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Teachers question standardized testing during pandemic

Teachers have taken issue with the continuation of standardized tests during the pandemic, claiming now is not the time for added stress.
multiple choice test

Teachers have taken issue with the continuation of standardized tests during the pandemic, claiming now is not the time for added stress.

The provincial government conducts the Foundation Skills Assessment test each year for Grade 4 to Grade 7 students to determine how they are progressing in reading, writing and numeracy.

But some, including the B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF) and the Kamloops-Thompson Teachers' Association (KTTA), think now is not the time for such tests.

"There was nothing normal about the last school year or the one we are currently in,” BCTF president Teri Mooring wrote in a statement to parents. “Teachers, students and families have been forced to constantly adjust to changing rules and conditions.”

KTTA president Laurel Macpherson agreed. She called it "very unfortunate" how the data is used, pointing to rankings created by Lower Mainland think tank, the Fraser Institute.

Each year, the organization rates each school in the province out of 10 and provides a ranking using publicly available data from the FSA tests.

"We just feel like it's a real misuse of data,” Macpherson said. “We've never supported the FSAs because we feel that teachers do assessments and know where students are at, and we feel that's valid testing.”

This year, the tests strike some teachers as particularly unproductive.

Macpherson said the tests are a "waste of time" during a disrupted school year, with the amount of time available for learning compromised due to constant cleaning requirements and the need to follow COVID-19 protocols.

Required quarantine periods stemming from potential exposures — of which there have been dozens in the district, with more emerging each week — are also making things difficult as students try to keep up from home.

"You take a look at that and think, is that valid? Yeah, kids are not going to be where they should be," Macpherson said. "Really, is it reliable data? I don't think it is."

The BCTF provides a letter template on its website for parents wishing for their student to be excused from taking the test, but Macpherson said students will write the test anyway, if they return to school during the testing period. The FSA tests are typically administered beginning in October, but were delayed this year to be conducted between Feb. 15 and March 12.