B.C.'s Ministry of Education to go ahead with standardized testing despite teachers' ethical concerns

A student works on a test in this stock photo. (Shutterstock)

The Ministry of Education will go ahead with standardized testing for all students in Grades 4 and 7, despite criticism from the president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation.

On Thursday, BCTF’s Teri Mooring released a public letter sharply criticizing the ministry for its plans to administer the Foundation Skills Assessment tests.

Then, in an interview with CTV News Vancouver, Mooring elaborated on the ways in which she thinks the skills assessment tests are hurtful to kids.

“In my home district of Quesnel, I happened to be at a school that tended to fare poorly on the FSA tests,” she said.

“It had a really negative impact, not only on teacher morale, but also on students, and how students viewed themselves as learners at our school.”

The BCTF say it's also concerned about ethics and claims data from the test results is misused to create school rankings.

“They get used by outside groups to erroneously rank schools,” she said.

“We have real ethical concerns around data being misused.”

Students at private schools, where their parents aren’t worried about meeting their basic needs and where class sizes can be kept small, tend to do better on the exams, Mooring said.

“The outside groups that have been misusing the data have really done it in a deliberate way to promote private education and undermine public education," she said.

“Private schools that can control the number of students in their classes, that charge large tuitions, that don’t accept all students, tend to do really well on the FSAs, and schools in lower socio-economic parts of the province tend to do poorly."

B.C. Minister of Education Jennifer Whiteside did not make herself available for an interview. However, the ministry provided a statement, defending the tests.

“We care deeply about understanding student progress, especially for Indigenous students and vulnerable populations,” it reads.

“Understanding student progress helps support equity in education."

The ministry also said it doesn’t support ranking schools, and claims it’s changed how the test results are published, but did not specify whether it means test data is no longer tied to specific schools.

“The ministry has changed how it publicly reports FSA data in alignment with privacy legislation and best practices," the statement said.

The ministry also stated that it’s been meeting with different groups who are concerned about the testing.

“We will continue to work to refine assessments so we can best support all students in B.C.,” the statement continues.

But Mooring is upset by what she sees as inaction, and says that by continuing to give the exams, the government is “complicit” with the think tanks that rank schools by test scores. The concerns she’s currently raising were also raised in depth in 2017, she said, but the testing is still the same, and is still being administered, year after year.

“We’re still doing them because (the ministry and) government hasn’t decided to do something different yet.” 

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Ben Miljure

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