Since Grades 4 and 7 students began writing FSA tests on Monday, the problems have been pouring in by phone and e-mail: reports of computers crashing all over the province, administrators denying parents the right to exempt their children, libraries and computer labs off limits to the entire school for weeks.
Predictably the ministry computer system has not been able to handle the volume of students attempting to access the test throughout the province. The Federation has received numerous calls and e-mails reporting on the frustration children and teachers are experiencing with the online component of the tests.
“I received a call this morning from an elementary school where they attempted to log on to the system for about an hour and 45 minutes. The split screen that was intended to display text on one side with relevant questions on the other displayed text for a different set of questions than those visible,” wrote a president from the Lower Mainland. “A telephone call from the ministry to the schools informed everyone that they must try again another day.”
A teacher in a northern community wrote: “At our staff meeting today our principal announced that the Grade 7 class spent almost two hours in the computer lab trying to write the FSAs. It took 25 minutes to log on (even though the administrators had written a script for it and children had practised) and then almost all children were ‘kicked off’ the system, some as many as eight times. Our computer lab will be closed for a total of three weeks—one week to practise and two weeks to write. Those of us who wanted to use the lab for actual teaching were denied its use.”
“What a fiasco!” says Susan Lambert, first vice-president of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation. “How could the ministry not have predicted these problems? How on earth can the ministry say that the results from these tests are reliable?”
In addition, parents have been contacting the Federation outraged and incredulous at their powerlessness. “I am writing to you to share my frustration, disappointment, and anger at the attempts made to “strong-arm” me into having my Grade 7 son write the FSA tests, in spite of my written request to have him exempted.”
Parents have been told they must keep their children home for the two weeks the tests are being written. The Federation is advising parents to exercise their right to appeal the decision under Section 11 of the School Act.