Our Message to Government: Eliminate EQAO (From the President)
Originally conceived as a way to ensure accountability in the system and ostensibly improve education, EQAO tests are in fact an obstacle to quality education. EQAO tests are based on a very narrow definition of accountability: student achievement on one day on one written test. Today this narrow and limited assessment is used to rank individual schools, students, and ultimately teachers. EQAO test results are inappropriately used to compare schools and neighbourhoods and, in some cases, serve to affect real estate values.
Because of EQAO tests we have schools where excessive emphasis on literacy and numeracy limits students’ exposure to a full range of much-needed knowledge and skills. EQAO tests reward seat work and the ability to do well on pencil and paper tests to the exclusion of creativity, the ability to work with others, independent thinking, and real critical problem solving. The emphasis on improving test scores has taken Ontario education back decades, to a time when students sat at desks in rows and regurgitated material on demand. Finally, the money spent to maintain EQAO could be put to far better use in classrooms across this province.
This is what we heard when we polled ETFO members for your opinions on provincewide testing and gave you an opportunity to detail your experiences. (Read the findings reported on page 11.)
Overwhelmingly you told us that it’s time for the government to take action and eliminate or at least modify the EQAO and the testing it admin- isters. It is time to let you do what you do best – TEACH! You also told us loud and clear that change is needed at its sister organization, the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat (LNS). Together the two agencies account for over $100 million in government spending. On your behalf, we told the government in our pre-budget brief that these are two places where it could cut spending and actually improve our schools.
We told the government our preference would be the outright elimination of province wide tests for grade 3 and 6 students. We provided alternatives:
• adopting a two-year moratorium on the tests
• testing on a two-or three-year cycle
• moving to random sample testing.
We also had useful advice for the government about the $77.5 million spent each year on the LNS. In a phrase: eliminate, suspend, or reduce – in that order.
• The 80 student achievement officers, who work with schools and boards, cost $14.1 million annually and duplicate the work of school board consultants. These positions should be eliminated.
• The Ontario Focused Intervention Partnership (OFIP) costs $33 million and is an effort to raise EQAO scores. We told the government to get rid of it.
• The School Effectiveness Framework costs $12 million. We suggested that the SEF be dismantled immediately,
The government could save even more money by taking down the School Information Finder website. This government site, which highlights EQAO scores, allows people to compare and shop for schools. The website trivializes your hard work and your students’ achievements. All education stakeholders – teacher federations, parent groups, principals, and school boards – have been united in their opposition to it.
So far the government has not heard the message. For that reason, we have posted a video on our website, etfo.ca, and a link that encourages members, parents, and the public to send letters to their MPPs requesting that the site be dismantled. I urge you to use it. Let the government hear your voice.
We are working hard to make the government aware of the negative impact of its focus on testing, test scores, and the unwarranted and demanding focus on literacy and numeracy. We call on this government to act immediately and take steps to improve our schools and save money at the same time. With the concerns about the deficit mounting, now is the time to take advantage of a unique opportunity.