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

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


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: and a video can be found here:

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you,


Grahame Rivers
Social Media Coordinator
Office of the Premier of Ontario
d. 416 325 1807
c. 416 562 4516

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?


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