Advocates say Alberta provincial exams are unnecessary as students gear up for finals

Alberta Students are writing diploma exams and standardized tests for the first time in several years and as Shilpa Downton explains, some are questioning whether the high stakes testing is really an important marker for evaluation.

As many students across Alberta gear up for exams, advocates voice their concerns that provincial exams are unnecessary and not an indicator of success with students.

Students in grades 6 and 9 are writing year-end Provincial Achievement Tests (PAT) for 2023, and both grades are writing them for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

However, Jason Schilling, president of the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA), believes it is an inaccurate tool.

“The association has a policy that actually speaks against grade 6 and 9 PATs and grade 3 [Student Learning Assessments],” he explained to CityNews.

“There are better ways for teachers to assess students working in class, and having taught students in junior high and in high school for over 20 years, that test is just one snapshot of a day.”

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Meanwhile, the communications director of Support Our Students, Wing Li, says many youths are feeling overwhelmed and underprepared, and she questions the weight of the testing.

“The quality of these exams, is that being examined by experts? Or is this just because we have been doing it for a long time and the narrative that we’ve adopted is that, ‘Oh, we need this big-time exam to standardize everybody,'” Li told CityNews.

“But it hasn’t been a standard experience, especially when you think that the students entering high school were in the midst of a pandemic.”

Li says there is a lack of consistency in the high-stakes evaluation, and the organization is challenging the notion of testing in the province.

“What are we putting these students under stress for if, in the last few years, they haven’t been receiving conventional traditional education as well? Grade 6 has a new curriculum,” Li said.

Schilling agrees.

“Exams, tests, quizzes, other formative and summative assessments, such as essays, projects, group projects, that we would look at and evaluate through the course of the year are all based on the curriculum. And that’s really the guiding document,” he said.

“The program of study is the curriculum that tells teachers you need to teach this. This is how you would assess that using your professional judgment.”

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Grade 12 students are also back to writing diploma exams, something that both Schilling and Li say isn’t a vital marker to evaluate a student’s preparedness for post-secondary.

They note it isn’t a requirement for all schools across the country.

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