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BCTF claims victory in standardized testing fight

VANCOUVER - School may be out for the summer, but sniping between the provincial education ministry and British Columbia's teachers union continues.

The B.C. Ministry of Education today released the results of the 2009 Foundation Skills Assessment tests -- the standardized reading, writing and math tests assigned to all Grade 4 and 7 students in the province.

The results showed that approximately two-thirds of students at each level met or exceeded the expected performance level for their grade, but that for each test an additional 16 or 17 per cent of students had an 'unknown' performance level.

Those 'unknowns' are students who did not write the test. Although all students are officially required to participate, children may be absent due to illness and parents have the right to ask that their child be excused due to 'extenuating circumstances.'

The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) has been vigorously opposed to the tests, including through an advertising campaign urging parents to excuse their children from writing them.

The President of the BCTF, Irene Lanzinger, said in a statement following the release of the data that the numbers show that “more and more parents are pulling their children out of these controversial tests because they do not see the value the vague results provide.”

On the other side of the debate, Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid seemed to suggest in a government press release that schools will have a harder time teaching students who did not complete the tests:

By looking at the performance levels of students who did participate in this assessment, I am encouraged to see that approximately 80 per cent of those students are meeting or exceeding expectations. Our superintendents of achievement will be meeting with school districts starting in September to ensure the districts have learning plans in place for all students, including those with no FSA results.

Other results from the test include that girls average higher than boys in reading and writing tests, the difference between ESL students and their peers is greater in Grade 7 than Grade 4, and aboriginal students have comparable scores to ESL students in most categories.

Amelia Bellamy-Royds reports for The Tyee.

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