The Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute

April 17, 2008 13:00 ET

New Poll Shows Majority of BC Parents Support FSA Tests and Fraser Institute School Report Cards

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - April 17, 2008) - An overwhelming majority of BC parents support the BC Ministry of Education's province-wide testing policy and believe parents should be able to use the results of those tests to compare schools, according to a new COMPAS poll conducted for independent research organization the Fraser Institute.

The poll of more than 1,000 BC parents with children under 20 found that 83 per cent of parents support the right of parents to see test scores from province-wide reading, writing, and mathematics tests and use them to compare school performance.

The poll also found that 70 per cent of parents agree the Ministry of Education is on the right track with its province-wide testing policy.

"BC parents do want the best for their children. Part of that is having the ability to compare school performance and use exam results such as the FSA to do that," said Peter Cowley, Fraser Institute director of school performance studies.

"The results of this poll confirm in a scientific way the support for the Fraser Institute's annual report card on academic performance at BC's elementary schools. It's gratifying to see how in sync we are with BC parents."

The Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) has been the target of significant opposition from the leadership of the BC teachers' union, which has mounted several campaigns urging parents to withdraw their children from the tests. At its recent annual general meeting, media reports indicated the union narrowly voted in favour of job action as part of its upcoming 2009 campaign to force the provincial education ministry to halt province-wide use of the FSA.

"With more than 80 per cent of BC parents saying they support using FSA test results to compare school performance, it's obvious the BC teachers' union executive is out of touch with mainstream BC parents," Cowley said.

"If the union carries through with its threat of job action, then it is clearly at odds with the wishes of parents. The Education Ministry needs to stand up for parents and ensure that school children will not again be used as pawns in a conflict between the union and the employer."

The COMPAS poll also broke out a subgroup of 98 respondents who are teachers or whose spouses are teachers. Among this group, 78 per cent agreed that parents should have a right to see the results of province-wide test scores and use them to compare schools. When asked about the Ministry of Education's province-wide testing policy, 41 per cent said they agreed with the current policy with 49 per cent disagreeing.

"It's interesting that even in teacher households, there is noticeable support for the Education Ministry's policy on province-wide testing," Cowley said.

The poll was based on a representative sample of 1,010 British Columbia parents with children under 20 years of age and is considered accurate to within 3.2 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

Founded in 1987, COMPAS is an independent, public opinion/customer research firm with head office in Toronto. Nonpartisan and unaffiliated with any party, it has served clients in the business, government, non-profit, university, and media sectors. Its weekly poll of CEOs appearing in Canadian Business magazine is now in its seventh year.

On a question about how much province-wide testing should be done, the poll found parents divided on the issue. Twenty-four per cent of parents said the Ministry of Education is doing too little province-wide testing while 32 per cent said the amount was about right. Eighteen per cent of parents said there was too much province-wide testing.

A question about the use of school rankings like those contained in the Fraser Institute's school report cards revealed that, among those with an opinion, 60 per cent believe that parents don't use school rankings enough while 21 per cent believe parents over-use them, and 18 per cent believe the school rankings are used to the right extent. Those who believe the school rankings are under-used outnumber almost 3:1 those who believe the rankings are over-used. Those who believe the rankings are over-used are outnumbered almost 4:1 by the combination of those who believe that the school rankings are under-used and those who believe that the rankings are used to the right extent.

"The teachers' union campaign to abolish the FSA doesn't have public support. Instead, parents are telling us they want province-wide testing, they want to be able to compare school performance, and they have a positive view of school rankings and how they are used to compare schools," Cowley said.

"With its campaign against the FSA, the teachers' union is putting the interests of a faction of teachers ahead of the needs of school children and their parents. It's time for the Education Ministry to take action and show all British Columbians that the teachers' union is not running the education system."

The Fraser Institute is an independent research and educational organization with offices in Calgary, Montreal, Tampa, Toronto, and Vancouver. Its mission is to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals. To protect the Institute's independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit www.fraserinstitute.org.

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