There are significant problems with the premise and application of the annual Education Quality & Accountability Office (EQAO) tests. I’ve discussed the history of EQAO and my concerns in a previous post and there are many more teacher and parent concerns raised on this blog post.

The Texas anti-testing movement has gathered momentum  and spread to Seattle and other jurisdictions. There has also developed a grassroots “Opt Out” movement where parents withdraw their children from school during standardized testing.

Ontario parents want to know if and how they can withdraw their children from writing the EQAO test. Some parents feel that the stress and anxiety of EQAO is too much for their child, while others disagree with the standardized testing of children.

Parents experience a variety of responses to their requests to ‘opt out’. Official statements are few and how strictly regulations are enforced varies. Some principals use the full extent of the regulations in pursuit of the highest possible EQAO scores while others are more supportive of accommodations and options.

EQAO Regulations

  • This is more clearly restated in the EQAO document  “EQAO TESTS IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: A Guide for Parents” (2011): “All students who attend publicly funded schools in Ontario and who follow The Ontario Curriculum are expected to participate in EQAO’s provincial assessments. “
  • The FAQ on the EQAO website (question 5 under General Questions) uses stronger language saying “…all students in publicly funded schools must participate in these tests”.

Can Students Still Opt Out?

Listed below are methods used by parents who, in spite of the act, don’t want their children writing the EQAO test. Which tactics are most effective depends on the needs of the child and relationships with administrators and teachers.

Parents may find administrators more supportive of their decision to withdraw their child from EQAO if they inform them in writing. Administrators can use this to demonstrate that an empty test booklet is due to parent choice, not their lack of diligence.

  1. Exemptions: Parents have successfully argued that their child is unable to participate, even with accommodations, due to the stress and anxiety caused by the test, and in response principals have exempted students (“exemptions clause” page 13). Having the  accommodations required by the child listed in an IEP prior to any discussion may be helpful.
  2. Alternate Program: Parents negotiated an alternate program for their child during testing, after notifying the school that they were withdrawing their child from EQAO. A student might spend the day helping in a primary class, for example. This arrangement is only feasible if a small number of students in one school are withdrawing.
  3. Absence: Students can be absent during testing for a variety of reasons and EQAO allows for that (acceptable reasons for excused absences in Ontario schools can be found here). Some parents keep children at home on test days and report their children as absent due to “… sickness or other unavoidable cause”. They provide alternate learning activities or join with groups of parents to share child care. Notifying the principal and teacher in advance is advised.
  4. Family Vacation: EQAO states “If your child is absent on the day(s) the test is administered, the school can make arrangements to have your child write the test when he or she returns, but only if that happens within the specified two-week test period.” (answer to question 8 in general questions). Some administrators enforce this and notify parents that for students to avoid EQAO testing they must be absent for the entire two week testing period. Some parents schedule family vacations during this time. Ask at your child’s school what policies and procedures there are around family vacations during the school year.
  5. Disobedience: There are examples of families exercising disobedience through the EQAO test. One parent notified the school that their child will not be writing EQAO. The child will attend school but has been instructed by the parent, and understands and agrees, not to participate in the test. The test will be presented to the child but the child will not attempt it. They will read, draw, daydream, etc. while the other students write the test.

If there are other solutions or problems let me know through the comments or @acampbell99 and I’ll try and keep this post up to date with the latest ideas.

Much thanks to Sheila Stewart for her feedback and support with this post.