Do PATs work?

In a recent editorial, the Rocky View Weekly called for more innovative testing instruments, suggesting that the current Provincial Achievement Tests (PATs) are old-fashioned and do not effectively measure student progress. You can read the editorial here:

PATs have always been the subject of debate, both over whether we should have standardized testing at all in Alberta and over whether or not PATs effectively measure student success.

In our view, the discussion about the best testing instruments can and should continue. There are probably always opportunities to refine our testing methods, but having some form of standardized testing is important in traditional school settings because this type of testing provides parents with concrete information about their children's progress. Parents need this information to make decisions about their children's education.

Different parents will naturally have different attitudes towards standardized testing, and they are welcome to consider the results of such tests to whatever degree they like, but at least they have a metric for understanding how much of the provincial curriculum their son or daughter has understood.

Rocky View Weekly argues that, even though performance on PATs has declined in their area, students there are still doing better. Whether or not that is true, standardized testing provides something of a benchmark for student progress. The tests can always be improved, but they should not be removed.