Every year, students write CAT in March. Schools may schedule at their convenience as long as the testing takes place during one specific week chosen by Principals and School Operations.
CAT testing with Grade 6 and Secondary III students has taken place in the Board since 2004.
About Standardized Testing
Most tests students write during the regular school year are not standardized. Tests created by classroom teachers form an important component of assessment, but they obviously vary from school to school and even within a school. At present, the Cree School Board participates in two distinct types of standardized tests; the compulsory MELS end-of-year exams and the Canadian Achievement Test - version 4 (CAT-4) tests.
Standardized tests usually take the form of a series of questions with multiple choice answers which can be filled out by thousands of test takers at once and quickly graded using scanning machines. The test is designed to measure test takers against each other and a standard, and standardized tests are used to assess progress in schools, ability to attend institutions of higher education, and to place students in programs suited to their abilities. Many parents and educators have criticized standardized testing, arguing that it is not a fair measure of the abilities of the test taker, and that standardized testing, especially high-stakes testing, should be minimized or abolished altogether.
There are some advantages to standardized tests. They are cheap, very quick to grade, and they allow analysts to look at a wide sample of individuals. For this reason, they are often used to measure the progress of a school or a Board, by comparing standardized test results with students from other schools or Boards. However, standardized tests are ultimately not a very good measure of individual student performance and intelligence, because the system is extremely simplistic. A standardized test can measure whether or not a student knows when the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement was written, for example, but it cannot determine whether or not the student has absorbed and thought about the larger issues surrounding the historical document.
When we think of standardized test, the Canadian Achievement Test or CAT test for short is the classic example.
CAT tests are primarily a skills-based commercially available series of achievement tests in Canada. The test specifications were drawn up in view of current Canadian curricula. The tests offer assessments in reading, language, writing, spelling and mathematics. The content of CAT-4 was designed to reflect Canadian society and values. All tests have been designed to be virtually free of bias with respect to ethnicity, age and gender.
How do CAT-4 help teachers, parents, and students?
- CAT results provide teachers with external scores to be compared with their own assessments.
- Teachers may compare their students' scores in various skill areas with those of other classes. They can compare their students' individual achievement with their scores in earlier grades. They can check how this year's class results compare with results from the same grade previously. They may also check for differences in performance on various skill areas, some of which they may have emphasized more than others.
- CAT results help parents by providing them with an independent measure of achievement to compare with their own and the school's assessments.
- CAT results will also help focus learning goals and improvement plans.
- CAT provides information on reading, mathematics, and language. These are areas of high priority for most people, but they are not the only important areas of academic achievement. In addition to academic achievement, there are other areas of development such as character, artistic expression, sports and life skills, to which parents give differing priorities.
- Careful examination of CAT results, particularly over time, helps parents understand two important things. They gain a better understanding of the problems which are worth worrying about. Secondly, they acquire a basis for setting reasonable academic goals for their children.
- CAT helps students by giving them an independent picture of their level of achievement in the basic skills.
- Young people often have a good understanding of themselves, their strengths and limitations. However, they also have blind spots. Some do not recognize abilities they have; others believe they are doing better than they really are.