Testing examined
Principals look at new assessment policy

Daniel MacIsaac
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Oct 15/99) - While Beaufort Delta teachers held a vote on taking job action last week, principals from around the region gathered in Inuvik for a three-day forum on the future of student assessment.

James Anderson, director of the Beaufort Delta Regional Education Board, said the question of how students are tested and graded arose because of the different methods of assessment that currently exist at the national, territorial, regional and community levels.

"Through the three days we've been hoping to flesh out some of the principals' concerns, challenges, priorities and lay the foundation for a new direction and policy," he said Thursday. "We're hoping to have all the assessments come under one umbrella approach."

Anderson said the forum was fortunate to have Kathy Zozula from the Department of Education, Culture and Employment in Yellowknife on hand, since assessment is one of her areas of focus. Zozula said the purpose of the forum is to find consistency.

"We recognize that there are individual schools and classes that are doing some wonderful things, but there's still been some concern by educators and parents that the results are not necessarily consistent," she said. "I think the public is demanding more accountability."

Zozula said "anything and everything" came up for discussion by the nine regional principals as well as board members who attended the forum. She said the group spent the first day laying out their understanding of assessment, the following day examining the current situation and the final day proposing five-year strategies for change.

"We tried to dispel myths like if a kid is not doing well, to test them again and again," she said.

Organized into work groups, the principals presented their recommendations on Thursday. Janie Jones from Tuktoyaktuk spoke for her group and recommended, for example, that an effective information program be introduced, that enhanced resources for inclusive school be realized and that a testing planner be established. Carson Atkinson from Samuel Hearne spoke of the importance of establishing and maintaining base-line data, so that "evidence-based decision making" might be possible.

Sir Alexander Mackenzie principal, Bernie MacLean, stressed the importance of faculty involvement in the process.

"We want to see the draft policies and then let us chew on it and get back to you," he said. "We should have input."

Zozula said the new assessment policy could be ready for next fall.