The Alberta Government is about to do something that is going to improve learning in schools.It is about time the Frasier institute can no longer compare schools, or allow the results of schools to be public. Finally, Lukaszuk is about to show that there is more to learning than statistics, numbers, test scores, and rankings. Peter Cowley, from the Frasier institute, says “Teaching teams can directly use the PAT results to the benefit of their students”, and then follows with “It is hard to see how improving teaching effectiveness can be considered a misuse of the PAT data”. These two statements are begging the question that PATS improve learning, which they do not.
I ask you, have you ever written a test or an exam and became smarter because of it? In Alberta, I have yet to see a farmer weigh his/her animals more to increase their weight. Just as weighing an animal won’t increase its weight, testing students won’t increase learning. Our education has always been test score driven but I wonder if this belief is actually justified? Has this norm been created out of research and studies? Is this actually authenticated by pedagogical practice? Does testing create lifelong learners? Lastly, does it improve education? I believe the answer to all of these questions is NO!
I understand that many people outside education, such as Peter Cowley, believe that only a standardized provincial exam can reveal that truth about what is actually occurring in Albertan schools, and is fighting for the idea that three years of education can be reduced to a single number on a multiple choice exam. However, this idea is completely absurd. If you find yourself disagreeing, then I strongly urge you to learn more about a standardized exam.
Just for starters, before a standardized test is given there are psychometricians who know how many students will pass and how many students will fail, and this occurs before the students ever write the exam. Why would we support the sharing of grades on an exam that has a pre-determined failure rate? Next, Peter will have us believe that these tests are an effective way of measuring education in our province, but he fails to realize these tests have a pre-selected material which is unknown to the teacher. In terms of reliability, most educators resent the idea of a confined focus of testing as it measures only a portion of the domain and ultimately distorts the depth, complexity and dedication of a student’s ability.
Lastly, Peter will try to convince people that it is these tests scores that will improve education. He fails to understand that it is not the test scores which need to increase to enhance education, but instead the trust that a teacher is a professional, dedicated to providing the best education possible, and the idea that learning cannot be reduced to a mark on a single exam.