Perhaps educators fear what results reveal about them

Parents with kids in Grades 4 and 7 will soon receive the results of this year’s Foundation Skills Assessments tests, which measure basic reading, writing and math skills among public-school students.

As the parent of one child in the public system — and another starting kindergarten next year — I’m concerned when I hear about declining literacy and numeracy rates in our public schools.

That’s why I look forward to seeing the results of these tests when my kids reach those critical grades. I suspect most fellow parents would agree with me.

But, once again, the B.C. Teachers Federation has a different opinion. In what’s become an annual rite of spring, the teachers’ union has condemned the tests, citing lost class time, pressure on teachers to prepare students for the tests and — most laughably — “test anxiety” for the poor little kids.

Anxiety? Give me a break. These tests measure the basic skills anyone needs to succeed in life and don’t count toward a students final grade.

If anyone’s feeling “anxiety” about these tests, perhaps it’s a teachers’ union that’s afraid of a little accountability in measuring student achievement in public schools.

And what’s there to be anxious about anyway? I took a look at a couple of sample tests yesterday and they are simple, straightforward examinations of a child’s most basic skills. In one of the Grade 4 tests, for example, the student is asked to read a short story about a camping trip and then write out answers to simple questions.

Measuring any child’s ability to read and write is a fundamental purpose of any school system, not a “dangerous exercise” as the union argues.

And if you’re wondering if you’re smarter in math than the average fourth grader, then try answering this question: “Happy Valley School holds a Fun Fair each year. The students put up 25 Fun Fair Posters on Monday. The next day, they put up seven more posters than the day before. If this pattern continues, how many posters will be put up in total by Friday?”
(If you haven’t had your morning cup of coffee yet, don’t worry: It’s multiple choice.)

School administrators use the tests to evaluate and improve student achievement, breaking down the results by school, district and individual student.

The union argues the results can be misleading because of socio-economic differences between schools and districts. Obviously children from poor inner-city neighborhoods and First Nations communities may face barriers to doing well in school.

But guess what? Education planners know that and take it into consideration when weighing the results. The teachers here seem more worried about the annual school rankings put out by the Fraser Institute based on the test scores, but that’s hardly justification for the union’s scorn of a test valued and trusted by parents.

Think about it: What if one individual classroom of kids is performing poorly in an otherwise high-achieving school? Shouldn’t that be a warning sign that bears investigation?

As you endure the union’s bluster, keep this in mind: These standardized tests are just one way to help kids achieve. Their relationship with an inspiring, positive teacher is another. In that spirit, the BCTF should drop its narrow-minded opposition to the Foundation Skills Assessment tests.

Source: Vancouver Province, Canada