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Foundation Skills Assesment (FSA): A letter to grade 4 & 7 parents

January 15, 2016

Dear Parents/Guardians:

The following provides information on the Foundation Skills Assessment which is to be administered in the upcoming weeks.

What is the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA)?
The Foundation Skills Assessment is an annual, province-wide assessment given in February to all students in Grades 4 and 7. Students are given a minimum of four hours spread over several days to complete the assessment which measures basic competencies in reading, writing and numeracy. The skills tested are linked to the provincial curriculum and BC performance standards

When is the Foundation Skills Assessment?
The dates for this year’s Foundation Skills Assessment are from January 11 to February 19 and marking will be done soon after. All our students’ Foundation Skills Assessment scores will be reported to the Ministry of Education and individual student results will be sent home before Spring Break.

How does our district use the information that comes out of the Foundation Skills Assessment?
Our district considers and uses the information we get from the Foundation Skills Assessment as a part of the Assessment For Learning cycle. This information, along with other classroom and district data, tells parents, teachers, students, and the district what our students are doing well and where further growth is needed in relation to the three basic skills expected by the province in that grade level. Your child’s score on the Foundation Skills Assessment is not part of any report card mark or any other report from your child’s teacher or school.

Why the controversy?
You will hear various viewpoints around the Foundation Skills Assessment, and you may receive information shortly from the local teachers association. The assessment is considered controversial among some groups as people may use the results to make comparisons or judgments about districts, schools, classes and students. Many of these comparisons will be based on small differences that are neither statistically or educationally significant. For example, the Fraser Institute, which is not connected to the Ministry of Education, uses the data to create a ranking of the public and private schools in the province. As you can see, the school district does not use the Foundation Skills Assessment in any way that negatively affects a child.

Is the Foundation Skills Assessment optional?
No. The Foundation Skills Assessment is required by law, under the BC School Act, and, although there may be varying opinions about their value and use, the Foundation Skills Assessment is not optional. School District 72 will therefore ensure that this year’s Foundation Skills Assessment is administered in accordance with the ministerial Student Learning Assessment Order. All Grades 4 and 7 students who attend public and independent schools, or who are enrolled in a distributed learning program, are expected to participate. However, a few students with exceptional needs or extenuating circumstances may be excused from some or all of the assessment.

What would be considered extenuating circumstances for excusal from the Foundation Skills Assessment?
Illness, a family emergency, or extensive adaptation requirements could be considered for excusal of a student from the Foundation Skills Assessment. Principals identify which students, if any, are excused from one, two or all three components of the Foundation Skills Assessment. Principals must notify a parent or guardian if they intend to excuse a student from participating in one or more components of the Foundation Skills Assessment. Such notification should be made prior to the administration date by letter or telephone call. If you feel that one of these reasons apply to your child and you haven’t received notification, contact your child’s principal to discuss the reasons.

Parents and guardians are encouraged to learn as much as possible about the different types of assessment that are used in our schools and across the province. Your child’s teacher and principal can provide you with a wealth of information. You are also encouraged to discuss your child’s results with the school staff at any time after you receive their results. For further information on Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) or the district’s policy on Assessment For Learning, please refer to the following websites:


Tom Longridge
Superintendent of Schools, School District 72