Late April and early May is a festive time in Ontario’s elementary schools. The whiff of EQAO is in the air (did you get your EQAO tree yet?).

At our recent PD day we had teachers attend workshops to learn how best to administer the test and prepare their students. The rest of us circled the test days in our calendar and were asked to be aware of the serious business afoot. Soon grade 3 & 6 teachers will be stripping classroom walls of student created anchor charts, so that students don’t cheat by looking something up.

Despite the message that no special preparation is needed for EQAO, boards require teachers to administer practice tests and offer after-school ‘booster’ clubs to help students improve their EQAO scores. The official position is that the tests aren’t evaluative, but practice suggests otherwise.

Educators trying to improve EQAO scores might need assistance. Being a helpful sort I scoured the profiles of the top 15 EQAO schools to discover their Score Boosting Secrets!!!

Before sharing, two disclaimers:

  • EQAO doesn’t publish school rankings. They oppose it and claim it is harmful, but still make test data publicly available so that others can rank schools. These are also the tactics of The National Rifle Association, cigarette companies and fast food restaurants. Like EQAO they claim that the harmful effects of their products aren’t their fault, but caused by how people use them. Luckily, the folks at The Fraser Institute produce annual school rankings based on EQAO scores, and it’s their data I used for this analysis.
  • This is not, in any way, a scientific analysis. I am using grade 5 math skills and a little time, not deep data mining. Someone else is welcome to do that.

Here are the surefire ways to improve your school’s EQAO scores from the top 15 EQAO schools:

  • Move To Toronto: Hogtown is home to 60% (9/15) of the top 15 EQAO schools but only 20% of Ontario’s schools. That’s a huge over-achievement. The only non-GTA communities in the top 15 are St Catherines, Sudbury, Guelph and Arnprior. It might be the CN Tower, the excellent public transit, or the fine work of Mayor Rob Ford, but learning in Toronto certainly elevates EQAO scores.
  • Privatize: Independent schools serve just 6% of Ontario students but 20% of the top 15 EQAO schools (3/15) are independent, fee charging schools. Privatizing your school not only improves EQAO scores, but more money means no more teacher griping about having to bring supplies from home. Win-win.
  • Get Rich Quick: Schools teaching students from higher income families score higher on EQAO. The average annual family income of the top 15 EQAO schools is $112, 908.33, almost double the average annual family income in Ontario ($65,500 in 2010). Schools can attract students from high income families with simple strategies such as school uniforms (think grey blazers), a gluten free snack program or changing the school name to something with “Academy” in it. Planting ivy in the front garden won’t hurt.
  • No Specials: Getting rid of special education students boosts EQAO scores. The top 15 EQAO schools average 11.12% special education students, while the provincial average is 19%, almost double. Apply some of the new income from privatization to paying special education students to transfer to neighbouring schools. This will lower your competitors scores, making you look even better.
  • Speak English: The top 15 EQAO schools have only 3% of students that are English Language Learners, less than half of the provincial average of 7%. Surprising given the large number of top 15 schools in the GTA, where the ELL population is reported to be well above the provincial average. Remember this when relocating to Toronto. Location, location, location.

Summary: To transform your school’s EQAO scores become a private school, located in Toronto, with mostly native English speaking students from high income families. Deny admission to special education students.

Related Findings:

  • Faith based instruction doesn’t affect EQAO scores. A third of Ontario schools are faith based and the same proportion are represented in the top 15 EQAO schools.
  • The next 15 schools in the rankings show an even greater GTA bias (13/15). Could it be the sweet waters of Lake Ontario? Further research required.
  • The bottom 15 schools in the Fraser Institute rankings show the following:
    • None are from Toronto and none are private schools
    • About half (7/15) are in First Nations, fly-in communities in Northern Ontario.
    • The seven First Nations schools don’t report family income, but the remaining eight schools in the bottom 15 have an average annual family income of $41,775, almost half the average Ontario annual family income.