Each year around this time, the always controversial topic of standardized testing rears its head in B.C.
That's because January brings with it the annual Foundation Skills Assessment tests for students in Grades 4 and 7 in this province.
The tests evaluate reading, writing and math, and its proponents (namely, the provincial government) say it's a valuable tool for finding out more about where students and schools are achieving or falling behind.
Opponents to the tests, like the B.C. Teachers' Federation and, often, parent groups say that the exercise takes up valuable time and money that could be better used elsewhere, while contributing nothing more than a small snapshot of a much bigger educational picture.
As well, say teachers, the results are used by organizations like the Fraser Institute to create unfair ratings for schools that don't take into account the diversity of each school setting.
With an election just a few months away, it's no surprise that this year's FSA rumble is a little louder than usual - the NDP has said it will make big changes to the testing program if elected, something the teachers' union has been pushing for years.
Given the potential for this issue to make an impact on voters, we wouldn't be surprised to hear the Liberals promise to make changes to it themselves.
Frankly, it's about time.
Knowing as much as we can about student achievement is incredibly powerful - and we encourage every political party to find ways to harness that information - but the FSAs have become far too contentious. More importantly, their usefulness, depending on who you talk to, is highly questionable.
The time has come for a new approach - one that teachers, parents, students, government and the public can agree upon.
© Copyright 2013