Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad  Print this page

Achievement test results under wraps

John King
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 23/05) - Alberta Achievement Test results should be made public, says Robert Meckling, chair of the parents' advisory council for Sir John Franklin school.

That's not to say the results of the Alberta Achievement Test given to students in Grade 3, 6, and 9 will stay in bureaucratic coffers.

The test is designed as a year-to-year marker to show if students are achieving excellence in language arts and mathematics.

So far a breakdown of results has not been posted publicly, either on the NWT Ministry of Education website, or in a report available to the general public.

Reanna Erasmus has her reasons.

The chairperson of the Yk1 school board says the test isn't a real marker for student success, nor is it a chance for educators to see what is or is not working.

"That's a pretty big expectation of a test," answered Erasmus when asked last week whether she felt the test could help educators understand which programs and initiatives work. Or don't work.

"The Minister of Education said on radio that the test is a snap shot of how students are doing during that one day," Erasmus said. "I agree."

Factors such as whether a student sleeps well, eats breakfast, or has a lot of stress in their life have a direct impact on a students' day, Erasmus said.

There's no question such factors play a role in how well a student performs in any given school day, but if so, why even bother using the test in the first place?

"We are mandated to do the test by the Ministry of Education," Erasmus said.

The Sir John Franklin parents association was given a presentation by Mieke Cameron outlining the school's results.

"The results are excellent," Meckling said. "Standards are high compared to other jurisdictions in the NWT and Alberta."

So with standards so high at Sir John Franklin, what about the rest of the city, or the rest of the NWT for that matter?

The problem rests in the fact that Yk1 has been issuing the test for the last five years, whereas this is the first year the test has been given to students across the NWT, says Charles Dent, Minister of Education.

"This test should not be used for comparing one school to another. It is not the tool to use in terms of results," said Dent.

With something like the Alberta Achievement Test, statistical results are broad and show improvement over one year to the next, said Dent.

"After three years we'll start to see how our system is doing," Dent said.

This is because it will take three years before the students who took the test this year in Grade 3 will be in Grade 6, when they must take the test once again.

It is then, that a comparison can be made, said Dent.

Concerning the relevancy of the test, Dent says because the test was created in Alberta, it is culturally biased.

"The test is not representative for our population. It does not reflect the number of students where English is a second language," Dent said.

When asked why even bother using the test, Dent replied that it would cost too much money to develop a NWT test.

"It would cost millions," Dent said.