New Brunswick

Educators call for end to standardized testing in classrooms

Some educators are calling for the end of standardized tests in New Brunswick after recent assessments showed results far below the targets set by the Department of Education.

Erin Schryer says teachers could make better use of data available to them to show how students are doing

New Brunswick educators say it may be time to stop standardized testing in the province. (Tom Woodward/Flickr Creative Commons)

Some educators are calling for the end of standardized tests in New Brunswick after recent assessments showed results far below the targets set by the Department of Education.

Erin Schryer, executive director of Elementary Literacy, says she doesn't think a standardized test is the only way to know how well children are doing when it comes to literacy.

"If the aim is to understand, fully understand how well our children are faring in learning to read, I do not think a standardized test is the one and only way to get to that answer."

Recent results show only 73.8 per cent of Grade 2 anglophone students were successful on the provincial reading assessment, compared to the target of 90 per cent. 

Erin Schryer, executive director Elementary Literacy Inc., says there are other ways to determine how students are faring than provincial assessments. (Twitter)
Among Grade 6 anglophone students, only 54.1 per cent were successful on the provincial reading assessment, which is far short of the target of an 85 per cent success rate.

Schryer told CBC's Information Morning Fredericton she was a little surprised to hear Education Minister Brian Kenny question the test. "To my knowledge, the test hasn't changed. It is a test that has been used for several years."

What Schryer said she would like to see is teachers use the data available to them to provide a better story on how the child is doing in reading, along with their success and challenges.

"I think we really need to think about how we could use that data, what it could look like so we could still report."

But Jeannine St. Amand, chair of the Parent School Support Committee at Fredericton High School, defended the need for provincial assessments and said the province does have a balanced approach to assessments.   

She confirmed the Grade 2 test was the same one that has previously been used, but the Grade 6 test was new.

"I think there will be a lot of reflection on the Grade 6 one to make sure it is measuring what we want to measure."

St. Amand said the standardized test looks at the province as a whole to see what is working best in some areas and what can be done to improve in areas not doing so well.

Cuts have impact

Dr. Diana Austin, a professor at the University of New Brunswick, said cuts in education have made an impact on standardized testing results and she worries about the group of students in the middle of the pack.

Diana Austin says more teachers and resources need to be put back in the classrooms. (CBC)
"How can all of those students get what they need? No one human being is capable of giving all of those students what they need in that set of conditions," Austin said while referring to cuts of teachers and support staff in schools across the province.

Austin said she read the 10-year education plan and said while idealism is wonderful, the plan is not practical unless there are more teachers put back in the classrooms.

St. Amand agreed, adding the Department of Education needs to look at putting literacy, math and technology mentors back in the classroom to help improve test results.

But Dr. Barry Miller, a former superintendent of School District 18, said the department has to stop focusing on numbers and measuring.

"No two children are alike, no two classrooms are alike, no two schools are alike. What the testing is doing is allowing people to focus on numbers, so now we're measuring. We want to compare this teacher's class with the next teacher's class."

Miller said it is time to move past standardized testing and let educators do their job.

"Let's not get hung up on all of this, this is a government thing. Let's do what is educationally sound, never mind what is politically correct."

CBC News requested interviews with those in the education department who write the provincial assessments tests, but was told they were unavailable.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton