Friday, 15 February 2008

Foundation Skills Assessment

Here is a copy of the letter that I sent to our local paper. If it does get printed, then hopefully it won't be so edited that it no longer makes my point.

To the editor:
As the parent of a 12-year-old child, the title of Rick Thorpe's article (on page C6 of Sunday's Capital News) immediately caught my eye and I read the article with interest. Rick Thorpe states that the Foundation Skills Assessment is a valuable tool. He claims that the ministry of Education uses the results data, along with other information, to "help build a better education system." He reports that "the results give parents, teachers and schools a snapshot of how students are doing in reading, writing and math and help them make plans for improving student achievement." That may or may not be true, I believe it is not, but shouldn't teachers and schools, already know how students are doing in these subjects? Shouldn't it be utterly obvious from spending six hours a day, five days a week with a child, how well they are doing? Do we really need to spend the vast amounts of money these test cost to find out this information? Would the money not be better spent directly on improving learning in the schools, instead of on administering more tests?

There are so many points in his article that make me shake my head, but none bother me as much as this one where, in my opinion, he tries to make it sound like the government is doing parents a favour with the FSA. He says, " the FSA is a part of the government's accountability and responsibility to parents. Parents want to know how their children are doing in school and how they can help their child improve." I wonder if parents were aware that they needed the government's FSA to tell them how their children are doing in school. I've heard this line a few times as a defence or reasoning for the FSA, and I can't quite believe anyone would dare to say such a thing. I should think that most parents figure they know quite well how their children are doing, even without the report cards and parent-teacher interviews, let alone the FSA information - which, until this year, the results of which parents were not usually made aware until the next year, at which point they are only told whether their child is meeting, non-meeting, or exceeding expectations. If my child was in public school and it was implied to me that I needed the results of the FSA to tell me how my child was doing, I would be outraged.

Thankfully, my children are not in public school, and after our experience with the FSA this past week, I am more pleased than ever before that they are not. The only disadvantage that my children have by learning at home (with a DL independent school) is one that I have just realized this week, and it is that we do not have the arena in which to make our objections regarding the FSA public. Unlike public schools, independent schools risk losing their ministry funding if they do not comply with the government's policy that all students write this test. Were my children in public school I would have been very happy to refuse permission to have my 12-year-old write the FSA. I would have made it very clear that I did not agree with this kind of testing, and that I would not be a part of wasted tax payers' dollars by having him write it. I believe that there is no value in any child writing this particular exam. After hearing about and reading some details of the marking procedures for these tests, I now believe it is, not only an utter waste of time that could be better spent on actual learning but, an absolute disgrace to the ministry.

I would like to urge parents of public school students to find out more about FSA, and to decide if they believe that their children benefit from them. I would encourage parents to look further into this matter and find out about marking techniques. I believe that if public school parents took a stand against this kind of testing, if they refused to let their children write these tests, that the government would have to accept that decision. The FSA really has become little more than a power struggle, a political hot potato between the Ministry of Education and the BCTF. They have become about everything except the children, and I think that we parents need to stand up for and put our children's education first, because if we don't, who will?

3 comments:

Mary-Sue said...

BRAVO!!! hear! hear! Heather! It's people like you who CHANGE the world. the rest of us just think about it and want to...
thanks for writing this letter!

Nicola said...

You are inspiring me to put pen to paper and write my own letters too!

Rebecca said...

Yeah, Heather! Well done.

I'm going to do a "culture fair" testing piece on my blog about the government insisting that home-based learners write the FSA - but then include questions that are based on the school experience.

Another reason the FSA sucks.