Alberta Education is investigating social media leaks of provincial test answers | Rare Techy


Alberta Education is investigating the results of provincial achievement tests (PATs) that were allegedly leaked to social media, prompting at least one school to cancel the tests.

Education Press Secretary Catherine Stavpoulos said the ministry notified schools of the Grade 9 math answers that will be released on June 18. “The school authorities are reminded to pay attention to the supervision of the remaining PATs.”

“Findings from this investigation may have implications for future administrations and help reduce the likelihood of such a breach occurring again,” she said in an emailed statement Friday.

The ministry is aware of other photos and other matters circulating online and will investigate them.

PATs — standardized tests administered annually to reflect what students are expected to learn — were written across the province between June 13 and June 24.

The exams were suspended for the 2019-2020 academic year, and only language arts and math were available as an option for 2020-2021.

Stavpoulos said schools began having the option to write the PAT at different times during the 2018-2019 school year. A quarter of schools ask to write on alternate dates because of local events, transportation and other issues.

“The window is a way to give flexibility to school officials,” she said.

PATs are cancelled

Sandra Borosky, spokeswoman for Calgary Catholic Schools, said in an email that the division learned the breach extended beyond the first part of the math PATs to other tests.

said St. Martin de Porres School in Airdrie, Alta. Since the school operates on a quarter schedule with writing dates after June 24, “this could result in a more widespread security breach that calls into question the validity of Grade 9 PAT results.”

Grade 9 students there are given an alternate optional final assessment, Borowski said.

Edmonton Public Schools said last week it was looking into the matter. The Calgary Board of Education said it is aware of a breach and is working with Alberta Education. The Edmonton Catholic School Board said communication with the province is ongoing, but it has not canceled any PATs.

A search for “Alberta PAT Answers” on TikTok shows many videos with thousands of views to reveal multiple-choice answers for science and social studies.

‘They should be repealed’

Sarah Elaine Eaton, an associate professor at the University of Calgary who studies copying and academic misconduct, said it’s natural for test-takers to check whether these answer keys are correct or not.

“It’s human nature to be tempted, especially if we don’t cheat, or if we don’t look at those answers, to think that others have an advantage over us,” Eaton said.

Eaton said the PATs were compromised, making the results no longer valid and reliable. What should happen next should be straightforward – they should be annulled, she said.

“There’s no way you can put the toothpaste back in the tube if you want to,” she said.

Eaton said many answers have been leaked online over the past several years. including the Ontario Bar Exams.

“I’ve heard about it in other jurisdictions, and it’s not really that unusual, so it calls into question standardized tests as an effective way for students to show their knowledge,” she said.

Possible safety measures include making sure devices are turned off, conducting hands-on tests with pencil and paper, and taking exams at the same time, she said.


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