P.E.I. will continue standardized student testing

Courtesy of CBC News, originally posted February 19, 2019
Photo:
Richard Jones. Photo Courtesy of Laura Meader/CBC

A consultant reviewing standardized testing used in P.E.I. schools has recommended the province continue the student assessment program in its present format.

Critics of standardized testing have argued that since it began in 2007 teachers teach to the test and not for optimal student learning or understanding.

The review was carried out last fall by RMJ Assessment.

“I can tell you that the assessment program is operating well the way it is right now,” said the firm’s leader, Richard Jones.

“Since the assessment program was implemented 10 years ago, Island students have made tremendous gains,” said provincial Education Minister Jordan Brown.

“Teachers and staff have used the data to set school goals, plan interventions and bring precision to teaching. These recommendations will help us to ensure that Prince Edward Island continues to be one of the highest-achieving provinces in Canada.”

The student assessments will continue to be done annually. Critics had suggested they be done every two or three years.

The report said P.E.I.’s assessment program is consistent with others in Canada and other countries.

Purpose should be better explained

Jones’s report also suggests ways to refine P.E.I.’s program, some of which “will be acted on immediately.”

The report listed 21 recommendations, including more clear communications around the assessment process.

“Making sure that information is made available to the public — anybody who wants to see, they can actually see how the assessment process operates, I think that is very important for transparency purposes,” said Jones.

Other recommendations include reintroducing a language arts or literacy assessment in Grade 9 or 10, establishing firm guidelines for student exemptions and “expanding adaptations for students taking the assessments.”

“There is a lot of mixed feelings on the tests, and some of it comes down to communication with parents about what the tests are for and how you’re doing,” said P.E.I. Home and School Federation vice-president Heather Mullen.

The report has already been widely shared with educators, the release said, and the province will soon be looking at how it can improve assessment of secondary literacy, communication with stakeholders and supports to ensure as many students as possible can participate in provincial assessments.

The P.E.I. Teachers’ Federation has long maintained money and time spent on the assessments would be better utilized hiring more teachers and educational assistants to work with Island students. The budget for P.E.I.’s assessment division for 2017-18 was pegged at $1.2 million.