Last week, the BC Teachers’ Federation sent home letters to parents of Grade 4 and 7 students requesting that they excuse their children from the province’s Foundational Skills Assessment.
B.C. teachers have long opposed standardized tests, but parents overwhelmingly support them. A 2022 poll by Leger, one of Canada’s largest market research and analytics firms, commissioned by the Fraser Institute, indicated 80 per cent support for the tests among B.C. parents.
Parents support the tests for good reason. They are an objective measure of aptly named foundational skills.
They assess where students stand relative to their peers in the necessary, real-world skills of literacy and numeracy. Teachers say the results are not “a meaningful snapshot of student progress,” but that is precisely what they are.
They do not count toward a student’s marks (not that K-9 students get marks anymore) but they are a tool by which parents can determine where their children might need help.
The teachers also believe the best source of information about children’s progress is them. That may be true, but relative to whom or what?
And it does not de-legitimize the additional value of standardized tests even if it is just in the skills related to taking tests, which is something they will have to do for the rest of their lives.
That is not to say teachers have not identified legitimate concerns with the tests, or rather, with the use of the data that comes from them.
In the letter, the teachers’ federation says the data rarely results in money or resources to meet students’ needs. They also complain that the Fraser Institute has used the data to “unfairly and inappropriately” rank schools.
If these are indeed problems, shouldn’t they be trying to fix those problems, rather than cancel the tests altogether?
The other main concern teachers have expressed is that the tests create anxiety in children.
But many parents have reported teachers using their children to send home these letters is also creating or increasing students’ anxiety.
Parents have the right to exempt their children from these tests, but they would be well-advised not to.