Saturday, February 23, 2013

Ranking and Ruining our Schools

When it comes to the Fraser Institute's Schools Rankings, there is little disagreement between the Alberta Government, the Alberta School Board Association and the Alberta Teachers' Association. Talk to a politician, school board trustee or teacher in Alberta and you are likely to hear why it is wrong to rank and sort schools via standardized test scores. In fact, in 2001, the Alberta Government, Alberta School Boards' Association and the Alberta Teachers' Association released a joint statement that said:
Alberta Learning, the Alberta School Boards Association and the Alberta Teachers' Association do not support comparing schools exclusively on the basis of test scores because this provides an incomplete picture of the education provided in any given school. As groups committed to education, we believe strongly in ensuring that parents and students are provided good and complete information as they make the important decisions about which school to attend—how well students do on achievement tests is just one piece of the puzzle.
Years ago, Alberta's then Education Minister Gene Zwozdesky said that it's, "patently unfair to make comparisons between schools based on scores," and last year, Alberta's then Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk said, "The Provincial Achievement Tests were suppose to inform the province about how well the curriculum is taught, but there are third parties who use the results to rank and sort and blame and shame schools."

If there is so much agreement over why it is wrong to rank and sort schools via standardized test scores, why is the Fraser Institute allowed to continue misusing test scores to mislead the public with their rankings?

It's true, the Fraser Institute is not doing anything illegal, after all, the Provincial Achievement Test scores are public information. But just because something isn't wrong doesn't make it right. 

The Alberta Teachers' Association has been an outspoken critic of standardized tests and has fuelled the argument for more authentic alternatives to public assurance

What is the Alberta Government and Alberta School Board Association doing to make sure schools like Braemar are not victimized by school rankings?

Why does the Alberta Government and Alberta School Board Association pursue policies that help third party organizations rank and sort our schools? The silence you hear from the Alberta Government and the Alberta School Board Association is a combination of assent for the rankings and a betrayal to our children.

To paraphrase Edmund Burke, all that is necessary for the misuse of test scores to prevail is for good people to do nothing.


  1. How did your school rank, Joe?

  2. I teach in a children' inpatient psychiatric assessment unit. I have my students for a short period of time and then go back to their regularly scheduled lives.

    A couple thoughts:

    -can the purpose of my school in the hospital be measured by achievement tests? can the purpose of any school be measured by these tests?

    -my students likely do go back and write these tests. I wonder how well they would score and rank together as a group? I wonder if there is a relationship between their poor mental health and their achievement scores?

    By the way, I have taught at two other middle schools. One with significantly higher socio-economics and one with lower, and I can tell you with alarming accuracy who will score higher every single year.

    The problem is inequity and poverty.


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