Richmond school board asks for delay of controversial test

The Richmond Board of Education will ask the ministry for a delay in the Foundational Skills Assessment (FSA), scheduled to start around Thanksgiving.

This was prompted by a question at Wednesday’s board meeting from Richmond Teachers’ Association president Liz Baverstock who said teachers need to focus on “instructional support to students.”

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“What ...elementary schools need right now is less disruptions,” Baverstock said. “They need – and teachers need - full access to the instructional time.”

Furthermore, she added, schools also need to address learning gaps that have resulted from the pandemic.

“All (the FSA) will do is highlight the inequities,” Baverstock said.

The FSA is an annual test of Grade 4 and 7 students in reading, writing and numeracy.

The FSA has provoked controversy in the past as its data has been used by the right-wing think tank, the Fraser Institute, to rank schools, using a complicated formula of the test scores, neighbourhood incomes and other factors.

The teachers’ unions have strongly opposed the FSAs, but school districts use the data to measure student progress.

Superintendent Scott Robinson said the timing of the FSA is a concern for other school districts this year as well. But discussions with senior Ministry of Education staff indicated the ministry “believes it’s necessary and useful” to administer them.

Trustee Donna Sargent pointed out it’s not up to ministry staff to make the decision about the FSA, but “there is no government (now) to make this decision.”

Robinson noted, during the discussion of the wording of the impromptu motion, that the board should only comment on the timing of the tests.

“What we’re hoping is to get it out of the fall… it would make things easier for everybody, from my perspective,” Robinson said. “I think it’s important it’s clear the board is not making a comment on the FSA itself, you’re purely commenting on timing of the administration of the FSA this year.”

In the end, the board voted unanimously to write to the Ministry of Education to ask them to delay the FSAs until at least after the new year.


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