Although a statement credited to Education Minister Don McRae that standardized testing is optional was quickly retracted, we wonder if it was a Freudian slip. Are the B.C. Liberals considering a policy change in the face of opposition to the Foundation Skills Assessment that sees Grade 4 and 7 students tested annually in math, reading and writing?
In a statement posted on the Liberal caucus website in response to the NDP’s stance against the tests, McRae was quoted as saying the B.C. Liberal government supports FSAs “because parents have a right to know how their children are doing in school.” The “oops” part of the statement followed: “If they don’t want their kids to participate, they can opt out by completing a form.”
An Education Ministry spokesman later said that was a mistake. The government still expects every Grade 4 and Grade 7 student to write the yearly tests.
The FSA has its drawbacks, but a provincewide education system needs a way to measure how students and schools are meeting standards. Don’t ditch it or dilute it unless it can be replaced with something better.
One way to determine the effectiveness of a school or a system is to see how many students finish high school, go on to post-secondary education and embark on careers. But that’s of little use to those students who fall by the wayside — problems should be addressed as they occur.
The main flaws are not in the FSA itself, but in how the results are used and interpreted. The Fraser Institute uses the results to publish an annual scorecard of B.C. schools. Many school trustees don’t like that, and for good reason. The rankings make the results seem like a competition, with some schools looking like winners and others like losers. That’s potentially harmful — the goal should not be to determine who are the winners, but to help every student be successful. The FSA should be just one of many tools used in the pursuit of that goal.
The NDP favours randomizing the tests by having them administered to a sample of the students and says that would eliminate school rankings.
Teachers are leery of standardized tests because they can be perceived as performance reviews for individual teachers. The tests are not an accurate gauge of teacher performance. Too many variables are at play. It’s the job of the principal and other front-line educators to determine a teacher’s effectiveness and progress.
What sometimes gets lost in the controversy is the largest determining factor in a child’s educational progress — the home.
It would be too harsh to say that if your child is doing poorly in school, it’s because of poor parenting, but there’s some truth to the statement. Parents have a vital role in education and when they abdicate that responsibility, their children suffer. Caring teachers regularly perform miracles in helping students meet challenges, but no classroom technique or teaching method can compensate for deficiencies in the home.
Parents must see themselves as partners in education. It’s the parent’s responsibility, not the teacher’s, to ensure that homework gets done.
Take away the smartphones and give them library cards. Turn off the TV and turn your children on to books. Children who are taught a love for reading fare much, much better in school than those who aren’t.
Be interested in your child’s education. Have conversations of substance; talk about ideas. Help apply what is taught in school to real-life situations. Your enthusiasm for their education will prevent them from being bored with school.
You don’t need to wait for standardized tests to ensure your child is succeeding in school.
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