Monday, August 15, 2011

Rick Orman vs Doug Horner on Testing

On August 10, Doug Horner announced at the Alberta Teachers Association's Summer Conference Progressive Conservative leadership Q and A that he if elected as Premier of Alberta that he would eliminate grade 3 Provincial Achievement Tests.

Horner rightfully received a room full of applause. After all, this is simply the logical conclusion to what Motion 503 started in spring 2009 when it called for the government to do away with grade 3 provincial achievement tests in favour of an alternative assessment for learning.

There are lots of reasons to oppose standardized testing, but that's not what I want to do first.

Instead, I want to challenge how one of the other candidates, Rick Orman, has chosen to oppose Doug Horner's move to abolish Grade 3 Provincial Achievement Tests. Here's how Orman's website responded to Horner:
"The education system works best when there is clear communication and understanding between teachers, parents, school administrators, and government," said Orman. "Trying to win the support of one group with a ploy like this only polarizes groups and entrenches respective positions. 
"I'm sure the teachers in our province wouldn't appreciate dealing with thousands of angry parents who believe their children are falling behind, after a measure like this is invoked."
First of all, you would be hard pressed to find many teachers in Alberta who would support grade 3 Provincial Achievement Testing.

Secondly, because test anxiety has become it's own subfield of educational psychology,  I doubt you could find many parents who would defend subjecting their 8 and 9 year olds through hours of standardized testing.

Thirdly, the results of these tests are not returned to parents or teachers until the children are already done grade three and moved on to grade four. This is one of many reasons why these tests can not be used as a diagnostic tool to actually help teachers help children learn better. 

To use parents and teachers as a reason to not remove the grade 3 Provincial Achievement Tests makes Orman either uninformed or deceitful. 

However, Orman leaves himself an out:
"If there is clear evidence that testing is not in the best interest of students, then it should be eliminated - but only if resources are allocated to address parents' legitimate concerns that their children are not keeping up to the curriculum."
My first question to Rick Orman and others who drag their feet when it comes to moving away from standardized testing: Have you looked to see what the research says about the costly effects standardized testing has on teaching and learning?

If not, may I suggest a few links for your reading pleasure:

The Limits of Standardized Tests for Diagnosing and Assisting Student Learning

Basing decisions on about teachers and schools on test results damages education

Standardized Testing: Seperating Wheat Children from Chaff Children

Standardized Testing and Its Victims

The Myth of Standardized Testing: Why they don't tell you what you think they tell you

The Case Against Standardized Testing: Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools


  1. Very well written and thoughtful post! M Valentine

  2. Summer was a rest time away from following ideas shared through blogs. Hence, I just read this posting last night and Standardized Testing: Seperating Wheat Children from Chaff Children this morning. Happy I did.


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