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Supporting your planning for improved student achievement

Effective Instructional Programs

From 2000 to the present, Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) data have been used in B.C. to report student achievement over time, and between groups of students such as between schools, and between various student subgroups. Comparisons over time for the same school or district can be difficult to interpret because they are affected by the use of different groups (or cohorts) of students each year, and comparisons between groups of students each year (such as between different schools) are confounded by socioeconomic and cultural factors that are outside the control of educators.

These confounding factors have given rise to significant debate over use of the Foundation Skills Assessment. The use of FSA data to publicly rank schools has added fuel to the debate because of the implicit assumption that schools with higher achieving students are somehow “better” than lower achieving schools.

The new approach below shown this assumption can be misleading.

There is a better way to use the FSA data

If the achievement of Grade 4 students in a given school or district is measured using their Grade 4 FSA results, and the students tracked to Grade 7 and their FSA achievement is measured again, we have a way of measuring growth of student achievement using the same students. If we investigate student growth of only those students who remained in the given school or district from Grade 4 in one year to Grade 7 three years later (FSA Matched Cohorts), we have a way of measuring the effectiveness of the instructional programs in that school or district.

The advantage of using the same students to measure growth is that socioeconomic and cultural factors are kept constant from Grade 4 to Grade 7, and the confounding effect of comparing different cohorts is absent because the comparison is between the same students in both Grade 4, and Grade 7 three years later.

Based on Foundation Skills Assessment data provided by the BC Ministry of Education, robust research design and techniques have been used from the field of Program Evaluation to measure instructional program effectiveness in BC schools and districts. A Backgrounder for schools and a similar Backgrounder for districts provide more detailed information on the research methodology and techniques used.

What do the results look like?

These new cohort tracking results look very different from traditional views of FSA results. Previously, many schools have unfairly been portrayed as “low achieving” or “average”. The new results show several should be recognized and celebrated. But adoption of the new methodology by the Ministry of Education may lead to A Galileo Moment because benefits to students and education partners may not be immediately apparent.

The document Instructional Program Effectiveness to 2016/17 provides a summary of the reading and numeracy instructional program effectiveness results of all BC elementary schools from grade 4 in 2013/14 to grade 7 in 2016/17. The first two pages of this document are recommended for educators to evaluate the contribution this new approach makes to the education community, compared with previous approaches to using FSA results. The last page identifies the top ten schools in Reading and Numeracy, together with their detailed results. The project is currently unfunded, and would benefit with support from the Ministry of Education and other education partners.

Further results will be presented here as they become available. It is hoped they will be used in The Empowering Schools Project. It is designed to take advantage of this new methodology to dramatically improve the achievement of Grade 7 students in all schools across the province. The project is currently unfunded, and would benefit from Ministry of Education support.

Detailed results for individual schools and districts are available from the Student Achievement Reports and District Key Information binders respectively. The Products page shows sample results at Tab 8 of the Student Achievement Reports for schools, and at Tab 6 of the District Key Information binder for districts.

The school results clearly demonstrate that a number of low-achieving schools have more effective instructional programs than a number of high-achieving schools. This research provides empirical evidence to support teachers who have been saying for many years that they have effective instructional programs in their schools even though their students are performing below average.

These new results demonstrate that if we have been looking only at high-achieving schools for guidance to improve student achievement, in some cases we may have been looking in the wrong place. We should be looking at the highest value added schools.