Volume 96, Issue 99
Friday, April 4, 2003

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Teacher testing critiqued

By Shawn MacPherson
Gazette Staff

The Canadian Teachers' Federation, a Canadian teachers' lobby group, is upset over the issue of national standardized testing for the country's elementary school students.

"Teachers are concerned that comparisons based on national tests will ignore factors other than teaching that contribute to differences in outcomes," said CTF director of communications Francine Filion.

"Many of these factors are ignored in the interpretation of results," Filion said. "Furthermore, the current round of national testing does not acknowledge that a student's ability to learn may differ from province to province, since some parts of the country have higher proportions of students from families with low parental levels of education, high levels of poverty and other factors."

Marvin Simner, a psychology professor at Western, will be addressing standardized testing at the National Association of School Psychologists annual convention next week.

"Their is a considerable amount of evidence from the [United States] that their is a backlash [against standardized testing]," Simner said. "In Texas, teachers were devoting a majority of their time to teaching their students for the test. The curriculum was narrowed greatly."

"The aim [of these tests] is to make Canadians competitive with other students from across the world," Simner said. "If you're making the comparison with students from other parts of the world, then you have to take into account differences in their educational system.

"In the U.S. states, where they have implemented these tests, there have been a higher number of high school dropouts," Simner said. He identified the Fraser Institute – a Canadian think tank – as one of the driving forces behind these tests in Canada. "They're very much into competition [between schools] and privatization [of schools]."

"I think there is considerable value in having a regime of testing," said Peter Cowley, director of School Performance Studies at the Fraser Institute. "I think they are a valuable thing in providing feedback [on a school's performance]."

The Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities was unavailable for comment.

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2002 THE GAZETTE