I have had lots of debate on twitter regarding the Premiers decision to cancel the Alberta Provincial Achievement Tests (PAT's), something you can not debate in 140 characters.
As a parent with three children in the K-12 education system this has me quite upset to say the least. These tests measure the curriculum standard of our education system as a whole. By administering these tests we measure many things, from the abilities of our students to how effective a school is administering the curriculum.
Many people argue that they do not do anything except place a stress on our young students. This is a completely false claim. PAT's are administered in grade 3, 6, and 9 so I do not believe that an exam every 3 years will be a life altering event that will scar them for a lifetime. Let's discuss the stress, as in grade 3 are the students really that stressed about another exam? If they truly are, who is causing this stress? Someone has to be pressing the children on the importance of doing well on these tests in order for them to be stressful, as children do not carry much stress regarding their grade at these young ages. If it is the overall grade on these tests being held as a part of their marks, simply do not apply the results to their overall grade. Let's use them as a way to ensure the minimum curriculum standard is being met. Another solution to the stress would be to hold them randomly, with the schools having no idea when they will be administered. This will eliminate the "cramming" to get ready for a tool that is designed simply to measure the students knowledge, as we want to measure what they know already.
This also measure the capabilities of our teaching professionals. By administering a PAT we can see if there is any shortcomings with a teacher, and use this data so that they can improve in areas they are not meeting the standard. Some will say that the teachers do not want to be graded or held accountable. Well I call B.S. on this one all together. I am very involved in my children's education, and I can tell you that my child's teachers want to do nothing but supply these students with the best education possible. They are people too and trust me, they are willing to take constructive criticism to better themselves. Day in and day out they are there working to teach our children, surely you can't really think they don't want to ensure they are doing their best. We do not need to hold them accountable in the sense of firing, suspending, or disciplinary action. Let's use the tests for what they should be, a learning tool for our teachers to evaluate themselves as well.
We can also use these tests to measure the effectiveness of schools. Each school is run by different people. We can look at this the same as a business. Just because they are there, it does not mean it is always being managed properly. The school is providing a service and the same as our teaching professionals, I believe that they want to ensure they are meeting the goal of educating our students. If we can measure and show the schools where improvements can be made, you don't think they would take this information and put it to good use? I know the principal of my kids school would. She works hard every day to try and make her school the best she can for her staff and students. Sometimes an outside view can help to point out where the improvements can be made. Businesses hire consulting companies all the time to look at them and make recommendations to improve the way they do things.
These are the reasons I am such a firm believer in PAT's. Measuring education at a provincial level is a must, otherwise how would we know if we are meeting the goals for our children? What is the goal of the province when it comes to education? Are all of our students not deserving of having the same quality of education, no matter which town or school they reside in? Of course they are and it should not be an option, it should be a right.
Pandering to unions on this issue is irresponsible, and in the end we will decimate a system designed to ensure our children are educated equally. I as a taxpayer, and a parent owe it to my children as well. Please feel free to comment and discuss, this is how we make improvements.
How are our students, teachers, and schools assured they are meeting the minimum provincial standards of the curriculum without a standard tool to measure it against?