Is testing what is needed to get teachers to work harder?: Checking out Ontario’s Progress Report on Education

July 5, 2011 at 8:08 am
filed under Report Cards, Testing

So…I received an interesting email message yesterday from the Ontario Premier’s office:

Hello,

My name is Grahame Rivers. I’m the social media coordinator in the Ontario Premier’s Office. I wanted to let you know that Ontario has released it’s progress report on education.

Based on the family focus of your blog, I thought this might be helpful information to provide your readers.

Ontario schools have smaller class sizes, higher test scores, talented teachers, and more students graduating and going on to college, university or apprenticeship programs. Based on international test scores and evaluation, Ontario has one of the top 10 education systems in the world.

This information has been pulled together in a web-friendly format and can be found here: http://bit.ly/mLFvFx and a video can be found here: http://bit.ly/leZcLy

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you,

Grahame

Grahame Rivers
Social Media Coordinator
Office of the Premier of Ontario
d. 416 325 1807
c. 416 562 4516
www.twitter.com/riversgr

And so I clicked through and checked out the progress report. According to the data it has released, it seems to be true. Numbers seem to be going up (or down, depending on the desired direction) in all the right areas.

I’ve had a little under a year’s experience in the Ontario public school system, at a rural school in Eastern Ontario. One thing I can certainly attest to is that the teachers in this school are amongst the hardest working teachers I’ve met. They are held, and hold themselves, accountable for the learning that goes on in their classrooms and in those of their colleagues. Learning is shared, planned for, and reflected on. Both within the classrooms and within the staff room, learning is deliberate.

And then there’s EQAO (Education Quality and Accountability Office) – that’s the ‘higher test scores’ the province is so proud of. I’ve heard Grade 3 and 6 teachers talk about EQAO testing as this anomaly in their teaching year. It’s like there’s teaching and learning and then there’s EQAO. Teachers are under pressure to improve test scores but not help their students succeed on the test. Students in all testing grades (3, 6, 9, & 10) are stressed about it. Looking at what that really means shows us stressed out 8 year olds. ETFO (Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario) has called for a moratorium on the testing. The following is from the ETFO website, as part of their official stance on the EQAO testing:

EQAO’s most recent annual report indicates expenses of $33 million in 2009-10. A further $77 million is spent by the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat designing and mandating programs designed to improve test scores. And individual boards spend more. Think about what that money could do if it were spent on education instead…

Sobering, isn’t it. That’s over 100 million dollars directed towards testing.

Teachers hate testing because it takes away from the ‘real stuff’ of teaching. I hate standardised testing because I like to craft what happens in my classroom based on the people in the room and not an arbitrary test. BUT. Numbers are rising. There are more graduates. More literate students. Because of this goal to raise test scores, teachers are collaborating to improve literacy and numeracy skills.

Is all of this worth teacher and student stress?

Is there a way to improve literacy and numeracy without the EQAO testing pressure?

or…

Is testing the thing that is needed to get teachers to work harder?

 

5 comments

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  1. Caroline Fortin

    on July 5, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    Tu réflètes très bien, dans ton analyse et tes commentaires, ma propre pensée sur ce qui se passe dans mon école et dans ma classe!!!
    Loved reading your words!
    Merci! :)

  2. Tracy

    on July 5, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    Merci pour ta commentaire, Caroline!
    I’m glad I captured your thoughts in my refection. It’s an uncomfortable subject for me. Standardised testing has always been taboo for me but I need to reconcile it with the results it has on the school system in Ontario…
    Still thinking about it!

  3. Lindsey Wright

    on July 6, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    Tracy,

    Sorry to leave an unrelated comment, but I couldn’t find any contact info for you on the blog, and I wanted to ask about a possible guest post. Please drop me an e-mail!

    Thanks,

    Lindsey

  4. Sharon Stanton

    on July 7, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    You know, I think teachers work very hard. It is a time and life consuming job. It is often thankless and teacher’s professional judgements are continuously questioned by the board, the principal, the parents and even the students. While I believe accountability is important, I don’t believe parents have the final say as to whether a student passes or fails the year. Of course, EQAO scores are up, teachers are provided with sample books that are sent home with sample questions. My daughter has rarely had a Science class because the focus is on Reading, Writing and Math (because of EQAO). When I voiced my concerns about that to administration, I was told that “now that she is finished with EQAO, the grade 7 teachers have decided to focus on Science”…Really? Gee, how nice for her. What about Grade 4 and 5….oops, nope sorry, focus was still on EQAO. I think if the ministry wants to do any testing, then it should be in the form of provincial exams administered in June, then sent away to be marked and THAT mark be averaged out with the teacher’s mark to determine a pass or fail. Too many kids are given IEPs when really, they are just disrespectful or have a poor work ethic…because of the IEP they get many accomodations..In closing, I guess I don’t like EQAO….It’s hard to get low marks on something you’ve practiced for years. I think the data is biased……especially when the National reported a few years ago that university professors were saying that if things continue the way they have, a 4 year degree will be equivalent to a high school diploma.

  5. Tracy

    on July 9, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Sharon, welcome to Leading from the Heart!

    You bring up a point that I hear over and over again – teachers are under pressure for the children in their classroom to perform well on the EQAO tests so regular classroom learning is trumped for EQAO prep (prep that isn’t supposed to be happening, remember!) even though those tests have no bearing on what is reported on in your child’s report card.

    In Quebec there are provincial exams in June that are averaged with the class mark. Not sure that is all that accurate either – testing situations can do funny things to students. One of my star history students from a few years ago failed the course because he got so nervous while doing the test he couldn’t complete it.

    Perhaps we need to be less worried about gathering data that we think we can measure and more worried about nurturing the kids in our care, about teaching them how to nurture and care for in return.