School District 8 is asking the education ministry to stop making the Foundation Skills Assessment data public. File photo

School District 8 is asking the education ministry to stop making the Foundation Skills Assessment data public. File photo

Kootenay Lake School District requests education ministry make annual student assessments private

The district is concerned the data is being misused by the Fraser Institute

School District 8 has joined a growing chorus of education organizations across B.C. protesting how an annual provincial education assessment is used by the Fraser Institute.

At its Jan. 12 meeting, SD8’s board of trustees voted in favour of a letter to the education minister Jennifer Whiteside that requested the results of the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) only be made available to district staff and parents.

The assessments, which this year will be held Feb. 15 to March 12, test Grade 4 and 7 students on reading, writing and numeracy.

The results aren’t counted toward a student’s marks, but they are used every year by the Fraser Institute to rank public and independent schools in the province.

SD8 superintendent Christine Perkins argues the FSA provides an incomplete picture of a school and the performance of its students.

“Sound educational assessment, to me, is based on a variety of tools,” said Perkins. “No one magic measure like the FSA serves to deliver a complete and accurate picture of student learning.”

Other districts such as SD5 in Cranbrook and in the Central Okanagan, as well as teachers’ associations in Chilliwack and Greater Victoria, have also sent the ministry similar letters. The B.C. Teachers’ Federation meanwhile has asked parents to withdraw their children from the assessments.

Perkins said the assessments are useful for showing a student’s progress, but shouldn’t be interpreted further than that except confidentially with a student and their parents.

“Assessment has to be meaningful, it has to be purposeful and it shouldn’t, in the end, cause any harm, and when you start ranking you cause harm,” she said. “It’s supposed to be helpful in a positive way. So to me, they’re harmful the way the Fraser Institute uses them.”

The rankings are anything but harmful according to one of the people who invented them.

Peter Cowley is a senior fellow at Fraser Institute who retired in 2018 but still contributes to the rankings. Along with Stephen Easton, Cowley built the first rankings for the think tank in 1998 when it released its inaugural list of B.C. secondary schools.

Cowley says the rankings are popular among parents who want to decide where their children should enrol, or to compare their school to others.

“Information is power,” said Cowley. “And what these foundation skills assessments do, and all the other province-wide assessments that are conducted by the provinces, they give people information that can be used to improve the education at individual schools in individual grades.”

Cowley conceded more factors than just FSA should be considered when assessing schools — he suggested economic status and the inclusion of students who speak English as a second language.

But he also believes the three assessments a child completes in Grade 4 and three more in Grade 7 provide an adequate picture of progress, or the lack thereof.

“The question is whether or not you’ll do anything about it,” he said. “I can tell you that parents whose children are in a school that is declining on any indicator are more than happy to ask the tough questions …

“It’s really important stuff that when somebody says we should just keep it quiet, why would they say that? What benefit to students would come from making these data at the school level, the district level and the provincial level only available to certain people?”

If districts get their way, a Ministry of Education spokesperson told the Nelson Star that FSA data is still accessible under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

“We share the concerns of many parents, students and educational partners about school rankings,” said the spokesperson. “It’s unfortunate that FSAs have been used this way by third parties as this is not the purpose of these assessments.”

READ MORE: School District 8 schools to pilot student tracking cards for buses

@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Education

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Forty-seven vaccination clinics will open across Interior Health beginning March 15. (Canadian Press)
48 COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open across Interior Health

Select groups can book appointments starting Monday

Seniors in the Interior Health region can book their COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday, March 8, 2021 at 7 a.m. (File photo)
Seniors in Interior Heath region can book COVID-19 shots starting Monday

Starting March 8 the vaccination call centre will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

Jasper after he was reunited with his owners Mary and Brent Hummel. Photo: Steve Smith
New children’s book features lost Castlegar dog who swam the Columbia multiple times

Brent and Mary Hummel and Jasper tell their dramatic story

Interior Health reported 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5. (Black Press Files)
Interior Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5

Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered provincewide.

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

Most Read