Controversial FSA report card released by Fraser Institute
The Fraser Institute’s controversial annual report card on elementary school performance levels in B.C. is not holding much ink locally.
The results for the 2010 Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) tests were released this week, placing St. Michael’s Elementary School at the top of School District 20 with Kinnaird Elementary taking the lowest rating out of the six public and one private school ranked.
St. Michael’s in Trail placed 117 out of the 875 schools included in the rankings, which are based on last year’s FSA tests taken by B.C. students in grades 4 and 7.
Superintendent of schools Jean Borsa suggested that the FSA, which is not included on a student’s report card, doesn’t provide a clear picture of a school’s standings.
“One test never gives you accurate information on anything,” she said. “In terms of the FSA, what it does do is it provides some information on how students are doing overall.”
The district does look at results but not as a way of comparing its schools, rather to examine what areas students are strongest and where there needs to be improvement.
“Something that everyone agrees on is that it’s inappropriate to use one test to rank a school and make a decision about student achievement,” she said.
MacLean Elementary School in Rossland showed the most improvement, landing 128th place, compared to its five-year average of 188 out of 751.
Meanwhile Glenmerry, noted as the highest-scoring school in the 2008-2009 school year, dropped down to 410, far below its five-year average of 283 out of 751.
Glenmerry principal Patrick Audet said it’s difficult to get a clear picture on how students are performing overall because many parents are pulling their children from the testing.
“The scoring becomes a little bit less accurate of how the students are doing in Grade 4 if we have a few kids not taking the test,” he said, adding that seven Grade 4 students were pulled from the 28 who wrote the exam and nine Grade 7s opted out while 32 participated.
Audet thinks the test is beneficial, as parents receive a report on how their child did, but he said many view it in negative light.
“To me, it would be better if we didn’t have the Fraser Institute publishing it.”
Andy Davidoff, president of the Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union, said the “narrow measure” doesn’t provide an accurate snapshot – noting that a school in the polygamous community of Bountiful made top marks in the most recent results.
“The rankings are misleading and punitive. It’s well-known that social economics impact schools,” he said. “It’s like beating up the disadvantaged.”
The Fraser Institute does attempt to evaluate how individual schools perform relative to the potential of their students by statistically predicting a school’s score out of 10. This is based on census data like parental income.
But private schools are still coming out with perfect scores, said Davidoff, indicating that many of these schools test kids before they’re even accepted as students.
“We don’t do that, we take every student in the public system. Because of these rankings, there are some stories of families choosing to buy a home near high-ranked schools.”
Davidoff said he’s not against assessment, which is often skewed in the media.
“Teachers assess every day,” he said. “We need to go to something that’s meaningful and we’ve always said that random sampling is the best way to go.”
While supporters of the FSA tests suggest they provide information so parents can ask school administrators important questions, many argue it is only one aspect to consider when ranking a school.
The test showed that one in five B.C. students who wrote the FSA in 2010 did not meet expectations.