The New Face of Standardized Testing in Schools

Standardized testing in Canada is changing—here's what you need to know.

Education Testing

Photography by Alberto G. via Flickr (CC)

The days of standardized, province-wide tests in Canada may be numbered—at least in their current form. In May 2013, Alberta’s education minister announced that the 31-year-old Provincial Achievement Tests, long a fixture in Grades 3, 6 and 9—would be axed in favour of a series of computer-based assessments, designed by learning experts. The new assessments will be administered at the start of the school year rather than during a stressful end-of-year crunch. This way they can serve as timely warning bells signalling potential problems.

“Kids learn at their own pace, and we need to make sure parents and teachers are informed about how kids are doing and where they might need help,” said Education Minister Jeff Johnson in a statement announcing the changes.

“The current testing program provides very little value”
Johnson added that the new, “more student-friendly” literacy and numeracy assessments will be pieced out in manageable portions rather than as one long, sit-down test. Teachers will be given a block of time and more say over when students complete the individual sections of the test, which will now be called Student Learning Assessments. The new tests have been phased in over three years, starting in September 2014. It’s a step in the right direction, observes Carol Henderson, past president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association. “The current testing program provides little value for learning,” she says.

The move has reignited debate in other provinces that are still home to older-style standardized tests, especially Ontario, where assessments administered by the Education Quality and Accountability Office remain widely unpopular.

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