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Friday, 8 March 2013

15 Reasons Why Standardized Tests Are Problematic

Many of our educational leaders in Saskatchewan are also members of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.  ASCD is made is of 140,000 members - superintendents, principals, teachers, professors, and advocates from more than 134 countries. 

Link to 15 Reasons Why Standardized Tests Are Problematic

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Parents should Fight Standardized Testing

- sent to news media in Saskatchewan on March 7, 2013 -
Pasi Sahlberg, an education improvement activist and YouTube sensation from Finland, recently inspired teachers in Saskatoon. Finland, one of the best education systems in the world, has fought against the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM). Emphasizing competitiveness, focusing on core subjects, poor instructional strategies, the use of corporate management techniques, and large-scale, high-stakes, standardized testing, GERM has largely been a failure and many countried and districts are now backtracking on these issues.
Education research has been clear about the kinds of approaches to education that work. Finland has focused on improving education rather than measuring it and demanding accountability. Students start later and go to school less. Primary teachers require a master’s degree and spend years learning the science and craft of educating youth. Every school has a doctor, dentist, and counselor, with special needs students getting supports and improvement strategies that really work. No student writes a test until at least the sixth grade, and after that, only as a means of guiding their own educational improvement. As a result, Finland's education system consistently ranks among the best in the world.
And so does Saskatchewan. Our government has spent millions developing a world-class curriculum base on the most current research available. It emphasizes inquiry learning, formative assessment, and is clear about the indicators of success at each grade level. It allows teachers to have the freedom to teach to their students' strengths, while offering support for the kinds of instructional and assessment techniques that are best suited to the curriculum content.
All education research emphasizes that the only real indicator of a students' success if the quality of the teaching that student receives. Teachers' training and professional development should be the centrepiece to ensuring our students are receiving the best education in the world, not testing. Teachers are struggling to implement new ways of teaching and working with students to develop their abilities to question, communicate, solve problems, work with others, conduct appropriate research, use technology tools, and eventually find work in a 21st Century economy; all while preparing students for tests and meeting the day-to-day needs in our overcrowded, diverse classrooms.
Please, Brad Wall, stop attacking teachings. Longer school years, confrontational negotiation techniques, standardized testing, and forcing our students to compete for an education are not going to help our province. Our students and the future of Saskatchewan deserve much, much more.

World-Class Curriculum

The tax payers of SK have paid for an amazing set of new curricula.  These are based on research and are cutting edge.  They include First Nations, Metis and Inuit content, and are inquiry, and place based.  For children to engage in inquiry, teachers should support them with assessment for learning strategies.  Numerous school divisions in the province have invested professional development funds to teach teachers about inquiry and assessment for learning.  However, Brad Wall, in his wisdom, has decided that there will be standardized tests for all children in the province.  This will derail all the work that has been done to date.
If Brad Wall really cares that children should do thrive in school, and that the graduation rate of Aboriginal children should rise, then the money that is being spent on standardized tests should be spent to support teachers in the good work they have started with the new curricula.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

New Report on Standardized Testing in Ontario

Real Accountability or an Illusion of Success?:
A Call to Review Standardized Testing
OTTAWA, ON (February 16, 2013) – The Action Canada Task Force on Standardized Testing has just released a report analyzing the place of standardized testing as an accountability measure in Canadian K-12 education systems, using Ontario as a case study focus. “A review of standardized testing in this province and others is not only timely – it’s urgently needed,” says Sébastien Després, a 2012-2013 Action Canada Fellow and co-author of the report. Després explains that when standardized testing was established in Ontario two decades ago, the Royal Commission which recommended the creation of the province’s Education Quality and Assessment Office (EQAO) and the adoption of standardized testing in the province had also recommended that a five-year review be undertaken. Almost twenty years later, this review has yet to be done. Després concludes, “As things stand, the current testing system may or may not be facilitating the achievement of the education system’s range of objectives. A review of this accountability measure should be a top priority.”
Teaching is often said to be “the second most private act in which adults engage” (Dufour 1991) since it tends to take place behind closed doors, away from the view of many stakeholders. In its essence, however, teaching is a public and political act, and is fundamental to the continuing development of a citizenry that drives Canada’s global competitiveness and social and economic prosperity. Recognizing the importance of education, many jurisdictions have turned to standardized testing as a means of ensuring accountability for results. In some circles, this measure has become controversial, as stakeholders – and the public as a whole – are polarized as to whether standardized testing is an appropriate way of evaluating students and the overall effectiveness of education systems in light of their objectives and curricula.
Sébastien Després, a lecturer in Anthropology and Geography at Memorial University of Newfoundland, explains that standardized testing regimes are costly and time-consuming enterprises that can have an important impact on the classroom experience. “We know that not all students are motivated by marks and academic achievement. We also know that when these things are prioritized over others, instruction can become boring, and kids become disengaged.” The report also explores how standardized testing can impact teaching as a profession, and echoes earlier studies that show how an over-emphasis on test scores can diminish teachers’ role in determining the content and methods of instruction, casting teachers as efficiency experts who carry out instruction determined by someone else.
Standardized testing can also shift attention away from the presentation of the full breadth of a given province’s prescribed curriculum, to a narrowed focus on what they measure: literacy and numeracy. This is recognized by the EQAO, who in a recent report highlighted that “What gets measured gets attention.” Task Force member Marie-Josée Parent arranged for specially-commissioned artwork by Montreal artist Josée Pedneault and a short animated film featuring drawings from Winnipeg artist Ben Clarkson to accompany the report, a nod to the damaging effect that standardized testing regimes can have on the teaching of the arts, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and a list of other skills and competencies prescribed by provincial curricula. “Recognizing that the means by which we strive to make our education systems transparent necessarily have an impact on these systems is a good first step in a bold direction,” says Després, “and we are hopeful that this recognition will go a long way in occasioning a change in priorities from a focus on test scores to a focus on the ultimate purposes of education.”
To view the report in its entirety, visit:
Task Force Twitter feed:
Task Force Facebook page:
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Media Contact:
Sébastien Després
Action Canada Fellow (2012/13)
Department of Anthropology, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Stardardized testing is "a virus infecting our schools"

Watch Pasi Sahlberg, who describes GERM (the Global Education Reform Movement) as a virus infecting our schools!

"GERM infections have various symptoms. The first symptom is more competition within education systems. Many reformers believe that the quality of education improves when schools compete against one another. In order to compete, schools need more autonomy, and with that autonomy comes the demand for accountability. School inspections, standardized testing of students, and evaluating teacher effectiveness are consequences of market-like competition in many school reforms today. Yet when schools compete against one another, they cooperate less." - Washington Post, 06/29/13

Stop Standardized Testing!

Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party have waged a well-planned war on education. This war on education began by preventing school divisions from raising taxes to pay for local initiatives. Then Brad Wall froze budgets for three years while school divisions struggled to pay for basic things like repairs to schools. Teachers were then attacked to start off a round of negotiations, and the Saskatchewan Party spents millions of tax dollars to focus frustrations on the education system squarely on teachers. All provincial curricula were changed, new instructional and assessment strategies became new expectations, all without the finances to train and support teachers in new ways of teaching. And now that the curricula have been introduces Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party add a whole 40 hours to the school year to make up for time that will surely be lost to standardized testing. It's time to stand up to Mr. Wall and say, "enough is enough." Our schoolos need well-trained, enthusiastic teachers with the tools for a 21st Century economy - something that standardized testing will NOT help. Please sign up and petition Brad Wall to re-think his war on education in Saskatchewan.