A provincial achievement test (PAT) leak has been circulating on social media, but it likely won't affect whether some school divisions use the test results, according to one local school board.
Cathy Giesbrecht, the assistant superintendent of learning services for Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools (GSACRD), said Friday a student leak is unlikely, and that the breach won't impact the district's use of most PAT results.
“We have no reason to believe that any of our students created any of these posts. But we know that they've been fairly widely circulated. We have reason to believe that our students have seen them,” she said.
On June 24, the province confirmed with The Gazette it is investigating the circulation on social media of some alleged answers for the PAT.
Alberta students have been using TikTok to share Scantron (a type of standardized testing methodology) answers for the PAT, the province confirmed.
Katherine Stavropoulos, press secretary for the education minister, said in an email the ministry was aware the Grade 9 Math (Part A) had been impacted.
“The department is aware of other photos circulating online [such as English] and that these potential breaches will also be investigated,” said Stavropoulos.
The education ministry advised school authorities of the incident on June 18 and asked that schools reinforce requirements related to provincial achievement test administration security, she said.
Stavropoulos said the ministry reminded school authorities to exercise due diligence in supervising the remaining PATs. Students wrote the final PAT on June 24.
“As the investigation is ongoing, the department will not release more information on the potential breach at this time,” she said.
Giesbrecht said since GSACRD has been aware of the leak, exam supervisors have been additionally vigilant.
GSACRD intends to use the tests as final assessment for students despite the breach.
“If [principals and exam supervisors] feel that the tests were valid, they will absolutely count them as they would normally do. If they noticed any irregularities, they would inform me and handle them, you know, depending on what the breach would have been,” she said.
Although school boards are not obligated to use PAT exams as final tests, Giesbrecht, said they do at GSACRD.
“We do because otherwise the students would have other ones … you need to have a final assessment,” she said.
Alberta Education also uses the assessments to provide data to school divisions.
“I guess it remains to be seen if they feel that it was how it impacted their data,” said Giesbrecht.
According to the province, PATs are administered annually to all Alberta students in Grades 6 and 9.
They are standardized tests made to reflect the knowledge Alberta students are expected to achieve, regardless of school of choice or location.
The province said PATs are only one of many ways to evaluate student learning and are not meant to replace day-to-day teacher observations and classroom assessment.
Giesbrecht said she isn’t concerned about Grade 12 diploma exams.
“Diploma exams have a different level of security in that they are all administered at the same time on the same days, province wide. There's no potential for that kind of breach,” she said.
Whether the province will increase the level of security for PATs to mimic the process for diploma exams remains to be seen.
Giesbrecht said that decision is not a divisional decision but a provincial one. She is confident the province will review the breach and make the necessary changes.
A media contact for St. Albert Public Schools said they had not heard anything about the leak, but would get back to The Gazette. The Gazette has not yet received further response from St. Albert Public Schools.
What was shared on social media and whether or not the posts are valid is yet to be determined.
“The tests themselves were not shared. It was a list of answers, whether those answers are correct or not,” said Giesbrecht.