Just when I thought it was safe to go back in the water…
Back in April, I posted a blog in which I suggested that there might finally be some movement away from that bane of many educator’s existence, the large-scale standardized assessment. I had read that Alberta was looking at removing one of its long-standing tests, (The Provincial Achievement Test, or PAT) and I hoped that this move might be a move away from the yoke of standardized testing. Oh, how wrong I was. Instead of the yoke being removed, it is simply expanding, and more teachers and students will soon be under the lash.
You see, Alberta isn’t getting rid of standardized tests. They are simply replacing them with a new version. In a commentary in the Globe and Mail on May 9th, Alberta Education Minister Jeff Johnson spoke about a new standardized test which will be “more student centered” and “focused on informing learning”. The new, computer generated tests will, he said, assess not just numeracy and literacy, but also problem solving.
These computer generated tests will also, according to Johnson, better assess students’ creativity.
Leave it to those who worship at the altar of standardization to somehow get talked into this one. Creativity is the one area that the “standardizationists” have been hammered on the hardest. From Ken Robinson’s infamous TED talk of a few years back “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” to critics of America’s Common Core State Standards Initiative, it has been recognized that standardized testing can crush creative thought and teaching in the classroom. So, instead of recognizing the truth of this, what do the standardizationsts do?
They try to standardize creativity.
I have always been leery of the purpose of standardized tests. They, by their very nature, narrow the scope of education. And any sense that the standardization juggernaut had any purpose remotely connected with the good of students was laid to rest this past week by Peter Crowley, director of school performance studies for The Fraser Institute. When commenting to The Canadian Press about the growing voice of criticism against standardized large-scale assessments, Crowley was quoted as saying “If teachers are doing their jobs, then kids should already have the required knowledge” to write them successfully.
It follows, of course, that in his view, teachers whose students do not do well on the tests are not doing their job. No matter how creative, how engaging, how meaningful the teacher’s classroom may be, if it’s not on the test, it’s not worth learning. Teachers who stray from this party line, who dare to step outside the prescribed boundaries of the almighty curriculum guides are “not doing their job”. So, the purpose becomes testing the teacher, not helping the student.
But now, not only may teachers and schools be judged by how well they cram their students into the prescribed boxes of literacy and numeracy, they are going to be judged on how well they develop a prescribed level of creativity? Fostering creative thought and critical thinking is the benchmark of a sound education system. The arrogance associated with the idea that it can be measured and standardized is, quite simply, stunning to behold.
Standardized tests are the antithesis to creativity. Standardized tests to measure creativity are something far, far worse.
Perhaps I am over reacting. Perhaps the tests will be lovely and fun. However, the day in the future that my child is told by a computer that she is reaching the provincial norm for creativity, or even worse, is told she is not, is a day that I, both as a parent and a teacher, want very, very little part of.