A big topic getting headlines these days is whether or not kids should be given standardized tests. These tests known as the Foundation Skills Assessment exam or FSA are given to every Grade 4 and 7 student in the province. It sounds pretty simple but if you are a parent you probably already know that it is anything but simple.
One side is saying that the information gathered by the tests goes toward the necessary research needed to help educators find which practices are working and which ones aren=t. The results of the tests are given to the local think tank - The Fraser Institute - and they do a yearly school ranking based on the test scores. Many people use these rankings to help them decide where to send their kids to school. Insidently The Province newspaper which publishes the Fraser Institute results, historically, sells more newspapers that day then any other day all year. So if you are interested in seeing your childs school report card – you are not alone.
The other side of the debate contends that the tests are useless as a guide to how well a school is doing because the tests are inherently flawed. The flaw comes from the standardized part of the equation. The Teachers federation (The employees union) along with a hand full of school boards argue that standardised test results don=t take into account a lot of information which skew test averages or the individual talents of each individual, using only test scores and not other factors to determine the rankings. Other factors include how many ESL or special needs children are in the class. They also don=t account for class size or socio-economic factors, all of which are beyond the teachers control and have potentially negative effects on the overall averages.
My take on this is that I think standardized test should be mandatory and the results should be published. Knowing which schools perform better than others is a big factor when considering purchasing a home if you have kids or are planning to have them. Even if you=re not when considering resale value - being near a school that ranks high is definitely a bonus. I have four kids and if I=m going to buy a house one of the major considerations that my wife and I are going to make is what kinds of schools are going to be available for our kids in the neighbourhood we choose.
Yes the data may not be perfect and yes we need to look at more information than just the Fraser Institutes scores but knowledge is in powering and I want as much as I can get. With power comes responsibility and that means that I need to look at all sides when investigating which school my kids are going to attend but these scores are definitely a piece of the puzzle - a big piece - and if you get enough pieces you may just get to see the whole picture.