union object to standardized tests

NANAIMO – Parents will see letters about Foundation Skills Assessment and choose whether to opt out.

Parents can expect correspondence from both the Nanaimo school district and teachers’ union regarding Foundation Skills Assessment testing.

The tests, administered annually for Grade 4 and 7 students, are slated to run from Jan. 11 to Feb. 19 and examine reading comprehension, writing, and math. They are controversial, as results are used by the Fraser Institute, a right-wing think tank, to rank B.C. elementary schools.

Dale Burgos, school district spokesman, said a letter from Superintendent John Blain and Stephanie Higginson, acting school board chairwoman, is expected to be delivered by January.

“There will be a form at the end where parents can, if they choose to do so, opt their child out of the FSA testing,” said Burgos.

Shannon Iverson, Nanaimo district teachers’ union vice-president, said the union letter states that the skills assessment are not a reliable way to gauge individual progress.

“It’s not connected to what they’re potentially working on at that point in time in the units that teachers are teaching,” said Iverson. “The tests could actually be addressing learning that is not even going to happen until later in the year.”

In an e-mail, the Ministry of Education said it supports testing because it views it as a valuable measure of student performance in reading, writing and numeracy.

However, it also said it is looking at ways to improve student assessment and anticipates field testing new Foundation Skills Assessment tests during the 2016-17 school year. Full implementation is estimated to occur in 2017-18.