Friday, April 25, 2014


Over the past decade, I have had many conversations with teachers, school councils and politicians about the Criterion Reference Tests (CRT's) that students in grades 3, 6 and 9 write at the end of the school year. 

The purpose of the provincial assessments is to assist in improving student achievement, evaluate the effectiveness of provincial programs, inform parents and students of performance based on curriculum outcomes, and set expectations of what students should know and be able to do by the end of Grades 3, 6, and 9.

The assessments consist of multiple choice questions and open response questions which require a written response. The CRTs are based on the provincial curriculum and provide a common standard to assess a student’s proficiency in a specific subject area.

There are mixed opinions about the value and accuracy of the tests. Although educators are not supposed to teach to the test, some schools teach to past tests in preparation.  A student can be having a bad day. Test-taking conditions often are not the same from place to place (they are not adequately "standardized"). Young children's moods and attention are more variable. Also, young children develop quickly and unevenly, so even an accurate score today could be wrong next month. The questions on these tests mainly reflect the content of provincially-used textbooks, not the local curriculum. This means that students may be tested on things the local schools decided were not so important and therefore were not taught.The result, some argue is an uneven playing field that skews the results.

One school in Florida took the competition to perform in the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests seriously enough to juice up the kids.

Creel Elementary children were given a dose of Mountain Dew and some trail mix before taking the standardized tests. The school has an A+ rank and is among the top test scorers in the county.

One grandmother found about the practice of infusing her grandchild with sugar and caffeine and complained to the school board. The administration at Creel Elementary has been told "To only provide water as a beverage" in the future.

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