Edmonton

Provincial achievement tests would return for 2020-21, if students are back in school

Under Alberta's re-entry plan for schools, provincial achievement tests (PATs) would be an option if students return to classrooms.

Alberta Teachers' Association president thinks they should be scrapped for next year

Provincial achievement tests would be an option for students to write next year if students return to Alberta classrooms this fall. (Genevieve Tardif/Radio-Canada)

Under Alberta's re-entry plan for schools, provincial achievement tests (PATs) would be an option if students return to classrooms.

But the Alberta Teachers' Association thinks the tests should be dropped.

Provincial achievement tests are written annually by Grade 6 and Grade 9 students. They focus on English, math, science, social studies and French.

The tests are intended to determine how effectively students are learning and how to improve schooling.

The province has presented three possible scenarios for schools this fall.

Under one scenario, where at-home learning would continue, the tests would be cancelled.

Under the other two scenarios, where some or all classes would be held at schools, PATs would be limited to English, math and French. Participation would be optional, with the decision made by school boards.

The decision was made to limit the tests to English, math and French to give teachers with more time to support students as they transition to in-person classes, Colin Aitchison, press secretary for the minister of education, said in an email. 

"Allowing optional participation and focusing only on these subjects will provide school authorities with increased flexibility as we transition into the 2020-21 school year," Aitchison said.

Tests 'not best use of time': ATA

Edmonton Public Schools is waiting for further direction from the province about which scenario will be implemented in fall. Decisions have not been made about provincial achievement tests, board chair Trisha Estabrooks said in a statement.

"We know the upcoming school year will be unique, and we appreciate the flexibility the government has incorporated into the re-entry plans."      

A spokesperson for Edmonton Catholic Schools confirmed the board is happy with flexibility for PATs if classes resume next school year.

But the president of the ATA doesn't think PATs should even be an option next school year.

"To spend time in the classroom working on PAT material is not the best use of class time," said Jason Schilling. "I think teachers would have preferred the time working on learning [rather] than worry about provincial achievement tests."

He questions the accuracy of testing students in the year they return to classrooms, even if it's optional.

"I think the results would be unfair to look at students and say these results are really low this year," Schilling said. "Well, yeah, last year these kids were working through a pandemic and you don't need to penalize them for something that was out of their control."

A final decision on school openings in Alberta is expected to be made Aug. 1.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Travis McEwan

Videojournalist

Travis McEwan is a video journalist who has not won any awards. Originally from Churchill, Man., he's spent the last decade working at CBC Edmonton. Email story ideas to travis.mcewan@cbc.ca

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