Contemporary Educational Psychology/Chapter 11: Standardized and Other Formal Assessments/International Testing
Testing in the Canadian Provinces
Canada has developed a system of testing in the provinces as well as national testing. Each province undertakes its own curriculum based assessments. At the elementary school level provinces assess reading and writing (language arts) as well as mathematics (also called numeracy). In the middle grades science and social studies is often assessed in addition to Language Arts and Mathematics. Summary results of these tests are published but there are no specific consequences for poor performance for schools. In addition, these tests are not high stakes for students. At the secondary school level high stakes curriculum based exit tests are common.
Canada has developed pan-Canada assessment programs in mathematics, reading and writing, and science that are administered to a random sample of schools across the country. These assessments are intended to determine whether, on average, students across Canada reach similar levels of performance at about the same age. They are not intended to provide individual feedback to students, and in this way are similar in purpose to the NAEP tests administered in the United States.
Along with the increasing globalization has come an interest with international comparisons in educational achievement and practices and more than 40 countries participate in two major testing initiatives. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) has assessed students in 4th and 8th grades three times since 1995, and will test again in 2007. The Programme for International Assessment (PISA). has assessed 15 year olds in reading, mathematical and science literacy in more than countries on three times since 2000. The items on both series of tests include multiple choice, short answer and constructed response formats and are translated into more than 30 languages.
Policy makers are often interested in the comparison of average students’ scores across countries. For example, in 8th grade Science on the 2003 TIMMS students from Canada, United States, Hong Kong, and Australia scored significantly higher than the international average whereas students from Egypt, Indonesia, and the Philippines scored significantly below the international average. On the mathematics test in the 2003 PISA, 15 year old students from Hong Kong-China and Finland scored higher than students from Canada and New Zealand who in turn scores higher than the students from United States and Spain, who in turn scored higher than the student from Mexico and Brazil (OECD, 2004).
Both series of tests also collect survey data from students, teachers or school principals allowing for information about instructional practices and student characteristics For example, teachers from the Philippines report spending almost twice as much time teaching science to 4th graders than in the United States (Martin, Mullis, Gonzalez, & Chrostowski, (2004). Student reports from PISA indicate that there is considerable cross-country variation in how much students feel anxiety when doing mathematics. Students in France, Italy, Japan, Korea report feeling the most anxious whereas students in Denmark, Finland and Netherlands and Sweden feel the least anxious (OECD 2004).
- Silver, E. (1998). Improving mathematics in middle school: Lessons from TIMMS and related research. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office.
- Lemke, M., Sen, A., Pahlke, E., Partelow, L., Miller, D., Williams, T., Kastberg, D., and Jocelyn, L. International Outcomes of Learning in Mathematics Literacy and Problem Solving: PISA 2003 Results From the U.S. Perspective. Education Statistics Quarterly, 6(4)
- Silver, E. (1998). Improving mathematics in middle school: Lessons from TIMMS and related research. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office
- (OECD 2004). Learning for Tomorrow's World – First Results from PISA 2003. Accessed on September 23, 2006 from 
- Martin, M.O., Mullis, I.V.S., Gonzalez, E.J., & Chrostowski, S.J. (2004). Findings From IEA’s Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study at the Fourth and Eighth Grades Chestnut Hill, MA: TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center, Boston College. Accessed September 23, 2006 from 
- (OECD 2004). Learning for Tomorrow's World – First Results from PISA 2003. Accessed on September 23, 2006 from