The Tyee on the FSA tests and the Prince Rupert connection

The Tyee has an article on the FSA tests, and includes some commentary from a Prince Rupert teacher:

Thanks for posting this MiG.  It has been interesting following the “debate” over these tests.  The key message that teachers are trying to convey is that we are not opposed to “testing”, nor are we afraid of being accountable for the work that we do.  What we are opposed to is the use of these tests to rank schools, when the ranking system doesn’t take socio-economic factors, or the difference in selecting students for private schools vs. taking “all comers” in public schools, into account.  In other words, the comparisons are unfair, and therefore damaging.

Also, when we have tangible evidence that the Ministry is indeed working with “poor” schools in terms of extra funding and staff for support programs, then perhaps we will be able to swallow the Minister’s propaganda about the tests being useful in supporting kids.  That hasn’t happened.  We are still waiting.  And the Minister keeps repeating herself.

So how do you deal with this? Deny the Fraser Institute their right to see this information? They can use the results for toilet paper if they want to, or they can rank the schools. Can one not just ignore the rankings?

Educators would love to ignore the rankings.  Unfortunately they are not being ignored by others.  As the Tyee article points out the author of the rankings wants to see more private schools.  If confidence in the public schools is eroded, more people will send their children to private schools - schools that can choose who they can take and who they will reject.  They are unlikely to take many kids with emotional/behavioural problems or those with learning difficulties or special needs.  That leaves the public schools with fewer children (therefore less funding) but a much larger percentage of children who need extra support.  We end up losing the concept of an equal schooling for all kids where everyone has a fair shot at success.

The teachers’ position is that if one goes back to using the tests as a random sample, say, two or three classes from each district, then the important information about how the province is faring in relation to learning outcomes, will still be obtained.  This will allow broad based decisions regarding changes and improvements, but the Fraser Institute will no longer have specific information on every school.

Minister Bond has been quoted as saying she doesn’t think the rankings are helpful.  However, her refusal to take the simple step required to eliminate them speaks volumes.

but for any stats to be valid random samples are not that accurate, if you were a parent wouldnt you want to know how your school measures up? if it doesn’t measure up wouldn’t the parents demand to know why? if it is because a school has more kids that need special attention then the school board should invest more money into that school and away from a school that doesn’t need it.

Everybody from government to the teachers union should put the rhetoric away and try to find solutions to the schools with the lower overall marks.

In conclusion just because a school gets a lower mark that doesn’t mean the teacher isn’t doing his/her job, lots of other factors do play a role from parents to the kids

I, personally, don’t care that the FSA’s don’t take social and individual aspects of a person into account. Can the kids at this school comprehend a poem, or can they not? Can they do Math that will be expected of them in higher grades, or can they not?

Whatever the stated purpose of the test might be, parents want to know how their kids are doing–and the parents that don’t want to know how their kids are doing shouldn’t be taken into consideration.

I recall someone here mentioned a radio show months ago–during last Spring, where the Irene Lanzinger spoke first to the host, left, and then Shirley Bond came on to respond and answer questions. In between the two (or perhaps after, it was quite some time ago) people were given the chance to call in and make their own statements. Several parents called, and one teacher. The teacher was opposed to the FSA in its current state, and one parent. Every other parent who called wanted their kids to take the FSA test.

OK eccentric, let the FI tell you which kids can count by twos and spell, but since the data collected with FSAs doesn’t take social and economic aspects of the children’s lives into consideration, those rankings are inherently skewed.  The “best” schools have kids who live stable lives and have parents who take active roles in their children’s lives, welfare, and education.  Well no shit, Sherlock.  You’re telling me those kids do better at tests than those who got no sleep last night because Mom and Dad were partying till all hours?  Those kids learn more than the ones who come to school hungry because Mom and Dad were passed out and didn’t make breakfast?  Isn’t that a frigging surprise?

And just so you know, those parents who want to know how their kids are doing are the ones who read the report cards, help their kids study for the spelling test, and go to the parent-teacher conferences.  The kids who parents don’t want to know how they’re doing in school shouldn’t be stressed out by taking pointless tests, and the teachers shouldn’t be forced to waste valuable instructional time by preparing for them.

Does a low ranking by the Fraser Institute indicate teachers at that school aren’t as good or that there are more stoopid kids in that school than at others?

While that’s a very sad situation, the kids facing those issues still aren’t ready for more advanced schooling and they’re not meeting the expectations set by the government–it’s as simple as that.

Also, note, I didn’t say anything about the FI rankings–they’re silly. What I should have said was “does this kid” or “does that kid”–not “kids at that school”… that was my mistake.

Yes, parents who care about their children read report cards, but that doesn’t tell them how their child is doing when set along side the expectations of the provincial government—report cards only tell parents how their child is doing in a certain teacher’s version of a those subject. What if parents want know how their child is doing in Social Studies, rather than ‘Social Studies by Mr. Doe’?

Well that’s the thing, isn’t it? It’s much more complex than that, making the FI rankings far too simplistic.

Well that’s kind of the point of my dumb comment. What the hell do the tests show? They could show kids in school A are more scared of tests than in school B, couldn’t they?

But the Fraser Institute says it indicates a failure on the part of staff so that’s all that matters. You don’t have to prove dick shit logically anymore, if you’re a right leaning, you need only say it over and over.

For anyone old enough to remember the commercial:

“The way this ink seeps into a stick of chalk proves that our Toothpaste is better than Brand B” [/quote]

But what does that have to do with anything? Who’s taking the Fraser Institute seriously, really, when both the BCTF AND the BC Liberals agree that the ranking is totally useless?

Like I said, the tests show, to anyone who cares to look, how individual students are doing when placed along side the expectations set by the government. Ideally, if it seems that students from a certain school, district, class–whatever–are doing badly, funds can be reallocated.

As for parents taking students out of public school, that’s always been their right. What is so dangerous having a few kids transfer over? Is the BCTF seriously suggesting that there will be such a huge max exodus from public schools that the system itself will collapse due to lack of enrollment? Let’s look at the worst ranked school in BC, Roosevelt. How come Annunciation isn’t bursting at the seems from all the Roosevelt kids switching over?

Well probably because a good number of parents at Roosevelt are having enough probelms covering regular expenses, let alone having to pay a tuition on top of their day to day…

That’s a rather poor choice of comparing apples and oranges.

no the tests do not say  teacher A is doing a good job or not, there are good teachers that care and bad teachers that don’t just like in any job,the tests are saying the school is doing poorly, doesn’t say why either, that is up to the school board to decide why, if they think it is social economic fine spend more money at that school to fix it, if its because parents don’t care then give the kids tutors, if it is because parents are drunk lazy farts that don’t care about their kids then get social services on their asses,as for private vs public , at private schools they are more strict with their students where tests results do matter for them to go on to further their education, and as some schools in the US have proven even in the most poorest of areas you can get high graduation rates in a public school by bringing in strict discipline to the system, ie uniforms and strict rules

But isn’t that the argument that DWhite just made?–That parents will lose faith in the public schools because their child’s school gets a bad ranking, therefore parents move said child to independent and private schools that rank higher. And yea, it is a bad example, because who seriously thinks that that’s going to happen in Prince Rupert? Who’s to say other places are SO different that:

Do we really think–if people move their kids into private schools because of the FI rankings–that the public school system would be so adversely effected? Really?

I’ve been quoted so I guess I should respond.

First of all I did say that IF confidence is eroded - not that it had.  And yes, I do believe that people will move their kids if the system continues to be bashed.

The first move is not necessarily to private schools but out of the poorly ranked neighbourhood schools into a more favourably ranked school nearby.  That has happened in Prince Rupert as well as other places.  The kids that move are generally those with supportive families who probably don’t need the “better” environment that they are moving to.  The other school is left with a larger percentage of more difficult students making it harder for them to do a decent job. 

I am not a conspiracy theorist, but if that kind of situation continues pressure may be put on government to make it more financially possible to move children more freely into the private system.

Less children in the public schools means less public money.  Education in this province is not adequately funded to start with. 

I am retired and my kids have all graduated.  Don’t know why this topic bugs me.


If the tests were used to help students who are behind become more successful then yes they would be serving a purpose.  Just, imagine the Vancouver School Board reallocating funds from a wealthy school to an inner city school?  First of all it would not be fair to the school that is losing funds and secondly I can only imagine the uproar from the parents of the affected school.  Now if the BC government were to increase funding for designated schools that have scored low on FSA tests to help them improve…  But that just isn’t happening.

Kids are assessed all the time.  Teachers know which kids are likely to do well on the test and who won’t. 

For the first few years of the FSAs, Grade 10’s were included.  In the first year of the test I was helping our principal collect the kids who had missed the test so they could write it.  One girl, refusing to come with me, asked why she should have to write the test.  In my naivety, I gave her the party line.  It gives the school a chance to know how their kids are doing and it lets the kids themselves know how they are doing.  She replied and I quote  “I don’t need no f**** test to tell me how f**** stupid I am.”  One of the most profound (and heartbreaking) statements I ever heard during my years of teaching.

My big complaint with the FSAs is not the test itself but how it is used.  The ministry gains a bunch of data that likely confirms what the teachers, principals, and school districts already know and are working on.  Nothing extra is given to help those in need.  The only real use of the test appears to be ammunition for a right wing think tank.  Until the tests are used in a meaningful way, they should be scrapped.[/quote]

The National Post profiled the testing controversy on line today…

The frustrating part of this issue for me is the relentless misinformation from the government and FI this issue and about the position of the teachers.  To wit:  “The teachers are told what to think by the BCTF”.  Not true.  While we are a diverse bunch, the BCTF takes the positions that the majority of teachers tell it to, through democratic processes.
Or, “The teachers just want to avoid being accountable”.  Not true.  We are accountable every day, to our students.  We are available to parents, and I’ve never known a teacher who wasn’t willing to share information on how a student was doing.
Or, “The tests allow the Ministry to respond to areas of need.”  Not true.  In Rupert we have had some schools clearly qualifying (according to the test) for such support, but not one dime, initiative, or warm breathing body, as far as I know, of additional support has materialized because of these tests.
In short, it’s a shell game, and public education is the victim.