There is no one answer but consider this:
The Alberta Government enforces something called Full Cohort Reporting. Put simply, this means that the Alberta Government demands that school districts report all of their students' Provincial Achievement Test results whether they wrote the test or not.
This means that a student who writes the test is considered the same as the student who did not write the test.
Whether a child writes the test or not, their score affects the school's performance report. Imagine how few zeroes would be required to drag a school's average down, making them look far worse than they really are...
So what's the problem?
The Alberta Government says Provincial Achievement Tests are an instrument used to provide the public with the information they need to know about their schools. The government claims that Provincial Achievement Tests are about being accountable to the public in ensuring that the curriculum is taught.
Can you see the problem?
Because Full Cohort Reporting distorts the validity of the School's Performance Report (by treating absences as zeroes), the public does not get the information it needs to know about their schools. Because Full Cohort Reporting conceals more than it reveals by counting an absence as a zero, the School's Performance Report is not transparent -- and without transparency you can't have accountability.
Even though it is a parent's democratic right to withdraw their children from writing Provincial Achievement Tests, schools and school boards are pressured by the Alberta Government's Full Cohort Reporting to make all children write the tests regardless of whether it's in the child's best interests or what the parents feel is best for their children.
I personally know of a parent who is a member of their school's parent council who requested that their school remind parents that Provincial Achievement Tests are optional, and they were denied this request by an associate superintendent from their school district. Why would an associate superintendent deny a parent their request to remind other parents of their democratic right to opt their children out of Provincial Achievement Testing?
I am also personally aware of a grade 3 classroom that consists of 25 students where at least 8 of the families plan on opting their children out of the Provincial Achievement Test. If this were to happen, approximately one-third of the class would not write the test which could potentially cripple the school's performance report. The School's Performance Report may not affect the funding they get from the Government; however, it will affect how the School Board allocates that funding because they have to have a plan of action for how they are going to address their poor performance. Which means they may end up having to allocate their limited resources and funding towards fixing a problem that doesn't exist.
So who is responsible for the pressure placed on students and their parents to write Provincial Achievement Tests?
To answer this, it's important to remember that pressure can only be applied from those who have more power down onto those who have less power. So let's follow the chain of command:
children --teachers -- principals -- superintendents -- school boards -- Alberta Government
Let's be crystal clear here. The Alberta Government needs to take responsibility for the fear and pressure that Provincial Achievement Tests place on the citizens of this province.
Here are a couple solutions the Alberta Government needs to take responsibility for:
- properly inform parents that Provincial Achievement Tests are optional and that they have every right to opt their children out.
- stop enforcing Full Cohort Reporting so that children who are absent are not misrepresented as achieving zero. This would also relieve school boards, superintendents, principals and teachers from pressuring children and their parents into writing the tests.
- Alison Redford needs to make good on her election promise to eliminate grade 3 and 6 Provincial Achievement Tests.