This week we are gearing up for FSA tests. These are like SATs in the UK, and our Grade 7er and Grade 4er will both be taking them. Like SATs, we are told they are not a measure of the child’s progress, but an assessment of the school, and the results are published in The Fraser Report, which is described as the schools’ report card. And, like the SATs, everyone is getting very hot under the collar as the annual event rolls around. As a parent, I’m not really bothered. I think tests are all very well if kept in perspective; good practise in coping skills for the students and a welcome snapshot of how they are doing in comparison with their peers. We haven’t heard any strong reactions from other parents either, but oh boy, you should hear the fuss from the teaching unions. We even received a very political style campaign leaflet from our local union, reminding us that we can withdraw our child from the test, and that FSAs prove nothing and are a waste of time and resources. I heard an interview with someone from the Fraser Institute on my way into work yesterday (CBC Radio) who presented the view that the teaching unions are against anything which might point out that their members might not be working as hard as they should – a union protects its members first, after all. They are concerned that the results will be read in isolation and misinterpreted, while the Institute strongly pushes the message to read all the results over the last 5 years and look at influences on each result (number of ESL students, percentage of special needs, social conditions in the area).
When we arrived, we used The Fraser Institute rankings to research areas to live. We would often find a house on MLS that looked like a bargain, get all excited, then check the schools in that area. Think about the trends in the UK – the school results often reflect the conditions of the local area and, although I believe that any student who applies themselves can shine in even the worst-ranked school, it helps a less motivated, more easily led child to be surrounded by more eager learners and less distractions like friends who prefer to play truant, smoke and experiment with drugs.
Anyway, the Fraser Report Card is a guideline – a useful resource to give you an idea of standards in the area. Our school is very average, but improving, and all the schools in this area are average or above average. That told us that something good is happening here, and we have found that the cross section of different cultures in this area really helps; our Asian neighbours and our Eastern European neighbours all have very high expectations of their children both in and out of school, and the competition drives ours to better things.