Monday, September 30, 2013

Provincial Achievement Tests are dead-tests walking

In May of 2013, the Alberta Government had the insight and the courage to move away from standardized testing.

The proposed changes to Provincial Achievement Tests brings both crisis and opportunity. As a critic of standardized testing, I am ecstatic that Alberta is moving away from the 30 year old Provincial Achievement Tests.

I wrote a post here that detailed both how we could get these new tests right and how we could get them wrong. Basically my position is this:
Alberta's new tests shouldn't be tests at all -- they should be projects and performances that are collected in portfolios.

2014-2015 marks the first school year for the new grade 3 assessments, but in the meantime, Alberta's Education Minister Jeff Johnson should be praised for having the foresight to inform school boards that 2013-2014's grade 3 provincial achievement tests are optional. (Of course, they are optional every year for parents, but this time Government is making them optional for schools)

Jeff Johnson has shown a very keen interest in addressing teacher workload because he knows that a teacher's working conditions are a student's learning conditions. Rather than resorting to something as simplistic as work hour caps on schools, Johnson has made it clear that he would rather have school boards and teachers work together to identify government initiatives that are "not terribly useful but are still around and create legacy initiatives that pile onto the teachers".

Johnson has left the door open for school boards to see that the grade 3 achievement tests are now a government initiative that is not terribly useful but are still around as a legacy initiative, creating needless and distracting work for teachers and students.

Put simply, provincial achievement tests are dead-tests walking.

If school boards truly care about teacher working and student learning conditions, every single school board in Alberta should show the courage and the insight to opt out of the grade 3 achievement tests this school year. 

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