[HALIFAX] — Accountability, not money, is the key to improved student performance say the authors of AIMS’ newest report “Testing & Accountability: The Keys to Educational Excellence in Atlantic Canada” (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader). It is clear that taxpayers, and the students they help support, are getting less for their investment in education than they deserve and certainly less than their counterparts in some other provinces.

The report demonstrates that, while the testing regimes vary province by province, there remains an insufficient level of consistent, reliable measurement of educational outcomes in the region. According to the report co-authors, Charles Cirtwill, AIMS Director of Operations, Rod Clifton, a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba, and John D’Orsay, a Nova Scotia-based consultant specialising in human resource policy, developing sound monitoring systems and using standardised examinations can be helpful in ensuring that effective teaching and administration of schools takes place.

It is quite simple, says Cirtwill. “The longer a student stays in an Atlantic Canadian school the greater a competitive disadvantage they have to overcome when they enter the global marketplace looking for work. Even worse, no one is being held to account for that failure.”

None of the testing programmes put in place in the Atlantic provinces provides a genuine indicator of effectiveness. There is no published analysis which considers the impact on school performance of the differences in students’ initial preparation, family advantages, or opportunities for learning outside the schools.

“Governments cannot claim to be properly managing our educational resources, money and students, without using standardised tests for basic benchmarks,” says Clifton. “To be of value, however, these test results must be reported showing school, school board, and provincial achievement standards, so that teachers, parents, and taxpayers can determine how well students and schools are doing in comparison with others.”

In each Atlantic province, detailed information for individual schools must be made more widely available if the education system is to be truly accountable for results. If such information is made available system-wide, this can form the basis for a policy of open choice of school by parents and students, with resources following the student.

Evidence shows that where choice among public schools is possible within the context of comprehensive, relevant and accessible information about individual school performance, that performance is enhanced. Not only are good schools rewarded for their success, but poorly performing schools can be quickly identified and appropriate steps taken to put them on the path of improved results.

Thus, clear comparable information about the performance of each school in the region based, among other things, on appropriate standardised testing, is absolutely crucial to a regime where schools are accountable for their results, parents and students have maximum choice based on relevant information, and educational excellence is the ultimate goal.

“Testing and Accountability” also examines the criticisms often levelled at standardised testing, such as that they don’t measure real student progress, or that they impoverish students’ educational experience because teachers must “teach to the test”. The authors find that these criticisms do not withstand critical examination. While properly-designed standardised testing is not the only evaluative tool that parents, students and schools need, it is an indispensable one according to the latest research.


For further information, contact:
Charles Cirtwill, Director of Operations, AIMS, 902-425-2494
John D’Orsay, 765-560-2610