DART (District Assessment of Reading)

What is DART?

DART (District Assessment of Reading) is a performance-based assessment of learning administered to grade 3-9 students on a voluntary basis in the fall and on a required basis as an assessment for learning in the spring.

Why does the Sooke School District use the DART program?

Many districts throughout the province use DART, or a similar program, to assist in improving student literacy. The purpose of DART is to assist students to achieve their potential in the areas of reading and writing.

DART was developed by BC teachers. The district selected DART based on the recommendations of a district team of teachers, principals, and vice principals.

The data gathered through DART assist teachers in designing student learning programs to increase the number of students meeting or exceeding grade level expectations.

Unless we assess student progress, we can’t determine where we need to refine instruction in order to help all students achieve their potential. The data provide parents, teachers, and the district with critical information about how students are doing.

Through the use of the DART assessment, we are seeing measurable improvement in our primary students, results that contribute to students’ progress, overall achievement and, just as important, their self-esteem.

How do teachers prepare students to participate in the DART assessment?

Teachers set the stage for the DART assessment by following a protocol. They are instructed on the first page that "Assessments should allow students to exhibit their strengths."

All students participate in a background-building discussion before reading the text. In most classes, DART is presented as just a part of the regular school day. As long as the teacher has been following the curriculum, students are not asked to do anything that is new or unusual for them. The climate of the class should be no different than any other school day.

Is DART a standardized test?

DART is not a standardized test.

Students answer a series of open-ended prompts or questions based on a passage which they have read and which remains with them to look back and reread as they want. The passages all contain pictures. Teachers also interview each child and are encouraged to listen to each child read aloud a passage of the assessment. The intent is to monitor each student’s independent application of the reading skills and processes which have been taught.

How long has the Sooke School District been using the DART program?

The Sooke school district is in its fourth successful year of using DART for students in grades 3-9.

Will the district continue to use the DART program?

DART reflects good teaching and good assessment practices. In order to design effective learning opportunities, we need to follow the cycle of instruction: assessment, analysis, planning, teaching. The district will therefore continue to refine and develop DART to ensure that the strategies we are putting in place are having the desired impact.

Why is the BCTF opposing the use of DART in the district?

It is unfortunate that the BCTF is trying to use this very valuable assessment tool as part of their political campaign against standardized testing. Although DART is not a standardized test, the BCTF appears, for strategic reasons, to be linking DART with the provincial Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) to bolster their ongoing campaign against government education initiatives.

Last year the BCTF contemplated a province-wide boycott of the FSA test, but the plan was derailed by a labour dispute between the BCTF and its own employees.

What is the purpose of the school board meeting tonight?

The collective agreement provides that prior to a teacher receiving a disciplinary sanction, there must be a meeting of the school board to determine the sanction. This process has existed in collective agreements for over 20 years and happens in school districts throughout the year. The difference in this case is that the BCTF and the local teachers’ association are politicizing a normal labour relations issue to further their opposition to government initiatives on testing. Although DART is not a government initiative, the BCTF is, for political reasons, linking DART to standardized testing.

What is the disciplinary sanction being contemplated by the Board?

Personnel matters are confidential between the employee, their union, and their employer. The BCTF has reported that the teacher is being disciplined for “refusing to administer a standardized test to her grade 3 students.” There is a principle in labour relations that an employee is required to “work now, grieve later.” In other words, if an employee disagrees with an employer’s lawful order, the employee can file a grievance. An employee does not have the authority or autonomy to simply refuse to perform lawful work as directed.

Do teachers have professional autonomy?

Professional autonomy as it relates to the teaching profession is the exercise of judgment in the performance of teaching duties by teachers subject to limitations that are set out in the collective agreement, in the School Act and Regulations, in employer directives and requirements, and in the reasonable standards of the profession. As previously stated, an employee does not have the authority or autonomy to simply refuse to perform lawful work as directed.