In 2013 The Ontario Public School Boards Association (OPSBA) made it a priority to develop a position paper on EQAO testing in response to Provincial Policy Memorandum 155 and the position paper of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF). A survey was distributed to trustees and senior staff of all the member boards and based on that some recommendations about EQAO were developed. The OPSBA discussion paper: “EQAO and Large Scale Testing In Ontario” was released to this public on December 12, 2016.

The paper has three main sections. The survey results, the recommendations and “Key Themes” from the survey,

Here are some highlights:

The Survey

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Perhaps the most stunning finding of the survey is right up front. The survey found that 76.7% of OPSBA Trustees and senior staff want to either eliminate EQAO or agree that changes are required. Putting that in EQAO parlance only 23.3% of those OPSBA surveyed found EQAO to be at or above the provincial standard.

Recommendations

There are seven main recommendations:

  1. Equity & Accessibility: Work to remove cultural biases and make the test more accessible to students with IEPs.
  2. Technology & High Order Thinking Skills: Accelerate the use of technology in testing and have fewer multiple choice questions. Make the test more like the kind of learning that happens in the classroom.
  3. OSSLT: Allow students to go directly to the OSSLT remedial course without failing the test first. Make the OSSLT writing activities more like the writing students regularly do (collaboration, peer editing, etc.)
  4. Diagnostic Assessment: EQAO isn’t the same as a diagnostic test and shouldn’t be used that way.
  5. Student Well-Being: There was some suggestion in the Ministry’s Well-Being Strategy document that EQAO would develop a measure of student well-being. OPSBA doesn’t support this.screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-8-04-49-pm
  6. Overhaul how EQAO Shares Information With The Public:
    1. Clarify that EQAO data is limited in scope and has a narrow, specific purpose.
    2. EQAO should fit into school routines, and shouldn’t be a source of stress.
    3. Find a way of sharing data that prevents ranking schools.
  7. Use of Randomized Testing: The Ministry should examine whether randomized testing could effectively replace EQAO’s current Large Scale Testing model.

Reflections

Overall this is a very exciting document. It’s wonderful to have OPSBA confirm and agree what many vocal critics of EQAO testing have been saying. It seems that the tide on standardized testing is truly starting to turn and it’s great to see OPSBA also calling for significant reforms along with Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves.

  • The failure of the OSSLT trial earlier this year has left many questions about EQAO’s ability to successfully manage this transition. EQAO needs to pull back from integrating technology into their testing and develop a more effective approach. Technological failures are further undermining confidence in their competence.
  • The hand wringing about Ontario students and their math scores continues. There’s every reason to wonder if part of the drop in student’s math scores is related to EQAO tests not effectively measuring the kind of math learning students are doing. Standardized tests are good at measuring procedural math but not very good at assessing mathematical thinking. Having EQAO more closely reflect classroom learning may well help with this discrepancy.
  •  The notion that EQAO would develop a Student Well-Being measure is disturbing. Students need less testing, not more. One of the most effective ways of enhancing student well-being would be to eliminate EQAO completely, so eliminating the associated stress for students.
  • It’s great to see OPSBA agree that EQAO must take steps to prevent the harmful misuse assessment data by other groups. EQAO’s stance has been to condemn the practice but to take no steps to prevent it. OPSBA recommends that they start to do that. How about collecting school specific data but not releasing it publicly? EQAO can still fulfill its mandate by publicly releasing results for the school board without stigmatizing low scoring schools.
  • I first heard Dr Joel Westheimer suggest that EQAO could move to randomized testing and get equally reliable data on student achievement. Doing so would also de-emphasize the number of students affected and the stress caused by EQAO. Schools wouldn’t know who was being tested, so no need for a lot of teaching to the test. Great to see that OPSBA agrees.