By Robert Green | Published April 22, 2014 by the Montreal Gazette
Though education is an issue of great importance to Quebecers, the only education-related issue discussed in the recent election campaign was the question of where in the education bureaucracy to find savings that could be redirected to schools.
Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault said he favoured abolishing school boards, while Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard said he wanted to trim the staff within the education department itself.
Trimming bureaucratic fat sounds appealing, but it can also have grave consequences for the quality of services. This is particularly true in the case of school boards that provide front-line services to students.
Now that Couillard is set to officially take over as premier this week, I have a modest proposal for him: He could save some money by cutting the bureaucracy involved in the production and administration of high-stakes standardized tests.
There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that such testing does anything to improve educational outcomes. For more than a decade, the U.S. has been involved in an education reform driven by standardized-test results. Over this time, student achievement has not improved, while a host of other negative effects have been observed: the narrowing of curriculum, the widening of achievement gaps related to race and class, and growing rates of student stress and depression.
The problems with standardized testing have become so serious that there is now a growing movement of parents and educators in the U.S. advocating that parents opt their children out of such tests.
Meanwhile, the country whose students consistently rank highest in the world, Finland, imposes no standardized tests whatsoever. Finland’s approach is to focus on equity over excellence, ensuring that all students, regardless of their backgrounds, are given the support they need to succeed.
Finland worries about the resources going into schools, while the U.S. worries about the test results coming out of them. Quebec needs to learn from this. Continue reading