New Standardized Testing Must Assess Knowledge as well as Skill

Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) is calling on the Government of Alberta to clarify certain aspects of their proposed changes to standardized testing. Assessments must measure what students are learning and their retention of key knowledge aspects of the curriculum, as well as the skills they are learning.

“We applaud efforts to improve standardized testing in Alberta. However, it is important that the new tests continue to cover the knowledge content of the curriculum,” said PCE Executive Director Garnett Genuis. “Government communications thus far have emphasized ‘skill’ element of the new tests – things like literacy, numeracy and problem solving. These things are very important, but parents also need a way to make sure students are learning the information which is a part of the curriculum. For example, how can student think critically about international affairs, without first knowing key facts about other countries? How can they think critically about Canada, without knowing key facts about our history and institutions?”

PCE advocates for choice within Alberta’s education system, and believes that standardized testing is an important tool for parents to get information about the progress of their children and how well a particular school is serving their educational needs. From that perspective, there are many positive things about this announcement. PCE is gratified that standardized assessment will continue and will include all subject areas, and is encouraged by the movement to computerized testing, which reflects the reality of the way students are using technology these days.

“While there is good news in this announcement,” said Genuis, “it is critically important that standardized testing measures both what students know and what they can do with that information. If students aren’t retaining key facts about the world around them as part of their education, then this is a gap that parents and educators need to be appraised of.”