Monday, October 25, 2010

The folly of Provincial Achievement Testing

When I watch this Alberta Government issued 10 minute streaming video that attempts to explain to parents why Provincial Achievement Tests are needed, I am disturbed by how misleading and inaccurate this piece of propaganda really is. Here are but a few points:

  • That parents would ever feel the need to discuss Provincial Achievement Testing instead of real learning only goes to show how truly distracting these tests really are.
  • The Alberta Teachers' Association is openly and actively opposed to Provincial Achievement Tests in their current form and support reducing Diploma Exams to no more than 20% of a student's final grade.
  • When the video says "What you need to know" it should really say "What the government would like you to believe."
  • The video states that children in grade 3,6 and 9 are expected to write Provincial Achievement Tests. What the government doesn't state is that it is actually the parents' democratic right to exempt their children from such examinations.
  • I have no idea how a norm-referenced, standardized exam can be justified because Alberta has a diverse population? Wouldn't diversity require non-standardized measurements?
  • The video says "PATs are an effective way to find out whether or not a child is learning what he or she is expected to learn." Two points here: Firstly, PATs are an effective way of measuring the affluence of a school's population, but that's about it. Secondly, it is widely accepted that a great deal of the provincial curriculum cannot be assessed by a paper and pencil test. For example, in grade 9 science only 63 of 200 (32%) learner outcomes can be assessed by Provincial Achievement Tests.
  • The video claims that PATs provide teachers with "valuable" information about their student learning when the truth is the best teachers know how this one-time, multiple-choice test pales in comparison to the information and observations teachers collect about students while they are learning through out the entire year.
  • If students should never feel rushed to finish the test, why is there any time limit provided at all?
  • If teachers are in "charge" of making up so many of these tests, why is it that a question that "too many" students score correctly is removed from the test?
  • If students are not suppose to ever be stressed about these tests, why does the government condone the use of these PATs as a part of the students' report card?


  1. Too few parents realize they have a right to withdraw their kids from the PATs.

  2. Joe, I've watched that video. You've expressed my concerns and the inherent contradictions better than I could. Now let's hope more parents will help their kids not worry about the test or feel rushed to complete by actually opting out.

  3. If we want kids to learn what is being tested, why aren't the tests given once the teacher thinks the students are ready to demonstrate they've learned the material, not at a time that is convenient for the government?


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