April 10, 2014 by realrenewal
by Dr. Marc Spooner
I full-heartedly applaud the Ministry of Education for listening and responding to the concerns of students, parents, teachers, administrators and scholars, and permanently shelving plans to increase the nature and frequency of the standardized testing that is already happening in our Saskatchewan schools.
That the ministry took heed of the overwhelming evidence against standardized testing, leaves me cautiously optimistic; however, I’m still left with a few concerns and hopes:
a) I’m not sure if everyone’s aware or not but Saskatchewan students are already being administered several standardized tests on a regular basis, throughout their school years; among these, depending on the division, are: the Early Years Evaluation (EYE) reading tests for Kindergarten-Grade 1 students, the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark reading assessments in Grade 3, the Diagnostic Numeracy Assessment (DNA) tests for math in grades 3, 6, & 8, and the Reading Assessment District-36 (RAD) tests in grade 6 & 8. So, when Deputy Minister Florizone states “the plan doesn’t mean there will be no new tests,” I worry given the amount of testing already happening in our schools. I’m not saying these tests aren’t useful in certain situations as determined by the teacher, but I would certainly worry if there were plans to increase like tests on a regular or ministry mandated basis.
b) When ministry officials target 78% (or any given percentage) “of students will be at or above grade levels in reading, math, and writing,” by a certain date, I wonder how exactly they intend to measure that? I hope they aren’t just referring to scores on these standardized tests already in use in our schools, and are rather relying more on the assessments made by our professional teachers who know our students best. We often hear statements to the effect that reading is up 20% in such and such a division, when what is usually meant is that scores on the same reading tests went up 20%, which is not exactly the same thing as saying reading is up.
c) Finally, I am very hopeful the 5.4 million earmarked for student testing software in the 2014-2015 budget will now go directly to student and classroom supports.
I look forward to continued dialogue about doing the very best for our students and once again kudos to the ministry for listening and fostering such dialogue.