Private business vending tests to students

I heard about our school division particpation in a private business site geared at “vending” standardized acheivement tests to students, today . . . a day before an English 30 final, 3 weeks after the L.A. 9 final Part A, and a week after all grade 10 classes have wrapped up. A third party, non-government, now has a list of every student I teach and is awaiting their input to validate multiple choice tests.

I do not know the exact costs to our publicly funded school for using the test “vending” site, but I think I heard $.35 per test. The site has been around for a while and the government has already poured in a million bucks every year since 2005. Until today I understood that such sites were “just another tool” in a sea of online gadgets for testing kids. I understood my participation in such sites was “voluntary.” Until today.

I was enrolled, as was every student I teach, without my knowledge or consent.

I do not know any teachers involved with creating the site. I know a lot of teachers.

So I started to research . . . My fellow teachers have already responded to the Castle Rock testing program:

reputable internationally recognized organizations such as the Educational Testing Services have pointed out that the final cost of developing even the most modest version of a program like CAA in the Alberta context would run into the tens of millions of dollars. In the Association’s view, the overly ambitious claims being made for CAA are neither educationally sound for students nor financially realistic and sustainable.

Why the Alberta government would commit millions of dollars to a private company to modify old provincial test items and put them online remains a mystery.

in the Language Arts Provincial Achievement Test, about one-third of student outcomes can be assessed through multiple choice questions; that of the 200 learner outcomes for Grade 9 science, only 63 (32%) can be assessed; that of the 51 learner outcomes for Grade 9 Mathematics, 24 (47%) can be assessed; and that of the 67 learner outcomes for Social Studies, only 22 (33%) can be assessed.

During the fall, Association staff responded to calls from many teachers who reported feeling pressured to participate in CAA. After being informed that the Association does not support CAA, most of the callers decided not to participate in the program.

as of January 30, 2007, … the superintendent and board of trustees of Edmonton Catholic Schools recently advised its teachers that the board would no longer be participating in the CAA project and that, given the implementation and professional concerns (including those raised by the Association), involvement in the program was henceforth voluntary.

All of this was a mystery to me. And now from my confusion is emerging a very sharp professional opinion on the issue.

I have not been given the opportunity to think on this “vending” of tests to kids.

I feel my mood changing. I need a cookie.