Tests don’t make the grade

FSA tests used to rank students, not help them with their education

It is disappointing that, with all the attention the issues surrounding the Foundation Skills Assessment tests have received in recent years, there are still those intent on spewing misinformation. (Testing serves purpose, Western News, Letters Feb. 8,) Clearly, there are only two reasons for sharing incorrect information. First, it is the result of an error; the person purporting to inform us has made an error of which they are not aware. The second reason is to intentionally try to mislead, which most find offensive.

Teachers are not against assessments. Teachers assess on a daily basis. Teachers use the information to inform students about their learning, parents about their children’s progress, and the teachers use the information to examine their own teaching practices.

To state that teachers are against assessments, or afraid of them, is false. What teachers do take issue with is the misuse of assessment data. We don’t give children’s grades, test results, or work with feedback on it to anyone but the child or their parents. We don’t believe in putting a list on the classroom wall of “best” to “worst”, but some folks want that done. Instead, teachers work with every student and hope we can help them move from where they are to where they can be, or beyond.

If the FSA data was used only as Mr. David believes, to get a snapshot of how schools are doing, then teachers would not be seeking to end the testing, but likely looking to improve it by examining its reliability and validity.

The fact is the FSA has been corrupted from its original purpose. It is used to rank schools, unfairly and inaccurately. One example of the flawed analysis is clear when you look at the data from our local elementary schools. Of the schools listed this year, all of the local ones include Grade 7 results. I find that odd since our elementary schools don’t have Grade 7 classes. The Grade 7 results are apparently pulled from the middle schools. The students in Grade 7 haven’t been in their former elementary schools for almost two years. As well, if the results are meaningful then why are students who do not write the tests sent their results?

Most teachers use every piece of assessment and feedback data (including discussions with students and parents) to guide, inform and influence their teaching practice. Teachers are in an almost constant state of seeking ways to improve the effectiveness of their instruction and help more kids “get it”.

I find it disheartening that Mr. David takes issue with my “whining”. It is odd that many other professionals, tradespeople and small business owners are trusted for their opinions in their respective areas of expertise. It seems when it comes to educating kids, there are a small group of people that believe that we should listen to the corporate influences rather than the classroom teachers. Perhaps if I opened a private testing business my opinions wouldn’t be seen as “whining”.

Teachers want to teach, not rank. We welcome, and use, reliable, valid testing when it serves an educational purpose.

Kevin Epp, president


Okanagan-Skaha Teachers’ Union