How schools report to parents on student learning is changing with the new curriculum as the Ministry of Education rolls out a new descriptive scale to explain provincial test scores.
Students in Grade 4 and Grade 7 take standard Foundation Skill Assessment (FSA) tests to help educators understand how the students are doing in comparison to their peers in other areas of the province.
Schools get the raw test scores in November, followed by a summery report in February with the province-wide comparisons. That summery report is being revamped to be more strength-based, using broad descriptive terms to explain student performance.
In the past, the results from FSAs in Grade 4 and Grade 7 have been reported based on expectations of what students at that level should know. An FSA report might say a student was “not yet meeting expectations,” or was “meeting expectations” or “exceeding expectations” in the different components of reading, writing or numeracy.
But under the new curriculum, those words have changed.
The FSA summery report will now list students as either “emerging,” “on track,” or “extending” in their understanding of reading, writing, and math.
“Emerging” describes the students who are struggling on the bottom-end of the scale. The definition says that “the student demonstrates an early understanding of the concepts and competencies relevant to the expected learning.”
Students who are “on track” have a “partial to complete understanding” of what is expected, and “extending” means that a student shows “a sophisticated understanding.”
“They are very broad, descriptive categories and they are being used to describe what a score actually means,” explained Janet Meyer, director of instruction at the Coast Mountains School District.
Meyer said more detail is provided through larger explanations of the scale, which describe where a student is at, using a strength-based focus, emphasizing what students can understand, rather than what is lacking.
A similar type of scale is expected for the new high school numeracy and literacy tests, still being finalized.
The Ministry of Education has yet to release the a draft numeracy test or a draft summery report for the elementary FSAs.
Because of that, Meyer admitted that schools don’t know exactly what the final reports will look like.
“We are very much in a wait and see scenario,” said Meyer about the new FSA and numeracy assessments. “There are many unanswered questions.”
Students will be taking the tests soon, between Oct. 2 and Nov. 10, a shift from previously when tests were taken at the end of the school year.
Meyer said the intent is for teachers to be able to use the results to guide their teaching, yet the Coast Mountains School District doesn’t know what information they will get from the FSAs.
They are asking the province for a detailed, question-by-question breakdown, so that teachers will know which questions and concepts their students struggled with.
“We don’t know yet if that will be available,” Meyer said.
(Note: This story has been altered from the print version, which incorrectly states parents won’t have access to test scores. That has been corrected here in light of further information.)