Home » Others Are Saying » Dr. Marc Spooner on transforming education

Dr. Marc Spooner on transforming education

We must get away from the standardized testing– skill and drill– “quick fix” approach to improving educational outcomes– that would be my number one suggestion for real transformational change with regard to education policy in Saskatchewan.

More tests won’t help, It’s just not that easy. If we don’t improve upon poverty rates, determinants of health indicators, and structural and individual racism, educational outcomes will not improve. As Pasi Sahlberg (2015) reminds us,

..research on what explains students’ measured performance in school concludes 10-20% of variance in measured student achievement can be attributed to classrooms– that is, teachers and teaching– and a similar amount of variance comes from factors within the schools– that is, school climate, facilities, and leadership. In other words, up to two-thirds of what explains student achievement falls beyond the control of schools. (pp.134-135) Sahlberg, P. (2015). Finnish Lessons 2.0. NY: Teachers College Press.

Furthermore, a substantial portion of the differences found on standardized tests results can be attributed to the background socioeconomic conditions of the students’ family and peers. In fact, combined, these two factors alone accounted for 50% of the variance on PISA tests in reading, math, science.

Although our province has not adopted provincial-wide standardized testing per se, Saskatchewan students are actually being administered several standardized tests on a regular basis, throughout their school years; among these, depending on the division, are: the Early Years Evaluation (EYE) reading tests for Kindergarten-Grade 1 students, the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark reading assessments in Grade 3, the Diagnostic Numeracy Assessment (DNA) tests for math in grades 3, 6, and 8, and the Reading Assessment District-36 (RAD) tests in grades 6 and 8, as well as several other tests not mentioned. Combined these tests cost the education system millions each year.

We, as province, cannot continue to mandate more of the same “testing approach” to teaching and learning, and expect to find improvements. If we truly want to effectively address educational concerns, inequity, and positive improvements in graduation rates and later life outcomes, we must once again place our trust in our talented professional educators and increase the opportunities for our students to be taught by teacher-role models from a wide-diversity of backgrounds, with improved supports made available to classrooms as required. All of these must be implemented within a context where we as a collective seek drastic improvement to the deplorable socioeconomic conditions that wrongly hold so many back throughout our province.