Grade 3 students writing provincial exams
Just a heads up…our new government intends to re-instate PATs for grade 3 students. The Edmonton Journal recently posted an article that stated; the ATA president is encouraging parents to “opt their children out of the exams.” It records a score of zero. If enough parents do this; then the government would be forced to re-evaluate the efficacy of giving these exams.
Why? You ask? What’s the point? Well first; you can actually opt your kids out of ANY PATs. Grade 6…grade 9. You have that right, if you feel it may cause undue stress to your child, or perhaps they had an illness and were unable to attend school for a certain amount of time etc. The government would like you to think these exams are to “provide instructions for teachers.” Nonsense…there are HUGE companies behind the scenes that stand to gain money from the writing of said exams, to the printing, to the research, the prep-classes for older grades writing these exams etc. These are exorbitant amounts of public funds that they claim serves to educate teachers on how to better help students. B.s! The tests serve to highlight where the struggles have been for the past year. That is all! The students that will do well, do. The ones that struggle…struggle and some even worse. The kids in grade 6, reading at a grade 2 level, still write the same exams as their classmates and they will perform poorly because they can’t comprehend the language on the exams. Post exams…their parents get letters in the mail that basically shows their child failed every exam…which certainly doesn’t feel good. But, they already knew that…because the teacher has been saying it all along. Which…brings me to another thing….as this isn’t a bash teachers post.( We can all agree…in every occupation there are gems and duds. In this post…let’s assume the teacher in said classes are busting their behinds to help each student). But here in lies the problem. There are numerous reasons kids seem to struggle more so than in the past. Kids are just different. The introduction of the Internet and technology has changed the structure of our learners. But I digress; back to the point: Teachers test at the start of the year. They have an idea of where each child excels and struggles…they have students that by the time they are in grade 6….can be anywhere from grade 1 to grade 9 abilities…or even more in either direction. Said teachers job is to teach for success to all of them. Honestly…a kid at grade 1 level will not be able to read at a grade 6 level by the end of the year. However; with TARGETED instruction, one on one pull out help with a trained interventionist every day for a few months, that child will gain at least a fee grade levels. Maybe reading at grade 3, but the difference is…the skills they have learned have given them the basic building blocks. They now know HOW to decode words they don’t know. They now know the basic skills for comprehension. The classroom teacher can now start to fill in some of those pieces and that child will continue to improve IF the work continues. How does it get so bad you ask? Because each year the government fails to provide money for those interventionists. They are key!!!! Every district has these trained individuals, but they are working in regular classrooms or literacy rooms and don’t benefit the entire school. Schools that can somehow figure out a way to make their budget work for an interventionist to do their jobs in the entire school are losing in other areas…the music, or phys.ed or art programs suffer. Or free educational field trips suffer.
Our current government plans to create money from a dry rock. There are already cut backs, programs being lost. Where will the millions of dollars to institute grade 3 PAT exams come from? An already dry rock. Grade 3 PATs will NOT help grade 4 teachers. It will further highlight where we are failing kids, but we already know…math and reading. What we need to ask is…can we use all of that money to get every school, trained professionals to provide targeted instruction? More one on one help for struggling kids? PATs DO NOT drive instruction. All it tells you is…here are the kids that are doing well, and here are the ones that aren’t. And teachers already have methods of doing that. And I haven’t even gotten into the social emotional effects of 8 and 9 year olds writing provincial exams. The uselessness of these exams were identified before and that’s why they were done away with. I’d even argue the grade 6 ones are also useless. Perhaps by grade 9, in preparation for high school exams…I get it! But 9 and 11 year olds don’t need this. And their teachers already know what they need…money for interventionists and more overall supports provided in the classroom
Something needs to be said and something needs to be done; because teachers are blamed for not teaching well. But, kids need interventions early on. Provincial exams and their feeding of some CEOs pocket…not the answer! OPT your kids out!!!