Student Achievement - What Shoudl We Really Be Measuring?

Unattributed, Canadian Council on Learning, Oct 14, 2005
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Interesting report that should nonetheless be read critically. The author looks at Canada's performance in international tests in language, mathematics and science, asking about what additional achievements should be measured and where performance could be improved. Looking at the results - which see only Finland performining consistently better than Canada, and by a narrow margin - one wonders at the attitude behind such half-hearted comments such as "Canada is performing relatively well" and expressions of concern about Canada "lagging behind". As usual, the best indicator of performance was socio-economic background. But beyond noting that this was less of an indicator in Canada than in other countries, the author had nothing to say. The main message I take out of this (with caveats about the testing to begin with) is something like: don't mess with the system, it's among the best in the world. Beyond that, it seems to me the greatest area for improvement is in improving access for people of lower socio-economic standing. Finally, as I've suggested elsewhere, evaulation beyond testing is required - a student who performs well in tests but who suicides upon graduation is counted as a success by these measures. We need to look at this, as well as health statistics, crime, employment, life satisfaction, creativity and innovation, and more.
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