Public schools in the Comox Valley typically saw between three-quarters and all of their students write the recent foundation skills assessments (FSA).
The tests were held later during the school year because of the challenges around COVID protocols for schools. The time frame for students in grades 4 and 7 to write them was Feb. 15 to March 12.
“We really wondered if it would even happen,” said Allen Douglas, the School District 71 director of instruction for K-12. “Collecting the data for the ministry during a pandemic year is very, very important.”
The FSAs measure students’ abilities in core areas of reading, writing and numeracy. The tests are not without controversy, as some groups such as the BC Teachers’ Federation have campaigned against them for several years, particularly over how results have been used by outside groups such as the Fraser Institute, a right-of-centre think-tank that produces report cards ranking schools. Other concerns include the amount of time the test take away from teaching and, during this school year, the extra stress and challenges posed by the pandemic.
“There was nothing normal about the last school year or the one we are currently in. Teachers, students and families have been forced to constantly adjust to changing rules and conditions. It has been tough on everyone. We shouldn’t be adding to the issues and challenges our students and teachers are facing,” BCTF president Teri Mooring said in a news release.
Locally, Douglas has spoken before about why the results are public, despite their use by Fraser Institute, and why the assessments are important for schools in highlighting areas where students need to focus. He was pleased with the strong participation.
“Every one of our schools worked really, really hard to get as many students participating on the FSA as possible,” he said.
Through the district, according to Douglas, the participation rate ranged from 75 per cent of students up to all students at some schools. Following the testing, Douglas and a team of elementary school administrators serving as markers, spread throughout Queenesh Elementary, to spend Saturday, March 13, to assess the assessments. Some of the FSA testing is done online and some of it is written, which then has to be marked.
“I can’t say enough about the team and how hard they work,” Douglas added.
Schools now will be examining the results on how their students fared in the different areas of the FSAs, while the Ministry does further analysis.