Since introducing EQAO in Ontario, the focus of the provincial education system has increasingly focused on measurable ‘student achievement.’ Early in September, Premier Kathleen Wynne and Education Minister Mitzie Hunter announced a plan to ‘refresh’ the Ontario school curriculum, update the standardized tests and review the reporting-to-parents format.
Now, the Peel school board wants the Ministry to cancel the testing procedure altogether for next year during this ‘refresh’ process and in a recent Toronto Star editorial, Sachin Maharaj calls for the dissolution of EQAO altogether as it is currently structured.
Since the inception of provincial tests and publication of each school’s results, school boards have worked with the province to tinker and outright renovate curriculum content and methodology to no avail. This is a true symptom of the ill-founded assumptions of standardization.
Standardization does not equate to improved standards. In fact, it stands as a barrier to that objective. Standards are necessary – as is accountability, but they are not achieved by homogenizing our children to establish their learning experiences constructed through test results.
Standards are improved when we engage and motivate the active imagination and curiosity of children. For example, students in Finland place at or near the top of international standards measured by OECD periodic Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) – a world renowned assessment strategy and testing procedure. Finland concentrates on a broad-based curriculum that emphasizes collaboration over competition – a lesson to be learned here?
Class size does matter!
The OECD report “Education Indicators in Focus” found in 2012 that Finland’s class size on average is 20 or lower across elementary and secondary levels with class size tending to be smaller in the elementary schools. It’s paired with an implemented financial commitment to increasing the quality of teaching. The outrageous cost of funding a monolithic assessment organization and its activities was forsaken by the Finnish government to reinvest in class size and teacher development. Testing is only done on a statistical sampling to provide core information on the progress of its schools. The national curriculum is utilized as a guide by teachers to design the classroom learning experiences for their children.
Premier Wynne does not need to convene an ‘expert panel’ to know what is wrong with Ontario’s education system and EQAO – the mirror is available. Look into it. The information is there for acting on what matters. Our children are waiting.