If 70% of tax payers in Alberta do not have children in school, will they take the time to look beyond the limited and superficial information that a standardized test score can provide?
I don't really blame them for this; after all, we all have only so much time and effort to expend, and if a tax payer doesn't even have a child in school, they've got better things to do than study the quality of their neighbourhood school.
Be assured this is less of an indictment of the public and more of a wake up call for educators, school boards and governments to do a better job of exhibiting and sharing real student learning.
In Alberta, the Alberta Teachers' Association, Alberta School Boards' Association and Alberta Education need to collaborate in a far more effective and efficient way to replace standardized testing with something far more authentic.
Ultimately, real accountability really means that the public can access the information they need to know about their schools. In other words, accountability is really about transparency; and yet accountability begins and ends with standardized test scores which are anything but transparent.
This is true for a variety of interesting reasons. One example I often use is that if you want to know if a child can throw a ball, you don't give them a multiple choice test, you watch them throw a ball. And yet this is precisely the mistake we make with standardized testing.
We say we want kids to be happy, creative, responsible, ethical, honest, respectful, autonomous, and resilient, but then we give them standardized tests that are incapable of assessing any of these things. And yet how many people see standardized test scores as prima facie evidence that our schools are good or bad?
The best feedback parents can receive about their child's learning is for them to see their child's learning.
Back in the old days, show-and-tell, science fairs and barn dances were exhibitions of learning. Communities came together to observe and listen to students while they performed their learning - and if things went really well, parents and community members might have actually interacted with the students.
No one needed to translate the results - everyone could see with their own eyes that learning was or was not taking place. However, when we use something as artificially simple as testsandgrades to report something as complex as student learning, is there any surprise that many of us mistake testsandgrades and real learning as the same thing?
When we are offered the choice between the inconvenience of spending the time and effort required for observing the messiness of real learning with the arbitrarily convenient tidy testsandgrades, I fear we will be seduced by the spurious precision of the numbers.
This is precisely why educators have a professional obligation not to provide the public with such reductionist data.Truly no good can come from it.