Are the FSA’s a foundation of fundamentals, or are they a fiasco?

Schools across the Northwest are currently involved in providing for the Foundation Skills Assessment tests mandated by the Ministry of Education. The controversial testing plan which started last week and continues into the next one, have become a lightning rod of sorts, as some teachers and parents question the validity of the tests and relevance of them to the entire year long educational experience.

The Fraser Institute makes much of the FSA results for their yearly study and ranking of the province’s schools, which when released provides for a heated and controversial debate about the state of our schools, especially when based on a snapshot report and the ranking of such as the Fraser Institute provides.

This past week has provided for a challenging week for the FSA’s as reports of problems with the computerized component became known. From the Queen Charlottes to Prince Rupert, repeated troubles accessing the long distance testing system and frequent drop outs made for a frustrating situation for teachers and students.

( from  the blog a town called podunk,  click on the link below to see the entire article … 9229  ) –

While there is a need most likely for testing to verify that a standard of teaching is taking place, it would seem that these FSA’s seem to be a rather flawed process.

The troubles that have been reported in both the Queen Charlottes and Prince Rupert seem to be just a few of what may be a widespread technological problem in test delivery across the province .

Making kids start and stop, start and stop, lose their connection, spend two or three hours on a one hour test and things of that nature, don’t to me anyways seem to make for a particularly positive experience, nor would they provide for a particularly valid statistical study.

Beyond that, I’m not sure that these yearly one shot testing phases are really indicative of a student’s educational achievement, nor of the process in which the education is provided.

A better study would take a number of factors, the year long grading curve, a more effective testing process and an overview of the school curriculum to better assess the students progress and whether that objective measurement is being achieved.

I’m not sure that the way the Fraser Institute compiles its information based on the FSA’s does education in the province a service, there are far too many variables involved to base a judgment on these tests, and considering the atmosphere that some of them have had to be taken in, the results are skewed before the test is even graded.

I don’t think anyone is trying to “sabotage” the tests, if you’re not allowed to express your concern over the educational process then you would be doing your students and their parents a dis-service.

In fact, the letter to the editor provided as part of the post, shows a willingness of the letter writer to accept testing, only testing that is administered properly.

the quote was: "I would like to inform you that I support FSA tests or other standardized tests being used, if they are administered properly, and if the results are used properly. Those are two big “ifsâ€

Using the FSAs as a major criterion for which school to send your kids to is a great idea, if one one of your major goals for your kids is for them to do well on the FSAs.

When I went back to college after taking a 5 year break, VanderZalm had this required English literacy test we all had to take.
After the first page I started screwing everything up to a level that would even appall the average Internet poster these days. Barely passed with about 59%…
I always felt that beyond a certain level, for grading and testing purposes, these compulsory tests began more to test your ability to take tests than your knowledge of the subject being tested.

Never had any problems with any technology for the test today.

Must be because we’ve got a good Tech working in the school.

Every school in the province had trouble on the first couple of days, especially during morning sessions. 

They fixed the problems, though.  No problems in a week or so.  They did a sensible load-balancing algorithm, rather than just manually assigning districts to particular servers.

I remember this topic coming up about a year ago when CBC did their “Seven Days” news story about the guy going to Roosevelt to teach for a week.  They chose that school because the Fraser Institute had given it the lowest ranking in the province.

But as Aaron Levenstein once said, statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.  In this case, they concealed a set of terrible circumstances involving things like kids from single-parent homes, kids with learning disabilities, and kids with other problems like fetal alcohol syndrome or ADD.  Factor in the fact that the school didn’t have the budget to hire the number of special-needs teachers and counselors that they should have had, and it’s no surprise that the school was so poorly ranked.

But when you saw the amount of dedication and hard work that all the teachers put in, I don’t think there was any way that anyone could find fault with the school itself.  They were simply playing the cards they were dealt as best they could.

I think the FSAs can be a very valuable tool if used properly.  If people use the results simply to point fingers and accuse teachers of incompetence or negligence, then they are being very short-sighted.  If, on the other hand, people use them to identify schools that are having problems, and then to make those schools the focus of investigations as to why they are under performing, then I think the FSAs can be very valuable.**