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Standardized testing Q&A
Q: My son completed the EQAO test and I paid $50 for it, but unfortunately his school closed down, and I never got his exam results. Can you help me, in getting his test results? Please and thank you.
A: The mention of a fee suggests this is a private school situation. In a cases where a school is closed, and records are unavailable, the parent can contact EQAO at 416-314-0146 or 1-888-327-7377 for information about how assessment results can be accessed.
Q: Scores went up this year, but isn't that because the Liberals made the tests shorter and easier?
A: EQAO is an independent agency and is in no way influenced by the agenda of the government of the day. Recently, EQAO initiated a comprehensive review of its assessment programs to ensure that current international standards of large-scale assessment are being met. The review included input from stakeholders, a jurisdictional review of best practices in large-scale assessment and a major review of EQAO assessment practices by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto who worked with a team of internationally recognized large-scale assessment experts.
The review indicated that to report overall scores for reading, writing and mathematics, the test could be shorter and remain comparable to previous years. The assessments continue to measure the same knowledge and skills as they did previously.
Q: I have reviewed the recent results for my son's school. They appear to be better than previous years and better than the board and province. How can I tell if the results are due to the teachers teaching the test or if the teachers are using techniques that improve the students' critical thinking skills? Thank you.
A: It is difficult for teachers to teach to the test because the questions are developed to cover the full range of expectations from the Ontario curriculum, and the actual content changes from one year to the next. If teachers teach according to the curriculum expectations, this is a good thing.
Q: What measures are there to prevent school principals and teachers from tampering with the test results? How can some schools have almost everyone getting near perfect scores? If results can be raked easily, then the test is not a reliable measurement of performance of schools.
A: Several measures are in place to ensure that the assessments are administered in the same way across the province. For example, administration guides are provided that teachers are to follow, and quality control monitors visit a sample of schools to observe and report on administration procedures. Our monitors report to us that the assessments are administered in a consistent way across the province. Once scoring of student responses has been completed and the data analyzed, EQAO develops student, school, school board and provincial reports.
Q: Why do children only write the tests in Grade 3 and 6? Why those grades?
A: The assessments are positioned at the end of Grade 3 and Grade 6 because these are key stages in child’s journey through school and are significant developmental transitions points in elementary education. The completion of the primary grades (1, 2 and 3) and the completion of the junior grade division (4, 5 and 6).
Q: Should all children write the EQAO? My oldest son wrote the test two years ago. He was so nervous before it started, even though he does very well at school. My concern is for my younger son. I know how nervous his brother was. I am afraid that the test will be very hard, and discouraging for my son. He is doing very poorly in Grade 3, and is already getting discouraged at school. I am afraid the test will put too much pressure on a child that is already struggling.
A: It is very important for all children to participate in the provincial assessment as it is a very natural component of school and life. The assessment design is tailored to the developmental needs of children in Grades 3 and 6. In order to assist teachers and parents prepare children for the spring assessment, please refer to the EQAO website for resource materials. Most importantly, parents and school staff can prepare children by discussing the assessment as simply one more part of school life, just like the Friday afternoon spelling test.
Q: I don't get the levels. Why can't students be given normal marks, like a letter grade or percent?
A: Teachers across the province of Ontario use the achievement levels from the provincial curriculum in order to assess student work. The levels provide a description of achievement on a developmental continuum from 1 to 4. Level 3 describes the characteristics of student achievement that represent the expected level of achievement or the provincial standard.
The four levels of achievement are defined in the Ontario Curriculum as follows:
Level 4: The student has demonstrated the required knowledge and skills. Achievement surpasses the provincial standard.
Level 3: The student has demonstrated most of the required knowledge and skills. Achievement is at the provincial standard.
Level 2: The student has demonstrated some of the required knowledge and skills. Achievement approaches the provincial standard.
Level 1: The student has demonstrated some of the required knowledge and skills in limited ways. Achievement falls much below the provincial standard.
Q: I would like to know if there is a plan in place to expand the standardized tests to cover core subjects at the Grade 12 level, similiar to that of SAT I and SAT II in the USA? I always doubt that high schools in Ontario are able to give same marks to same academic performance of different students across Ontario. Tests conducted by your office confirmed that not all schools have students' performance at the same level academically.
I would suggest that the Grade 12 students marks provided by individual high school are, in cases, misleading on students' actual performance compared with other students in other schools. This situation poses an unfavourable impact on potential employers and post-secondary educational institutes as they try to find the person with the appropriate academic achievement.
A: Although you raise some interesting points, there is currently no plan to expand the provincial assessment program to include Grade 12 exit exams.
Q: I have three children in elementary school in the Niagara Region, the eldest was in Grade 3 last year. I can tell you from experience that the teaching requirements and the EQAO test, in my opinion, are far beyond what should be expected from 8- and 9-year-old children. In fact, I wasn't taught some of the math topics covered by those Grade 3 students until high school, and really didn't grasp the underlying concepts until second year of university! Not to mention that some of the topics were covered in a very, very short period of time.
A: It’s important to understand that EQAO’s role is to measure student achievement against the Ontario curriculum expectations. EQAO does not define the curriculum, nor set the provincial standard. EQAO tests are constructed with questions that relate directly to the expectations of the Ontario curriculum. T
The results released last week measured student achievement of the mathematics curriculum that was in place in 2004-2005. The curriculum has been revised for the 2005-2006 school year. EQAO will be developing this year’s assessment against this new curriculum.
Q: We are told not to compare our neighbourhood school's ranking to that of other schools but, I'm sorry, it's impossible not to. Both of my sons attended our neighbourhood school, Oakwood Collegiate, for all or part of their high school education. I was a teacher, and I paid attention to their education. I felt that both were held to high standards in most subjects and were well-prepared for post-secondary studies. (One successfully graduated from university; the other is in 2nd year.) I was therefore shocked when I saw that Oakwood's ranking in Grade 9 math was among the lowest in the city. So what is going on there? Is Oakwood changing? If so, why? Or has it always been a school with diverse abilities?
As one looks at other schools with low rankings, it does appear to me that socio-economic level and cultural diversity are factors. Oakwood is located in an area of diverse economic levels, and it is culturally diverse. Does this test have any meaning? If it does, it seems to me that the board should be directing more resources to schools where a significant number of students seem to be having more difficulty.
A: You’ve touched upon the very reasons it’s impossible to compare one school’s results against another’s. The factors you mention certainly influence a school’s overall results, at every level. Each school operates in its own context and has its own particular set of challenges. School comparisons are not what EQAO results are about, which is why we strongly discourage any kind of ranking based on EQAO results.
The purpose of EQAO results is to provide a snapshot of student learning against expectations in the Ontario Curriculum. Although EQAO results provide important and timely information on student learning, it should be remembered that they are only one piece of data within the entire portfolio of information a school and boards collect on their students. When used effectively, these data help educators target areas for improvement and help define teaching strategies and learning objectives to enhance student achievement. As you stated at the end of your comment, using all of these rich sources of data helps schools, boards and the province target initiatives in elementary and secondary schools.
Q: If a child receives a certain mark on the test, does that put them in a level or are the marks put on a bell curve, e.g. the bottom ?% have not met the standard?
A: There is no bell curve system used in EQAO provincial tests. The overall level earned by each child is based directly on his or her own achievement on the test. To be specific, each child receives an individual score on each question answered. These scores are then combined to produce a score in each of reading, writing and mathematics. These resulting scores are aligned to the four "levels of achievement" as outlined in the Ontario curriculum.
Q: I was wondering how these tests are marked?
A: Ontario teachers score the Grade 3, 6 and 9 assessments over a two-week period in July. Teachers are trained using scoring guides and samples of students’ work for each question that they will be responsible to score. Following training, teachers must pass a qualifying test. Groups of teachers are then assigned a specific set of questions that they will score for every student. This ensures consistency in scoring and the reliability and validity of the results.