“The Power of Ontario’s Provincial Testing Program”: My Initial Response

We're not writing EQAO this year!!! Hooray!!!

The culture and attitude towards standardized testing is shifting, in society in general and in education and parenting circles especially. The US movement for parents to ‘opt out’ of standardized testing for their children is one example.
Other Examples:
The good folks down at EQAO poked their nose into the wind, sniffed and decided they needed to get the word out that testing is good and great and have produced “The Power of Ontario’s Provincial Testing Program” a glossy 22 page book designed to inform the public how EQAO tests “…contribute to public accountability and to the continuous improvement on the part of every student in Ontario’s publicly funded education system”.
I had a chance to look through it today and here are my first reactions:
  • The case is repeatedly made that many educators use EQAO data in planning, so therefore it’s useful and necessary. The point that’s not mentioned is that we use the data because we are required to. Every year we are mandated to sit down and review last year’s data and discuss what we can do to move scores higher. It’s isn’t a choice. If you ask simply “do you use the data” the answer will be ‘yes’. Try asking a few deeper questions such as “do you want to use the data? do you think it’s reliable?” You may get a less biased view.
  • This also doesn’t account for the fact that educators try to protect their students from the impact of EQAO tests. Teachers are working hard  to make sure students come out of this year’s EQAO tests with their self-esteem in tact. That’s another reason educators use EQAO testing in our planning, in an effort to protect students. If students HAVE to write the tests we’ll do our best to prepare them because we are professionals, but that doesn’t mean we think it’s a good thing.
  • Apparently a 2009 Auditor General’s report found that EQAO tests “…are consistent in difficulty from year to year”. Maybe the AG doesn’t remember, but when grade 3&6 testing started it took FIVE FULL DAYS but is now just three part days. That doesn’t sound consistent to me. Anecdotally, teachers think the test changes annually and that standards are lowered to make the numbers look good.
  • “results are valid, consistent and reliable indicators of students achievement’- Don’t agree. Every year some the student results I see are not consistent with the student achievement in the classroom. Some students do much better and others much worse than what they show in class. Some students are good at pencil and paper tests and others aren’t. That’s why we use a variety of methods to evaluate learning, unlike EQAO. What’s more reliable, a year of in class observation and assessment or a three day snapshot?
  • Sixteen pictures of happy smiling children are scattered throughout the report. We have kids looking at globes, writing on blackboards, sharing jokes with teachers, etc. Only two of the pictures show kids that might be writing EQAO. Even the art director knew that writing a test isn’t fun.
  • EQAO touts the fact that it only costs $17/student/year to conduct the test. That’s the equivalent of about $500 for each and every class or an iPad per class if you want. I think an iPad in every classroom every day, all year will improve student learning more than three days of testing for those few students in the testing grades.
  • The report says “Unfortunately, the availability of the data they yield has led some groups to place distorted value on the results or to use them to rank school performance and make judgments about overall school quality. ” I think that’s firmly aimed in the direction of The Fraser Institute and their annual rankings of schools. I’m glad the EQAO doesn’t approve of this but the statement rings hollow. As my grandfather used to say, “If you sleep with the dogs, you’ll wake up with fleas”.

One thought on ““The Power of Ontario’s Provincial Testing Program”: My Initial Response

  1. Hey Andrew!
    This is a perfect reflection of the EQAO’s paper “The Power of Ontario’s Provincial Testing Program”. I’m hopeful that our education Premier will open his eyes and ears to what is happening in many different jurisdictions around the globe. Failing that, maybe there will be another election soon – the NDP wants to scrap EQAO, I think.

    When they distributed the booklet at the last EQAO meeting, I was floored. It looks almost like ours, roughly the same length, but on much more expensive paper.

    Thanks for your thoughts on this, Andrew!

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