Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Exempting from Testing in Alberta

I've been researching the rights parents have to opt their children out of Alberta's Provincial Achievement Tests. I have struggled to find much on this topic; however, I was able to find a couple references to how a student may be exempt from writing a Provincial Achievement Test.

Firstly, the document titled Achievement Test Administration Directives states on page one:

Students registered in grades 3, 6, and 9 and ungraded students* in their third, sixth, and ninth years of schooling shall write provincial achievement tests, subject to the following caveats and/or exceptions:
1. A superintendent may, on an individual basis, excuse a student from writing an achievement test for the following reasons: 
a. the student is not capable of responding to the assessment in its original or approved accommodated form 
b. participation would be harmful to the student
2. Upon advice from the teacher, the principal in consultation with the parent/guardian, shall recommend to the superintendent that a student be excused from writing. A copy of the documentation in support of the recommendation, including the student’s Individual Program Plan, if applicable, shall remain in the school for auditing purposes. 
Note: If a parent withdraws a student from participation, the school is obligated to mark the student “absent” not “excused” on the List of Students. A copy of the parent’s letter indicating that the child will not be participating should be attached to the Principal’s Statement.

My first concern is that no where does it clearly and openly say that the parent has the democratic right to initiate the process of withdrawing their child from Provincial Achievement Testing, and yet in the last NOTE above, I get the impression that a parent can indeed withdraw their child. I would think this has to be true, after all, who would know better than the parent if participation would be harmful to their own child?

One catch to keep in mind here, is that there is a distinct difference between the mark of absent and excused.

When I looked through the sample letters in this document titled Test and Field Test Administration Forms on page 11 and 12, I found a sample letter that could be written by a principal to a parent initiating the exemption process, and a letter from a teacher to a parent informing that the teacher will be using the Provincial Achievement Test as a part of the student's report card grade.

However, I can't seem to find a form letter that a parent could use to initiate the withdrawal process. I find it odd that the government would deem it necessary to take the time to create a form letter that explains how the Test will be included in the creation of a report card grade, and yet not bother to create a form letter for a parent who might need to explain how or why the Test would be harmful to their child.

My number one concern here is that I know for a fact many parents refuse to allow their children to write the Provincial Achievement Tests, and I know many of these parents are in fact teachers; however, I'm very concerned that the Government of Alberta has purposefully neglected to properly advertise to the people of this province that it is their democratic right to opt out of Provincial Achievement Testing.

Issues revolving education today are quickly becoming the civil rights movement of our time, and no civil rights movement has shown signs of progress until the people refuse their cooperation; in other words, I'm writing this post because the people of Alberta need to know that they have every right to refuse their participation in Provincial Achievement Testing.


  1. Teachers are their own worst enemy when it comes to PAT. Some believe them to be valid assessments. Some are ambivilant and some just grin and bear it because they think it is their job. I have always made a point in some form or another to inform parents that they can opt out of the grade 6 exams. I'm just careful not to "encourage" them to do so. Perhaps the association should take on a greater role in educating parents about their rights. There have been a few locals take out ads in their local papers informing parents, but there should a province wide campaign. To me I'd include the removal of exams in the framework deal.

  2. If yiu choose to withdraw your child what are the consequences for the child?

  3. Honestly, the only PAT that makes sense is Grade 9 to help correctly place the student in high school courses.