The Fraser Institute's annual rankings of B.C. schools, based on the results of provincewide FSA tests — and, to some degree, the tests themselves — are often dismissed by critics.
Those opposed suggest the tests should be scrapped for a variety of reasons including that they add unnecessary stress to students and are of no use as the effort does not apply toward students' report card marks.
Further the Fraser Institute's rankings rub salt in the wound, the argument goes, pitting underfunded public schools in B.C. against private schools, which are always at the top of the class, and don't bring anything meaningful to the table.
The Vancouver Sun reports the latest group to call for changes to how the FSAs (Foundation Skills Assessments) are administered is the B.C. School Trustees' Association.
Attendees of the association's AGM on the weekend came out in support of scrapping having all students in the target grades write the FSA, instead they propose randomized tests. This provincial snapshot would disallow the Fraser Institute rankings as there would be no way to compare individual schools, it was suggested.
But the province rightly points out in a fact sheet on the B.C. Ministry of Education website that a change to the random sampling approach would mean a loss of all the individual achievement data that the tests provide for each student.
Parents, teachers and students are given the results of the tests and can use them to evaluate individuals' performance.
Like any test, there is value in the FSA, which grades students' efforts in math, reading and writing.
And at this point, there is no other tool to give users of the educational system — students and parents — the opportunity to know how well or poorly they are doing compared to others in B.C.
Additionally, once students are out in the real world (post-secondary or looking for a job), there is going to be a heck of a lot more competition they're going to face. Knowing how they're doing compared to their provincial counterparts early on may provide a red flag for areas to improve.
Until a better method is developed of checking in on how the education system is serving students around the province, we can't support the concept of random sampling on FSAs.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.