Building Better Schools

Website: buildingbetterschools.ca/priorities

More Meaningful Student Assessment and Learning
EQAO-Driven Education Ontario must move beyond its current standardized assessment regime. The testing administered by the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) has been in place since 1998. Changes have been made to reduce the length of the tests and schedule them later in the school year. But we still test every grade 3 and 6 student. Teachers still teach to the test and the time devoted to EQAO-related data collection has increased. EQAO test results are being misused by real estate agents and organizations like the Fraser Institute to rank schools and neighbourhoods, and by the government’s on-line School Information Finder to compare schools. This is socially divisive and a misuse of the results.

It is time to move beyond the test-driven focus of EQAO assessments and define broader measures of school success. The fifteen-year narrow focus on literacy and numeracy and on student performance on EQAO assessments has led to system fatigue. Educators – from classroom teachers to superintendents – are stressed. And so are students. It is not only staff who are calling for fundamental changes. Ontario-based education experts advocate for a new vision for education, one that is not focused on standardized test results. Their vision is based on creating supportive and collaborative school cultures where educators have greater professional autonomy regarding their classroom practice, curriculum, and assessment strategies.

There are alternatives to Ontario’s testing regime. Finland, a top-performing nation on international assessments, uses random sample tests to occasionally check if its curriculum and teaching approaches are appropriate. The international tests conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) are random sample tests. Ontario should adopt the same approach.

In the end, the most effective assessment of student progress is the assessment that teachers do every day in the classroom. Teachers strive to balance their instruction with assessment that provides students with immediate feedback about their own progress and helps them to work more productively on their own and with other students. Teachers use ongoing assessment to reflect on their teaching, improve their teaching strategies, and respond to individual student needs. If the government is truly interested in improving the levels of student success, it should put its focus on supporting teachers’ skills in ongoing classroom assessment rather than on the EQAO tests.

Recommendations

  • Adopt a random-sample model to measure the appropriateness of the Ontario curriculum and the effectiveness of teaching strategies.
  • Place more emphasis on the role of ongoing teacher assessment of student progress.

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