Thursday, May 20, 2010

Alberta moves away from standardized testing

On April 1, 2010, Alberta Education realigned some of the divisions responsible for carrying out education in Alberta. The largest realignment was the outright removal of the Accountability and Reporting Division. This was the division in charge of grading and analyzing Provincial Achievement Tests (PATs).

This announcement indicates a beacon of hope for real learning in Alberta. It signifies a deliberate move towards an education system that goes well beyond simply measuring what is easily measurable - and it is a step away from the popular test and punish style of accountability.

Change is a slow process. And rightfully so, but sometimes change brings along quirky aftershock's. Here's what I mean:

It's May and that usually means test time - Provincial Achievement Test time. In my school, the Grade 6 Provincial Achievement Tests have all been written, and they are now being diligently marked, labelled, organized and boxed up in preparation to be shipped off to Edmonton - the home of Alberta Education.

I've asked a handful of teachers where the exams are going and who will look at them, and I always get the same response.

"I'm not sure."

Their response is a significant one because it is wholly and entirely accurate.

The entire Accountability and Reporting Division is gone. Vanished. Dissolved.  Dissipated. Ceased.

The people who populated that division are pursuing other carreer options. Thousands of examinations will show up in Edmonton and there is no longer any infrastructure to grade and analyze the results.

And that is a good thing.

I just want us to understand that if you are teaching to these Provincial Achievement Tests... if you grade them... if you count them on your student's report card... if you place any importance on these tests, you are doing so because you are choosing to do so.

The province of Alberta has pulled the plug on Provincial Achievement Testing. The tests don't know it yet, but they are dead. The tests being written this year are symbolic of a kind of death rattle gurgle.

Teachers need to know this.

So what does all this mean? How do we move forward?

In Alberta, high stake standardized testing's days are numbered. Multiple choice exams are going the way of the Dodo bird. Our obsession with phsychometrics is being tossed aside, and we are moving in a new direction.

This is the final year for the grade 3 Provincial Achievement Tests, and each year after this one will see the end of the grade 6 and grade 9 Provincial Achievement Tests.

The Provincial Achievement Tests are dead - they just don't know it yet. Do you?


  1. Good post -- epitaph -- Joe. But we shouldn't stand over the grave too long. Someone, somewhere, is planning the next foray into provincial government exams.

    We might all be better off if teachers and locals led on student assessment.

  2. Excellent point, David. I think you've given me my blog post for tomorrow!

  3. Its great to see that Alberta is heading away from standardized tests, which look at nothing more than the ability of a student to read and recall.
    I do however question (the government) as to where they are heading with this. Initially Standardized Tests were supposed to be used by goverment to reflect upon their own decision for the evaluation of curriculum, but now who nows what they are going to use to evaluate this.
    This "revolution" is great and a step forward for education, but how do we now influence post secondary and industry to also move away from numbers?


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