Government Working on PAT ‘Alternatives’

The provincial government has signaled that they are preparing to move to a different model for standardized testing – one that will apparently emphasize ‘competence’ over ‘content’. You can read an Edmonton Journal story about this issue here.

We are happy to see that the government seems committed to maintaining standardized testing. Standardized testing is an important way that parents can find out if, and what, their children are actually learning in school. There currently are exceptions for standardized testing, for instance for homeschoolers, and we support those exceptions. Standardized testing is a way of helping parents know how their children are doing and if they are learning the curriculum – this is not necessary in the case of homeschoolers because parents obviously already know about their children’s progress.

In our view, it is important that standardized testing emphasizes both competence and content. Tests should assess student’s ability to critically think, but also assess their knowledge of the material that they are supposed to be learning. In the view of many parents, education is not just about teaching applied skills, but also about teaching important facts about the world that student need to know and remember. Without some emphasis on facts, at the appropriate age and in the appropriate subjects, parents will not be able to use standardized testing as a tool to find out if the school where they are sending their children is effectively teaching the provincial curriculum.

We are closely watching this process of seeking to replace existing standardized tests, and we encourage the government to use standardized tests to access both students’ abilities to apply skills they’ve learning and students demonstrated knowledge of important facts.