Friday, January 30, 2015

I'm Sorry I Let You Take the FSA

"They don't test us for French or science or art or humanities. They only test us for math and English. I think they want us all to grow up to be accountants, but they don't realize that if we all grew up to be accountants, nobody would be a farmer, and then all the accountants would die."

I mistakenly allowed my son to take the FSA this year. Yes: Mistakenly. I forgot to object.

Every year in BC, students in grade four and seven are given the Foundation Skills Assessment. The BC Ministry of Education says that "The main purpose of the assessment is to help the province, school districts, schools and school planning councils evaluate how well students are achieving basic skills, and make plans to improve student achievement. FSA is designed and developed by British Columbia educators. The skills assessed are linked to the provincial curriculum and provincial performance standards." Seems reasonable, if you're a pencil-pushing administrator who wants to see that all the students conform. Not if you're trying to raise a whole and healthy child or community. And isn't that actually what we're trying to do?

Schools are judged by their students' performance on these tests. Teachers are also evaluated with these results in mind. Schools and teachers, who for the most part got into the job for the opportunity to nurture and inspire children to live to their own beautiful potential, live under the threat of not living up to these imposed standards. Some of them might even think the test is valuable, but even our BC Teacher's Federation advises parents to opt out, stating that "It takes valuable time and much needed resources away from the classroom learning and undermines the ability to provide meaningful learning experiences for all students. The FSA results are misused by a private organization to rank schools based on a very narrow measure. The FSA tests do not result in any additional funding or support for students."

The FSA is a part of the system that attempts to mold our children into good working citizens, but not to value them for their own intrinsic passions and gifts. It's a system that not only insults the intelligence of both teachers and children, but leads to generation upon generation of adults who, having grown up in this system, now feel inadequate when we don't conform, instead of proud to be the brilliant individuals we are. It leads us to shuffle our children off into the same system, terrified that our children might also not conform; might not succeed according to the yard-sticks we were held up against, ourselves. The system feeds on itself, but it's not serving any of us, or the evolution of our species, as a whole.

So, in forgetting to send in my letter of objection, I have furthered these issues. I'm sorry. For my son and for every generation to come whose teachers remain as throttled as ours are, today, I'm dreadfully sorry. I will not make this mistake, again.

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