Edmonton public school board will ask province to scrap Grade 3 achievement tests

EDMONTON – The Edmonton public school board will press the province to abandon provincial achievement testing for Grade 3 students.

Public school trustees voted late Tuesday to support Premier Alison Redford’s pledge to replace Grade 3 provincial achievement tests with more appropriate assessments.

Currently, students in Grades 3, 6 and 9 write the provincial achievement tests. However, Redford has said she wants to scrap the provincial achievement tests for Grades 3 and 6 students.

The school board intends to communicate its position to the premier’s office and pressure the Alberta School Boards Association and the Public School Boards’ Association of Alberta to adopt similar positions.

Trustees did not decide what the new measurements for Grade 3 kids should look like, but want an assessment mechanism that addresses the limitations of the provincial achievement tests.

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The tests have been criticized for reflecting students’ abilities on one day as opposed to providing an accurate portrait of a year’s worth of learning, said a report Tuesday to the Edmonton public school board from school division administrators. Other issues are the stress it causes for students, that it assesses only a portion of the curriculum and that results are not available until months later, the report said.

However, the tests are created by Alberta teachers and are aligned with the curriculum and tested on a broad scale, the report said. “The PATs are a set of large-scale assessments that are one piece of evidence that provide valuable and useful information to teachers, authority representatives and government policy-makers for decision-making based on valid and reliable information.”

The Alberta Teachers’ Association also wants the provincial government to get rid of testing in its current form for Grade 3 students as well as for kids in Grades 6 and 9, according to an ATA policy document.

Catholic school board chairwoman Debbie Engel said after test scores were released last month that some people see the tests as a valuable tool to measure how students in various school divisions are doing compared with the rest of the province. Others argue it is too costly and stressful for elementary students and their teachers, she said.

“It’s a very divided issue.”

Edmonton Catholic Schools spokeswoman Lori Nagy said Wednesday Catholic trustees have no immediate plans to discuss the issue.