Standardized testing won't bring anything new to SK teachers

February 13, 2013 - 7:55pm
File photo of a Saskatchewan classroom. Karin Yeske/News Talk Radio
File photo of a Saskatchewan classroom. Karin Yeske/News Talk Radio

The Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation (STF) isn't confident that new standardized tests in Saskatchewan will guide teachers in the way the Ministry of Education suggests it will.

Earlier in the week, the ministry unveiled the plan to implement provincial standardized assessments each year for students between grades 3 and 12 by 2016.  While the ministry said the new approach would help teachers determine their students strengths and weaknesses, the STF maintains that's already being done.

"We believe that in the classroom where the teachers are doing the assessing is the most accurate, the most critical and the most vital data that we can get on our students," said Colin Keess, president of the STF, "because our teachers are close to the students themselves, much closer than any standardized test could ever be."

Keess isn't alone in the feeling, referring to a study the federation conducted in June of 2012.  It found that 73 per cent of those surveyed believe that the individual evaluations of students is much more useful than evaluations in comparison with other students.

Standardized testing is nothing new for Saskatchewan teachers, with the use of the assessment for learning program already in place.  Keess points out that this new version of assessments has been in the works for about one year.  Although the testing is not new, the intent and extent of the 2016 tests are.

"We firmly believe that standardized assessments are not as useful for informing the daily practices of the teachers."

Keess explains there are variables that teachers can account for that a test cannot.  He says a good example of this is the growing number of people enrolled in english as an additional language programs.

"Our teachers are now working with these young people that come in from different countries.  (The teachers) are able to assess their intellectual, academic, and linguistic capacities very easily, much more easily than a standardized test.  (A test) can't adapt to the unique diversity that we really need to have in place."

Teachers are using a variety of assessment strategies to determine each student's progress in reaching their own goals.  Keess points out that using those methods has allowed them to achieve the provincial curriculum outcomes.