Moving forward with Student Learning Assessments

Last week, Holy Spirit decided to participate in the Student Learning Assessment pilot. The choice of all or none implementation was certainly not preferred but in discussing with many of our administrators and grade 3 teachers who participated last year, ALL was better than NONE! Enclosed is the message sent to all of our grade 3 teachers by our Director of Learning, indicating our participation. It provides our rationale and our steps to support this work.

Over the past number of years, Holy Spirit Catholic School Division has actively embraced innovation in teaching, learning and assessment. Guided by “Inspiring Education,” the Ministerial Order on Student Learning, and what we know to be in our students’ best interests, we were quick to walk away from Grade Three Provincial Achievement Testing and commit to piloting the Student Learning Assessment (SLA) in September 2014. In our quest to find better ways to assess all students, work was begun last year for each of our grade levels to create common assessments for Literacy and Numeracy to be used throughout our school division. Grade three teachers, at that time, chose to focus on the SLAs rather than create an additional assessment for Holy Spirit.

Through participation in the 2014 Grade 3 SLAs, our students and teachers were able to be part of creating a better way to assess student learning and use data to inform instruction. Although there were many challenges that came along with the 2014 iteration of Grade Three SLAs, as a school division, we were able to pull together to provide additional supports for our teachers including time set aside to collaboratively and individually score the Performance Task portion of the SLAs. At our subsequent Grade level meetings, additional effort was given to providing important feedback to Alberta Education for improving the assessment and its process.

In planning for the September 2015 administration of SLAs, Alberta Education has responded to many of our concerns. Some of the improvements this year include:

  • The SLA Teacher Dashboard was opened on September 1, allowing two full weeks for teachers to access teacher and student materials in preparation for the Assessment scheduled to begin on September 14. This includes full access to all of the assessment components for teacher preview. The SLA Teacher Dashboard has been expanded to provide access to school and division leaders. This added access will enhance the ability of leaders to provide any additional support that teachers may need with the dashboard.
  • Additional implementation supports are available through open access to SLA3 practice questions, released questions from the 2014 pilot and sample performance tasks.
  • Professional Learning Opportunities for teachers have been increased both before and after administration of the SLAs. Numerous sessions are being offered in Southern Alberta by SAPDC, including one on September 9, 2015 specifically for Holy Spirit Teachers. We will, once again host a collaborative marking day for teachers as well as additional time for marking as needed by teachers. SAPDC will offer sessions in collaboration with Alberta Education to assist teachers in analysing the digitally scored data reports once they become available. Substitute teacher costs for these professional learning opportunities will be covered through Holy Spirit Catholic Schools Learning Services.
  • Information from Alberta Education assures us that the Performance Assessment component of the SLA has been significantly streamlined and the accompanying material simplified. This includes a simplified administration guide, shorter exemplars and simplified scoring rubrics. It is anticipated that the time required to administer and mark the performance tasks will be reduced by at least half.
  • The time lines for the administration have been increased to 4 weeks for the Digital Literacy and Numeracy components and 7 weeks for the Literacy and Numeracy Performance Assessments.
  • There have been significant improvements to the Individual Student and Class Reports.

Alberta Education identifies the purposes of the SLAs to be to improve student learning (primary purpose), to enhance instruction for students and to assure Albertans the education system is meeting the needs of students and achieves the outcomes of the Ministerial Order on Student Learning. During the 2015 administration, there will be no school level, division level or public reporting of student results. The emphasis for this pilot year once again, is on improving the assessment instrument and the process of administering it. Teacher feedback will be vital to continuing to improve the Grade 3 Student Learning Assessment.

Since the SLA announcement from the Minister of Education, our Superintendent, Chris Smeaton has been working with the department to seek alternatives to all or none implementation. Unfortunately, his request to have a sampling throughout our division, which is well supported by Hargreaves and Shirley, has been denied. Given that, we believe that to opt out entirely would be a missed opportunity for our division. Therefore, Holy Spirit Catholic Schools will participate in this pilot and supports earlier mentioned will be provided to assist you in your work.

I am looking forward to seeing you all on Wednesday, September 98:30-11:30am at St. Basil’s Catholic Education Centre for our 2015 SLA3 Orientation Session with SAPDC.

Please pre-register at:

Should you have any further questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for your continued dedication to our students!


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