ATA News

ATA welcomes delay of digital assessment platform

A young girl looks at a computer screen

A delay in the implementation of Alberta Education’s new digital assessment platform is welcome news for teachers, say ATA officials.

In a memo that went out on May 14 to superintendents of public, separate, francophone, charter, private and Indigenous schools, the Alberta government updated the implementation timelines for its digital assessment platform, continuing to make it optional for the 2024–25 school year.

The new platform, introduced by Alberta Education in 2023–24, is intended to move the delivery of provincial achievement tests (PATs) and the written portion of diploma exams to an online format. It was tested this school year in pilot form and was originally scheduled for mandatory use in 2024-25. 

However, the memo from Alberta Education states that optional implementation will continue for the 2024–25 school year for digital PATs and diploma exams, “to ensure that school authorities have time to conduct professional development activities with staff and ensure technical readiness before using the platform to administer assessments.” 

Schools and school authorities will be able to opt in for each PAT or diploma exam administration; Grade 6 and 9 PATs will be available on the digital platform; and only written-response diploma exams in English language arts, social studies or French language arts/Français will be available on the platform. Alberta Education will be offering support for implementation throughout the pilot period next year.

“I am glad to see a delay in the implementation as the ATA raised concerns about the program and its implementation schedule,” said ATA president Jason Schilling. 

Not all schools are able to do the exams online due to a lack of devices and/or internet access, and students have struggled with the technology, Schilling said. The ATA also has concerns about glitches experienced by the online program during exams. 

“Students should not have to be piloting a program while writing a high-stakes test,” Schilling said. “Teachers also have issues moving to the online platform because the format does not allow students to use all the strategies teachers use with students to be successful.”

Staff officer Terra Kaliszuk, a member of the ATA’s curriculum committee, thinks the delay is a wise decision because technical and accessibility problems have continued to surface during the optional implementation of Alberta’s digital assessment platform. 

“Teachers continue to report issues with the platform’s speech-to-text functionality, problems with tools embedded in the platform (such as dictionary and thesaurus tools that are not up-to-date), concerns with access to consistent and reliable Wi-Fi, and difficulty accessing a sufficient number of compatible devices to run the digital assessment platform,” Kaliszuk said.

Additionally, teachers have shared that students are experiencing additional stress as they navigate the technology itself, over and above the stress of completing an assessment. The digital assessment platform continues to contribute to student testing anxiety, as it has made the examination process more difficult for students to navigate. 

Kaliszuk maintains that until schools are equipped to implement this digital platform in a way that ensures that students can focus on their assessments rather than on technical problem solving, its implementation must be delayed. ❚