Despite opposition from activists, B.C. parents value standardized tests

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Appeared in Drishti Magazine, March 21, 2022
Despite opposition from activists, B.C. parents value standardized tests

Choosing a child’s school to fit their unique educational needs can be one of the most important decisions a parent can make. School performance data, which is transparent and unambiguous for parents, can help support this decision. Because children are not one-size-fits all, parents want to know how their child is doing in the classroom.

And yet, teacher unions (and others) oppose user-friendly tools such as school rankings, which make test score data easier for parents to navigate. Not surprisingly, most parents have a different view. A recent public opinion poll conducted by Leger (and commissioned by the Fraser Institute) found that eight in 10 B.C. parents of children in K-12 schools support standardized testing to know how their child—and their child’s school—is doing in the core subjects of reading, writing and math. Only 14 per cent of B.C. parents opposed standardized testing, with only five per cent strongly opposed.

Clearly, the majority of B.C. parents support the practice. Still, union activists want this data suppressed and want the Horgan government to cancel standardized tests.

But in the face of this activism, which has persisted for decades in B.C., the government should remember that students and parents are the most important voices in education. Our schools should focus on setting children up for success and providing a foundation for them to thrive academically and wholistically. Again, standardized tests are the best tool available to assess students on a fair level playing field, to give the most accurate picture of how all students are doing in school. What could be more important academically, as B.C. families emerge from two years of school closures, disruption and learning loss, then understanding where students are and where they need to go?

In fact, the Leger poll found that 96 per cent of B.C. parents of K-12 kids said it’s important to know how their child is doing—by a fair and objective measure—in the core subjects. Support among immigrant parents is even higher.

There’s another issue. While B.C. has thus far retained (thankfully) standardized tests, the quality of the tests has deteriorated with the shift from more meaningful higher-stakes student exams to student assessments in Grades 10 and 12 that have no impact on grades.

Participation in these so-called “mandatory” assessments is low—only between 42 per cent and 52 per cent of Grade 10 students completed them in 2019/20 (consistent with previous years’ participation rates). And the results were even more concerning, with only 40 per cent of Grade 10 students proficient in numeracy, for example. As such, policymakers in B.C. should also work to improve the tests to provide higher-quality data and better serve students to help them improve and succeed.

But in the meantime, those who campaign to eradicate standardized tests and the transparent reporting of their results should know they are out of step with the overwhelming majority of B.C. parents who place real value in testing students to understand where they’re at and where they need to improve.

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