Dear Fraser Institute,
In fairness I am telling you this on the basis of a single observation. One salient point. That’s all I need.
I am basing this judgement on my own narrow area of interest, but it is one that is important to me, and it is one that is way too complex to be summarized by a single, poorly executed assessment.
The area of interest is Public Education and the assessment I speak of is the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA’s). To be fair, I must say that the design of these tests are good:
The assessment instruments are developed by BC educators. The development generally involves a year-long cycle in which the Ministry of Education engages teams of practicing classroom teachers and subject area specialists in the process. (link)
Also, having seen the tests, they are indeed well written.
Ah, but then you step in! The Fraser Institute takes the results of these tests, the free and available information collected from every school, and RANKS THEM. After all it seems this is your duty, and in some misguided way, your responsibility to do so:
A free and prosperous world through choice, markets and responsibility
The Fraser Institute measures and studies the impact of competitive markets and government interventions on individuals and society. Our peer-reviewed research is distributed around the world and has contributed to increased understanding of how economic policy affects people. (link)
It is comforting to know that you use peer-reviewed research in other areas of interest but in education:
How Is our Research Conducted?
We use objective, publicly-available data to rate the schools, such as average scores on provincial tests provided by provincial education ministries. (link)
‘Objective‘? Yes, if you mean ‘unbiased’ in an uninformed way, but not if you mean ‘undistorted’. You see as educators we know better than to cast judgement on students based on a single test, or based on a single objective viewpoint. After all, could my judgement of your organization be true? Should you wait another year to find out if my opinion has changed? Is this fair? Or more importantly is my opinion that ‘you suck’ informative and helpful to you as an organization? (Perhaps if you hear me through.)
Furthermore, I’m not sure what you mean, above, by ‘such as’ when in fact results from one test are the only data you collect. Nothing else. You collect average scores from a single test and publish them in a ranking, because the information is there and because you can. But why?
Let me bare my assumption of your altruistic motives: Apparently you want to inform parents about the quality of the schools they put their children into. Well let me ask you this, based on your single test results can you please inform parents of the following:
When a child is bullied in my school, how is this handled?
Is there value in the peer mediation program we run, or the student leadership program?
When a student has special needs how are these met?
How does my school address 21st Century skills? How do we implement the use of technology?
What are our music and creative arts programs like?
What are we doing to implement formative assessment?
How do we differentiate instruction to meet the needs of different kinds of learners?
What does your test tell parents about the learning experiences their children will have in our school?
But let’s not stop there Fraser Institute… rater of schools and keeper of the objective truth. Let us remove the objective lens and get political. You see, this is where you really start to ‘suck’!
To look at the damage that you are fostering, we need to examine the negatively charged atmosphere your ranking creates. Teachers see the blatant flaws in this sort of testing and in your ranking of schools, (only some of which I have expressed above). As a result they have banded together and refused to administer the tests. In doing so, they are breaking the law and choosing civil disobedience to protest the misuse of these test results and your subsequent ranking.
The tests are no longer administered by the teachers of the students who take the test. The results are no longer reflected upon or used as a tool for learning. Students are placed in a position of writing a test that is not meaningfully used to assess them, but simply to rank schools.
So now, as a parent of a Grade 4 student expected to write these tests, I cannot see myself subjecting my daughter to this testing simply for your gain… and what it comes down to is that it really and truly is your gain since students, teachers and parents are not gaining anything from this testing process.
And this brings me to your not-so-altruistic motives: Your school rankings brings the Fraser Institute a significant amount of publicity. And I am assuming here, that as an organization that depends on private funding, you need this publicity to maintain your survival. Is this responsible behaviour for an organization that wants to serve the public?
In conclusion, I would like to offer a suggestion to help the Fraser Institute serve parents and for that matter our students, our educators and our schools. I would like to suggest to you that perhaps the ranking of schools does not meet the objectives that you may have originally set out to meet, when you started with this endeavour. And I would like to suggest to you that perhaps standardized testing, as it has been delivered historically, is hindering educators from meaningfully improving schools and learning. And finally I humbly request that you examine some of the trends in education and use your influence and peer-reviewed research to help public education progress in a meaningful way.
I sincerely look forward to changing my opinion of the Fraser Institute in the future.