The number of assessments students in Saskatoon’s largest school division have to take on top of regular classroom tests has been reduced, and division officials predict the trend will continue.
At a board meeting last week, Saskatoon Public Schools trustees heard three types of assessments are conducted in the division, including standardized tests like the Canadian Achievement Test.
The aim of the assessments is to collect data on demographics, perceptions and school processes division-wide, at the school level and inside the classroom. This year, the division will conduct 29 assessments across all grades, compared to 32 last year.
Barry MacDougall, the division’s director of education, said while the division will “streamline” assessments over time to avoid classroom intrusion, they remain an important tool.
“We want to minimize the number necessary to make good educational decisions for our students,” he said, adding the division want’s to make them “minimally intrusive.”
“Teachers have told us loud and clear that they feel most effective when they’re teaching to their students,” he said. “If we’re able to make the assessments a natural part of that instruction, assessment and evaluation cycle, that’s healthy for everybody.”
The report presented to trustees indicates while the division chose to “retain most of the assessments used,” following a detailed examination of their value during the 2015-16 school year, it chose to reduce the number of subsection assessments and their frequency.
It also noted the division must consider its own capacity to develop, administer and use the assessment data effectively, as the report noted a “major challenge in our division is to build capacity.”
The report said teachers and students may experience “assessment fatigue” if they’re required to complete centralized assessments too often.
The division’s research and measurement coordinator, Scott Tunison, compiled the report. He said assessments provide important information, but teachers are constantly assessing their students’ progress on a “minute-by-minute” basis.
“We want, as our director says, that the assessments … we ask people to do have the highest usefulness, give the most information and use time as wisely as possible as well,” he said.