Andy Hargreaves recently retired as a professor at Boston College. In this article, which appeared in the Toronto Star as part of a debate, he advises Canada to abandon mandatory testing. Canada tests every student in grades 3 and 6.

If you open the article, you can vote for or against mandatory testing.

Don’t you wish our students were tested only in grades 3 and 6?

He writes:

“Finland uses samples. Israel samples a different subject every year in three-year cycles. Provinces and countries are already compared by samples on national and international assessments. Streamline the work of the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) around samples and this government will meet its accountability requirements and also save a big chunk of more than $130 million over four years that can go straight into the classroom.

“Bigger data is no substitute for better leadership. Some experts believe sampling makes it hard to pinpoint problems in small sub-groups in a school or board, like equitable achievement for a particular ethnic minority. Statisticians have an answer for this – that you can vary the nature or size of the sample to include and protect these groups. But an even better answer is that when subgroups get very tiny in small schools or boards, we don’t need more data about everybody. We just need better feedback from and relationships with the people right in front of us.

“The side effects outweigh the benefits. If you have an illness and try some drugs to ease it, you don’t want the negative side effects to outweigh the benefits. The negative side effects of testing a whole population in any grade are immense. Test results are known to the media and to real estate agents. Some school board administrators put excessive pressure on their schools and teachers in high-poverty areas to hit the numbers. Principals will then do almost anything to get the scores up. The stakes and stress are incredibly high.”