Testing 1…2…3

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 . . .

STANDARDIZED TESTING. 

love-taking-notes

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:

OSSLT 2016 Results

2016 Literacy Test (OSSLT) Results

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):

ontario-map

Locations of the four lower rating school boards that primarily represent schools and students in rural regions

  1. Algoma District: 34% for math, 68% for literacy
  2. James Bay Lowlands: 24% for math, 39% for literacy yes you read that right 
  3. Rainy River: 35% for math, 74% for literacy
  4. North-East Catholic: 24% for math, 52% for literacy
  5. Niagara: 43% for math, 83% for literacy
  6. Hamilton: 46% for math, 80% for literacy
  7. 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! 🙂

 

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6 thoughts on “Testing 1…2…3

  1. Hi Jillien! I realyl enjoyed reading your post. I am actually starting teacher’s college in september and I find the topic of offering alternative modes for standardized testing an interesting subject. I have also worked in school when there were testing, and it is quite a stressful environment for the kids, especially those that have problems academically. I agree that there should be alternative modes of evaluation because not everyone learns the same way, although I feel like it may difficult to grade on the same level when the test vary.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey!
    I agree. The testing can be greatly improved if the diversity of students is kept in mind when developing the EQAO tests as well as others. There are certain compulsory credits that students must take throughout their high school career, while others are not. A student may not be strong in the English field. However, they may excel at math or the arts. Unfortunately, they would be forced to take the English courses and when they fail the testing, it may diminish their sense of confidence in their “smarts”. As you said, EQAO testing will not be taken away but, there are other solutions. Perhaps a selection of subjects to test in so that the student can demonstrate their strengths in the area that they wish to pursue. The fact that all students are different needs to be taken into account when designing tests.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I still believe that English should be a mandatory credit, but I totally agree with your suggestion of students being given the option of which subject to test in! In fact, I never thought about the potential for standardized testing to transform in that manner, and I absolutely love it. Students really are all different!

      Like

  3. Wow!
    I like your post and I really enjoy the reading, even though it is so long, but it is interesting at the same time. And I can see you had put so much effort and work so hard for it. I like what you said at the end, about the loss of job opportunities if the government is going to remove EQAO, to improve the process rather remove it is a very smart way to do it. Hope this can happen because it can bring more hope to the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jillien – Your initial images are not especially profound, but they do make your overall subject clear. Your initial statement, however, is more ambiguous. The “politics of education” is an enormous subject to undertake. I suggest keeping your blog focused on a particular sub-topic under that larger umbrella. I wasn’t able to open your video. (And I’m assuming you mean JOHN Oliver, not “Jamie.” Two very different people.) The “chalkboard” look works well. Good use of images. You may want to engage more critically with some of your assumptions. e.g.: Which is more important – jobs or pedagogical integrity? Does it make sense to improve the EQAO if it’s not a proven asset in a student’s education? Just some things to consider.

    Mr. Matthews, Marker-Grader

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey!
    Being a student who was VERY uneven in her intellectual abilities I always founded the assessment aspect of learning to be tedious.
    I excelled in arts courses however classes such as math and science were an issue for me!
    I find that examining children in a uniformed manner is unfair because children are all individuals and very different from one another!
    Removing EQAO would be beneficial however they are not planning on doing this but changing up the assessment aspect could still help and possibly making teachers take it also, to assure that children are being taught correctly !

    Liked by 1 person

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