Friday, May 31, 2013

Elimination of Provincial Achievement Tests a good first step

This was written by my friend and colleague J-C Couture who is an executive staff officer with the Alberta Teachers' Association. While I wish he did blog and tweet, he does not. I'll let you know if I ever convince him otherwise. This post was originally found here.

by J-C Couture

A good news story for Alberta students and parents is also being hailed as a great step forward for public education. On May 3, the Alberta government announced the end of its Grade 3 provincial achievement testing (PAT) program.

Alberta Teachers’ ­Association President Carol Henderson ­applauded the government’s decision and congratulated Premier Alison Redford for “fulfilling this important campaign promise.” Despite her accolades, the ATA president stressed that “important work lies ahead to ensure that a new provincial assessment program does not open the door to allow some of the abuses of the old testing program.”

In addition to ending the Grade 3 PATs, the government also announced that the Grades 6 and 9 programs would be replaced by 2017. Henderson hopes the government and school authorities will not view the end of the testing program as an opportunity to create new testing regimes driven by global reforms focused on standardization and the inappropriate use of technologies, options being advanced by corporations and bureaucracies.

Some pundits and ­columnists are calling for PATs to be ­replaced by computerized testing and elaborate data-gathering ­programs despite evidence that such programs are detrimental to public education. Research on school reform in Alberta and teacher workload has highlighted that governments and a percentage of the public refuse to acknowledge that such testing ­programs are ineffective and cause ­significant stress. “For too long, ­teachers have seen the negative side ­effects of this 30-year-old ­testing ­regime,” said Henderson. ­“Students experienced undue stress, and schools were unfairly compared without regard for the unique circumstances in which they operate.” Henderson went on to add, “These bad reforms are like zombies. They just never seem to die.”

Henderson hopes that the Association, along with other progressive organizations and individuals, will continue to advocate for a program to help teachers diagnose and respond to student learning needs to replace the current system, which detracts from real learning. “We look forward to working with government, based on the evidence of what is working in other jurisdictions, on developing an alternative that actually improves the information provided to teachers for supporting student learning.”

The Association has outlined options for advancing sound ­student assessment and ­reporting in A Great School for All—Transforming Education in Alberta. The publication is available on the ATA website and can be downloaded at no charge. Visit and click on Publications and then on Research, Current. 

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