1,943
Supporters

In March 20, 2013’s budget the provincial government announced that “…$5.9 million is being provided to initiate a new student assessment program that will support learning through the Saskatchewan Student Achievement initiative." The 5.9 million will largely be used to develop standardized tests for Saskatchewan students; and 5.9 million is just the beginning of this costly exercise!

What a shameful waste of resources that plainly ignores the mountains of evidence against standardized testing.

Standardization is for factories, not our kids.

As concerned educators, education scholars, and parents we respectfully ask that the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education reconsider its decision-- currently on "pause" for consultations-- to have Saskatchewan students between grades 4 and 12 take part in yearly provincial standardized assessments by the end of 2016.

Given that mandatory student standardized testing will not yield any information that cannot be obtained through regularly scheduled randomly assigned student testing groups, and given the ample evidenced-based findings counter to mandatory standardized testing, we feel the decision to subject grade 4 to 12 students to mandatory testing will not be of pedagogical, psychological, social or financial benefit to students, parents, teachers, nor Saskatchewan in general.

Furthermore, the dedicated teachers of Saskatchewan already conduct continuous assessment and evaluation of students over the length of the whole school year. Working closely with students and their family, teachers ensure that the learning needs of all students are being met and supported through a variety of formative and summative classroom assessment practices.

Evidence against standardized tests:

• The effectiveness of standardized testing as a means of improving education has been widely questioned and critiqued in the relevant research literature. Standardized assessments have not been demonstrated to improve teaching or learning in any significant manner (Hout & Elliott, 2011).

• Standardized assessments provide onetime snapshots that do not accurately measure how a student performs day after day and they are, by their very nature, summative, rather than formative; teachers who perform regular assessments on a daily basis are best positioned to evaluate how a student is performing vis-à-vis curricular outcomes (Davies, Herbst, & Reynolds, 2008; Harris, Smith, & Harris, 2011; WNCP, 2006)

• Standardized testing diverts teaching time and monetary resources away from student supports, teachable moments, and direct teacher-student contact time (Kohn, 2000, 2011; Sahlberg, 2011).

• Canadian provinces, including Alberta and British Columbia (Steffenhagen, 2012), as well as several US States (Bryant, 2013), including over 600 schools in Texas alone (VASS News, 2012), are scaling back from mandatory standardized testing, opting instead for the less pedagogically harmful and less costly, random sampling.

• Standardized tests are often culturally biased, biased against those for whom English is an additional language, and have been demonstrated to be more reflective of depressed socio-economic neighbourhood conditions (Abedi, 2010; Sawa, 2010; VASS News, 2012), than the quality of teaching or learning of teachers and students.

• The results of standardized tests, when published in newspapers carry negative side effects, including a significant drop in student and teacher morale (Paris & Urdan, 2000).

• The Finnish “fear free” school system that eschews competition, failure, and standardized testing regularly tops the 34 countries tested by OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment [PISA] and several provinces who have mandatory standardized testing perform less well than Saskatchewan on the same PISA tests (OECD, 2010).

• Many children experience increased anxiety as the standardized testing date gets closer and especially upon testing days (Gail Jones, Jones, & Hargrove, 2003; Segool, 2009).

• Standardized testing runs counter to the Ministry's stated goal to improve retention and graduation of Aboriginal students, since standardized tests often serve to further marginalize and push out students who are already made vulnerable by systemic injustices (Crandall & Kutz, 2011).

It is with the utmost respect and with the best interest of students, teachers, parents, and Saskatchewan in general, that we write today asking the Ministry to reconsider the proposed mandatory testing initiative for Saskatchewan students from grades 4 to 12 beginning in 2016.

It should be highlighted that with a return to a random sampling approach the Ministry will still be provided with the information needed to identify and help those groups doing poorly, while allowing the province to reinvest the savings towards our schools and teacher and student supports for improved teaching and learning.

As education scholars, practitioners, teacher educators, and parents we ask that the Ministry return to the practice of randomly sampling groups from grades 4 to 12 and return to an assessment for learning approach to education.

We look forward to future discussions and to working closely with the Ministry in the hopes of providing the best education possible for our Saskatchewan students.

Respectfully,

Concerned educators, education scholars, and parents

 

 

http://www.leaderpost.com/news/Editorial+Classroom+supports+more+tests/9388524/story.html

 

Letter to
Minister of Education, Government of Saskatchewan Honourable Don Morgan,
March 4, 2014

Honourable Don Morgan & Student First Advisors Russ Mirasty & Patricia Prowse
Minister of Education
Room 361, Legislative Building,
2405 Legislative Drive,
Regina, SK, Canada, S4S 0B3


RE: Government of Saskatchewan’s call for “Student First’ individual and Organizational feedback

Dear Honourable Don Morgan & Students First Advisors,

As concerned educators, education scholars, parents, and citizens we respectfully asks that the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education reconsider its decision-- currently “on pause”-- to have Saskatchewan students between grades 4 and 12 take part in yearly provincial standardized assessments by the end of 2016.

Given that mandatory student standardized testing will not yield any information that cannot be obtained through regularly scheduled randomly assigned student testing groups, and given the ample evidenced-based findings counter to mandatory standardized testing, we feel the decision to subject grade 4 to 12 students to mandatory testing will not be of pedagogical, psychological, social or financial benefit to students, parents, teachers, nor Saskatchewan in general.

Furthermore, the dedicated teachers of Saskatchewan already conduct continuous assessment and evaluation of students over the length of the whole school year. Working closely with students and their family, teachers ensure that the learning needs of all students are being met and supported through a variety of formative and summative classroom assessment practices.


Evidence against standardized tests:

• The effectiveness of standardized testing as a means of improving education has been widely questioned and critiqued in the relevant research literature. Standardized assessments have not been demonstrated to improve teaching or learning in any significant manner (Hout & Elliott, 2011).

• Standardized assessments provide onetime snapshots that do not accurately measure how a student performs day after day and they are, by their very nature, summative, rather than formative; teachers who perform regular assessments on a daily basis are best positioned to evaluate how a student is performing vis-à-vis curricular outcomes (Davies, Herbst, & Reynolds, 2008; Harris, Smith, & Harris, 2011; WNCP, 2006)

• Standardized testing diverts teaching time and monetary resources away from student supports, teachable moments, and direct teacher-student contact time (Kohn, 2000, 2011; Sahlberg, 2011).

• Standardized tests are often culturally biased, biased against those for whom English is an additional language, and have been demonstrated to be more reflective of depressed socio-economic neighbourhood conditions (Abedi, 2010; Sawa & Bouvier, 2010; VASS News, 2012), than the quality of teaching or learning of teachers and students.

• The results of standardized tests, when published in newspapers carry negative side effects, including a significant drop in student and teacher morale (Paris & Urdan, 2000).

• The Finnish “fear free” school system that eschews competition, failure, and standardized testing is regularly in the tier of countries tested by OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment [PISA] and several provinces who have mandatory standardized testing perform less well than Saskatchewan on the same PISA tests (OECD, 2011, 2013).

• Many children experience increased anxiety as the standardized testing date gets closer and especially upon testing days (Gail Jones, Jones, & Hargrove, 2003; Segool, 2009).

• Standardized testing runs counter to the Ministry's stated goal to improved retention and graduation of Aboriginal students, since standardized tests often serve to further marginalize and push out students already made vulnerable through systemic injustices (Crandall & Kutz, 2011).

Finally, in the words of the Canadian Education Association’s recent fact sheet on standardized testing:

There is a large body of literature about these large-scale standardized tests with no consensus on their effectiveness. However, while there is some support for standardized testing, overwhelmingly, research suggests that it does not lead to improved educational outcomes for students….Methods such as problem based learning are at the forefront of curriculum design yet are not evaluated in standardized tests. Standardized testing is, therefore, counterproductive as it focuses on memory and knowledge acquisition rather than ability to apply learning. (Campbell, 2014, para 1 & 5)

It is with the utmost respect and with the best interest of students, teachers, parents, and Saskatchewan in general, that we submit this letter asking you to reconsider the proposed mandatory testing initiative for Saskatchewan students from grades 4 to 12 beginning in 2016.

It should be highlighted that with a return to a random sampling approach the Ministry will still be provided with the information needed to identify and help those groups doing poorly, while allowing the province to reinvest the savings towards our schools and teacher and student supports for improved teaching and learning.

As education scholars, practitioners, teacher educators, and concerned citizens we ask that the Ministry return to the practice of randomly sampling groups from grades 4 to 12 and return to an assessment for learning approach to education.

We look forward to your response, future discussions, and to working closely with the Ministry in the hopes of providing the best education possible for our Saskatchewan students.


Respectfully,


References

Abedi, J. (2010). Performance assessments for English language learners.
Stanford, CA: Stanford University, Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education.

Bryant, J. (2013, January 20). “Why progressives should care about the backlash on standardized testing.” The Nation. Retrieved from http://www.nationofchange.org/why-progressives-should-care-about-backlash- standardized-testing-1358692861

Campbell, V. (Feb., 2014). "What is the Value of Standardized Testing?" The Facts on
Education. Canadian Education Association and University of Prince Edward
Island. http://www.cea-ace.ca/publication/facts-education-what-value-standardized-testing

Crandall, J., & Kutz, S. (Fall, 2011). Ranking and Sorting and Labeling: Driving Aboriginal students out of schools., Our Schools / Our Selves, 21, p. 57-66.

Davies, A., Herbst, S., & Reynolds, B. (2008). Transforming barriers to assessment for learning. Courtney, BC: Connections Publications; WNCP (2006). Rethinking Classroom Assessment with Purpose in Mind. Western and Northern Canadian Protocol for Collaboration in Education. Aporia Consulting: Manitoba, Canada

Gail Jones, M., Jones, M. J., & Hargrove, T.Y. (2003). The Unintended Consequences of High-Stakes Testing. Boulder, Co.: Rowman and Littlefield.

Harris, P., Smith, B. M. & Harris, J. (2011) The Myths of Standardized Tests: Why They Don't Tell You What You Think They Do. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Hout, M., & Elliott, S. W. (Eds.) (2011). Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Kohn, A. (2000). The case against standardized testing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Kohn, A. (2011). The case against grades. Educational Leadership. ASCD, 28-33.

OECD (2011). PISA 2009 at a Glance, OECD Publishing.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264095298-en

OECD (2013). PISA 2012 Results in Focus: What 15-year-olds know
and what they can do with what they know
http://www.oecd.org/pisa/keyfindings/pisa-2012-results-overview.pdf

Paris, S. & Urdan, T. (2000). Policies and practices of high-stakes testing that influence teachers and schools, Issues in Education, 6 (1, 2), 83- 107.

Sahlberg, P. (2011). Finnish lessons: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland? New York: Teachers College Press.

Sawa, R., & Bouvier, R. (2010). Assessing Students' Ways of Knowing. Regina, SK: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Segool, N.K. (2009). Test anxiety associated with high-stakes testing among elementary school children: Prevalence, predictors, and relationship to student performance. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Michigan State University. ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, 3381350.

Steffenhagen, J. (2012, November 21). “The future for standardized tests in Alberta and B.C.” The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved from http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2012/11/21/the-future-for-standardized-tests-in- alberta-and-b-c/

VASS News (2012, Fall). “When tests fail: Why our public education system needs to rethink high-stakes standardized testing. VASS News. Charlottesville, Va: Virginia Association of School Superintendents.

WNCP (2006). Rethinking Classroom Assessment with Purpose in Mind. Western and Northern Canadian Protocol for Collaboration in Education. Aporia Consulting: Manitoba, Canada).