Is standardized testing effective in Ontario? Let’s examine this.
The entire process for requiring testing in grades 3, 6, 9 and 10, in the areas of math and literacy, was legislated in Ontario in 1995. The premise was valid insofar as there were so many differing outcomes in schools across the province, in these areas particularly, that it wasn’t clear why. Different approaches to curriculum development? Inadequately trained teachers? Too much emphasis on other areas including extracurricular activities? The wisdom of the time seemed to be that some form of standardized testing and over a seven year span of the student would identify weaknesses and allow for targeted remedial work. However, with various provincial modifications over the past two decades, and publicizing the system results, it became an obsession in being the number one school or board. That is highlighted by the Fraser Institute, a respected educational think-tank, creating an annual “school report card”. The province used it as a bargaining chip with unions and as a threat of using the results to determine dedicated funding with school boards. The boards themselves were altering their strategic focus according to results. The teachers found themselves ‘teaching to the test’, a concerted effort to prepare the students to answer more correctly the expectations of the tests. Students and parents were drilled in the timing and pressure of EQAO (Education Quality and Accountability Office, sounding in itself to be a bit Orwellion or Big Brother-ish). You can appreciate that the teaching for the test, the testing schedule and the administrative emphasis before, during and the analysis afterwards is costly both in time and dollars. Further, it has to bite into time better served in teaching for the learner… not the province.
The downside of this process is: increased cost for teachers to have specialized training to address the testing; increased cost for boards to compensate teachers with these specialized skills; a reduction in class time in both elementary and secondary school to achieve other curriculum needs or focus on those learners that need extra help; and a loss of funding to established programming areas such as music and art that teach the discipline of learning to adapt to higher education.
It’s time to reconsider this entire process. We can’t have kids only capable of learning when this flawed system is in place. We have to put the system on a different track that meets the needs of the dedicated teaching staff and their charges from ages 5 -15.
We don’t want a bunch of monkeys graduating throughout Ontario, trained in EQAO but not necessarily life experiences or principles.