Student taking a math test. (Pixabay photo)

David Marsden: Students need more testing, not less

Testing has been central to Alberta’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s through rigorous testing that the province has enjoyed the success it has in containing the spread of the virus.

More than 1.5 million tests have been conducted in the province, giving health authorities the edge and helping to avoid further illness.

It begs the question why broad testing for COVID-19 is viewed as prudent, but evaluation in classrooms to measure students’ ability to master the curriculum amid the pandemic is seen as unnecessary, or a hardship.

There is a growing movement to cancel provincial achievement tests and diploma exams.

Surely, if we care about the success of students, we should be determining if young people are paying a price for the suspension of regular classes in March and their resumption this fall under challenging conditions.

Everyone is doing their best — teachers, students, administrators and support staff — to make the most of the trying circumstances.

Teachers deserve our respect and appreciation as never before.

ALSO READ: Journalism is worth supporting

But if classroom learning isn’t what it used to be because of the pandemic and the compromises it has demanded, we need to understand that and quantify it to the best of our ability.

Many people are suffering from the consequences of the pandemic, even if they’re not stricken with the virus.

We know that patients with heart disease and other ailments have suffered worse outcomes or death because the health-care system has been doggedly focused on COVID-19.

It appears that rates of depression, divorce, alcoholism and suicide among Albertans have risen during the pandemic.

Rather than having less testing, if anything, the school system needs more.

Far from punishing students, exams such as the provincial achievement tests acknowledge the importance of a grasp of essential skills such as addition and subtraction and reading comprehension.

“Provincial achievement tests are administered annually to all Alberta students in grades 6 and 9,” says Alberta Education.

“These standardized tests reflect the essentials that all Alberta students are expected to achieve, regardless of school choice or location.”

The tests “determine if students are learning what they are expected to learn, report to Albertans how well students have achieved provincial standards at given points in their schooling, and assist schools, authorities and the province in monitoring and improving student learning.”

We would never think someone suspected of suffering from diabetes should forgo testing during the pandemic because it might add to their stress.

Why would we think it’s wise to ignore possible gaps in learning and force students to struggle in years to come?

Why would we believe we’re doing young people a favour by pushing them along to another grade and another set of teachers without knowing they possess the skills to be successful?

Surely, we want to identify areas that require improvement and provide the resources that are necessary. We can’t do that if we don’t pay attention.

Tests aren’t meant to trick or trap up students. They’re designed to measure success at achieving the goals of the curriculum.

That is not a bad thing. That is not a luxury, either.

Our students deserve our full attention during the pandemic, not what’s easiest.

David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

AB Opinions

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, announced more than 1,500 active cases in Alberta Monday afternoon and five additional deaths. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
COVID-19: Red Deer at 141 active cases

Central zone active cases up by 100 in last 24 hours

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Red Deer area seniors facility pauses visits after staff tests positive for COVID

A Red Deer County seniors facility has put the breaks on visitors… Continue reading

Alberta confirmed more than 1,500 COVID-19 cases Sunday

Alberta confirmed 1,584 COVID-19 cases Sunday afternoon. The total active cases went… Continue reading

Hockey Canada logo at an event in Toronto on November 1, 2017. A “non-core member” of Hockey Canada’s National Junior Team staff has tested positive for COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Hockey Canada staff member tests positive for COVID-19 in Red Deer

A “non-core member” of Hockey Canada’s National Junior Team staff has tested… Continue reading

Lynn Van Laar, chair of this year’s Christmas Wish Breakfast, said the event was planned outdoors to minimize the risk of COVID. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
Outdoor Christmas Wish Breakfast helps central Alberta families this holiday season

The coronavirus pandemic isn’t going to stop children from having a merry… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pauses after responding to a question about the holidays during a news conference outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau joins G20 in promising COVID-19 aid to poor nations, rejecting protectionism

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined leaders from the world’s 20… Continue reading

Justice Minister David Lametti responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons, in Ottawa, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. The federal bill revising the rules on medically assisted death in Canada has raised the ire of the Canadian Psychiatric Association over the proposed law’s explicit rejection of mental illness as grounds for ending a patient’s life. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Exclusion of mental illness in assisted dying-bill slammed by psychiatrists

OTTAWA — The federal bill revising the rules on medically assisted death… Continue reading

The Quebec flag is seen on the podium as Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet responds to a question during a news conference Wednesday June 3, 2020 in Ottawa. Perennial anxieties around the state of the French language in Quebec have boiled over in the past week, with politicians seizing on a Liberal MP’s initial brush-off of the issue as evidence of indifference to a crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Angst around French language boils over in Quebec, as politicians warn of ‘decline’

MONTREAL — Perennial anxieties around the state of the French language in… Continue reading

Numuch Keitlah, left, and Jake Thomas, centre, participate in a Coastal Nations search and rescue exercise off the coast of Vancouver Island in this undated handout photo. The recently operational Coastal Nations Coast Guard Auxiliary has more than 50 members from five Indigenous territories who are trained in marine search and rescue. They are on call day and night to respond to emergencies along some of B.C.’s most rugged and remote coastal areas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Jordan Wilson *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Canada’s first Indigenous-led coast guard auxiliary patrols B.C.’s rugged coast

VICTORIA — The winds were gusting at 110 kilometres per hour and… Continue reading

Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet has sponsored the VanVleet Court at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford, Ill. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Fred VanVleet signs four-year, US$85-million deal with Toronto Raptors

TORONTO — Fred VanVleet, one of the most coveted players in free… Continue reading

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
‘Hardship is not a new thing:’ Nunavut fights COVID-19 as cases continue to rise

IQALUIT — It has been just over two weeks since Nunavut declared… Continue reading

Pedestrians walk past Pfizer world headquarters in New York on Monday Nov. 9, 2020. Despite recent optimism over reported results from COVID-19 vaccine trials,<br>Two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have recently announced they're developed COVID-19 vaccines that are 95 per cent effective. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Bebeto Matthews
A long way from lab bench to bedside: Virus experts urge COVID-19 vaccine caution

Despite recent optimism over reported results from COVID-19 vaccine trials, virologists say… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
After COVID-related transplant delays, 16-year-old N.S. girl gets lung transplant

‘This is the difficult time now of seeing Tahlia in ICU hooked up to 15 IVs and sedated’

Most Read