In Brief: AIMS is a leading proponent of standardized testing in public schools, and it appears governments are finally getting the message. As New Brunswick reconsiders its options, AIMS acting President Charles Cirtwill points out that the top performing provinces in Canada all have standardized testing regimes. He says as an example, using data from testing has helped Newfoundland and Labrador make dramatic improvements.
by Quentin Casey
A recent international education survey delivered dismal results for
The 2006 study found the province recorded the lowest reading scores in
Peter Cowley of the Fraser Institute, a think-tank, said
Those areas have well-established internal testing systems employed annually, he said.
“They focus teachers’ attention on the outcomes that are intended,” said Cowley, the Institute’s director of school performance studies. “It provides a focus that is very useful.
The practice allows for detailed report cards on individual schools and gives parents and educators early indication of lagging results. According to
“That seems to be the one common thread between the higher performing provinces,” he said.
“They have province-wide assessment systems in place and have done so for a while.”
It is not necessary for the province to build a testing scheme from scratch, he said. The Shawn Graham government can simply do as other Canadian jurisdictions have: copy a successful system from another province.
“If I was in a poor performing province I’d ask the minister, ‘Why don’t we just adopt
“What is it that is so specific to the
Charles Cirtwill agreed that testing regimes are a key fixture of the top provinces. The acting president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, a Halifax-based think-tank, pointed to the rise of
That province has climbed from the back to middle of the pack in Canadian education rankings, thanks in part to a new-found commitment to data collection and student testing.
For example, reading and writing abilities are measured in Grades 2 and 4. Math skills are measured in Grade 5 while science capabilities are gauged in Grade 6.
Critics, however, say there is a need to be more specific and thorough in the process.
Education Minister Kelly Lamrock agreed. He contended the system has long tracked tests and results of little value.
“The government was committed before to using testing (where) the data was unusable by principals and teachers,” he said Friday. “The key is finding what works and sharing it around the system.”
Lamrock has promised changes, most notably in his new education plan, ‘When kids come first.’ Lamrock pointed to forthcoming assessments of young children, to reveal school readiness and literacy rates.
As well, future tests will track which schools and teachers are producing the greatest improvements in their students.
Cirtwill is optimistic about the province’s ability to improve the system, citing the positive attitude of local educators and Lamrock himself.