Hello! Welcome to my first blog post!
Because I am creating this blog with a focus on the conversations surrounding the politics of education – mainly the curriculum and various responses to such changes – I figured I would start with a topic known and discussed by nearly every student . . .
As a student in the Concurrent Education program at Brock University, the ‘talk’ around standardized tests (i.e. Education Quality and Accountability Office Tests) in my own education courses center on an analysis of these tests based on their ability to serve as valid and fair modes of assessment. This same discussion is taking place all across North America; talk show host John Olivier even humorously tackles this topic on his “Last Week Tonight” channel.
Now enough monkeying around! That was an added joke for anyone who watched Oliver’s video. Although Olivier is referring to standardized tests in America, the stress and uncertainty that coincides with these tests is much the same in Canada. In fact, here are the results for the 2016 Literacy Test:
Academic classes: 92% success rate
Applied classes: 47% success – the fail rate is GREATER than the success rate!
It is my understanding that streams of education are designed to best accommodate students according to their strengths and weaknesses. If there is a greater failure rate in these applied level classrooms, however, how are the tests considered accommodating? How are these tests ACCOUNTABLE, (the ‘A” in EQAO) for the quality of education at the applied level stream if the results deem more than half of their scores – their level of intellect – as BELOW PAR?
Timothy King, an Ontario high school teacher and blogger, writes about the issues associated with EQAO testing from a teaching perspective. In his blog post “You Can’t Cancel the Redundancy!“, King uses EQAO tests as an example for the way in which the education system is in dire need of reform; millions of dollars are spent on the literacy test “to tell the ones who are already failing English that they can’t read or write very well” (King).
King is right, and the scores show it all. With students at the applied level performing significantly worse than the academic level, many students might feel ashamed and lack confidence in their potential to pursue academic streams in the future. Now, I do not mean to offend anyone who pursued courses at the applied level; I am simply trying to enforce the fact that the preparation taking place at this classroom level needs to STEP UP ITS GAME: if the EQAO tests are “in keeping with the principles for fair student assessment practices” (EQAO Ontario), then these tests should be modified to suit various intellects in an equitable fashion.
Introducing verbal or practical components to these tests, or even providing these components as alternative testing options, can allow students at lower academic levels with strengths apart from reading and writing to similarly SHINE. For example, students could listen to the stories and questions out loud or be assigned creative activities (i.e. developing a board game) rather than merely long answer questions to test a student’s critical thinking and application skills. While the marking scheme might be more challenging for tests that are not scantron, having a universal rubric or marking scheme could provide the same ‘standardization’ that the EQAO requires in order to serve efficiently.
SOOOO much can be said about how these tests are implemented, but I also want to take time to highlight another factor that seems to be affecting the scores from many writers: living in a rural environment. Here are the results for the 2016 grade 9 math and grade 10 literacy test, based on school board: provincial-report-secondary-school-board-results-2016
But to save you from rummaging through pages of data, here’s what I found important:
The results for school boards in rural regions of Northern Ontario are profoundly lower than the results for school boards in urban regions.
Look at these examples (percentages indicating the pass rate):
- Algoma District: 34% for math, 68% for literacy
- James Bay Lowlands: 24% for math, 39% for literacy – yes you read that right
- Rainy River: 35% for math, 74% for literacy
- North-East Catholic: 24% for math, 52% for literacy
- Niagara: 43% for math, 83% for literacy
- Hamilton: 46% for math, 80% for literacy
- Toronto: 32% for math, 81% for literacy
Of course keep in mind that I picked out these myself, but I simply wanted to highlight the scores of some rural regions in relation to well-known urban regions.
My whole point in sharing these results is to highlight the fact that there is indeed inconsistency in regards to how these tests accurately measure statistics. While King suggests that students with varying academic levels remain in these categories by not being fairly accounted for, I am suggesting that the unequal accountability also extends to students in rural regions. With test scores significantly lower in these areas, the solution is clear: more resources need to be in place for students in rural regions, particularly in Northern Ontario. And guess what. I have evidence showing that change to student education in rural areas is possible!
Quinte Secondary School: located in Belleville BUT occupied by students living in rural communities. Teachers wanted to find a way to improve student success (i.e grades), and decided to give students a say in their daily schedules. By giving students control in the time typically deemed as uncontrollable, these students became ENGAGED in their school days and were thus MOTIVATED TO SUCCEED.
Not every solution requires funding folks.
And finally, I just want to be clear: I am NOT writing with a wish that these tests should not exist, because frankly, I think the chances of ever removing these tests are slim to none; honestly, think about how many JOBS would be lost if the ministry of education would remove the EQAO! Rather, I want to consider how these tests can be IMPROVED! Like anything else being used by the public, these tests require MODIFICATION in order to appropriately reach and reflect the talents and intellect of our diverse student population in Ontario.
Thanks for reading! 🙂