Wondering about the province-wide tests? Your school or board results? Members of the Education Quality and Accountability Office answered reader questions last week in the Star's online education forum. Please send us your comments.
For individual board results, click here.
Q: Province-wide, results are on the rise. Why do you think that is? What can schools and teachers do with these results? What are some of the highlights from the results you've just released?
A: Schools and school boards are using EQAO data, and data/information gathered locally, to help students improve their learning. Teachers are using the data to target specific areas where students need improvement. Programs are then being developed to address the specific learning needs.
More students in Grades 3 and 6 are performing at or above the provincial standard in reading, writing and mathematics.
There continues to be an achievement gap, in favour of girls, in all three subject areas, except in Grade 3 mathematics where boys outperformed girls by 1 per cent.
In all three subject areas, Grade 3 and 6 ESL/ELD learners made significant improvements in the percentage of students performing at or above the provincial standard.
In 2005-2006, the percentage of students with special needs, performing at or above the provincial standard, has increased. The gains made by Grade 6 students with special needs are slightly larger than the Grade 6 population as a whole in reading and writing.
Q: Are there any boards' results that are a cause for concern, or any areas you've identified where work is needed?
A: It would be inappropriate for EQAO to comment on the results of any specific board. Boards and schools can speak to their results within the full context of their program development and achievement levels.
Q: Some are saying the increase in results over the past few years has been "glacial." Is that to be expected?
A: Results from one year to the next can vary -- in fact results can even decline sometimes. At the provincial level, it is typically unusual to see large increases from one year to the next. The key is that there is an overall trend toward upward, sustainable increases over time.
Q: What does the government intend to do when its target of 75 per cent is reached?
A: EQAO cannot respond to this. It’s important to understand that EQAO is an arm’s length agency of the Government of Ontario, governed by an independent board of directors. Its role is to create, administer, score and report on tests that accurately and reliably measure student learning according to the expectations of The Ontario Curriculum. We try to ensure the feedback we provide can readily be used to target areas of further improvement for all students.
Think of EQAO as the constant and reliable measuring stick. It’s the government’s responsibility to set the curriculum, the provincial standard and also to establish provincial policy on educational matters, such as performance targets.
Q: Will test scores ever be used as a standard for teacher pay?
A: Again, the government establishes provincial policy on educational matters. This is not a topic to which EQAO can respond. What we can say is that EQAO tests measure cumulative learning, for example at the end of the Primary (Grade 3) and Junior (Grade 6) levels of education. Student achievement on the tests is therefore the product of all the teaching and other supports students have received over the years.
Q: Will tests always be paper and pencil with no hands-on?
A: At this time, there is no plan to introduce performance assessments that involve students working with materials (such as in a science experiment or an art project) . In mathematics, however, Grades 3 and 6 students may have access to manipulatives such as geoboards or base-ten blocks when responding to mathematics test questions.
Q: Who marks the tests? Can somebody just out of teachers' college mark the tests? What is the rate of pay?
A: The Grade 3, 6 and 9 tests just reported on were scored by trained, qualified Ontario educators. Recent graduates from Ontario teacher’s colleges are eligible to apply to become scorers. Qualified individuals should visit the section of EQAO’s website called “Educator Opportunities” for further details about employment opportunities.
Q: Does the public know that the government tests have been watered down so it is easier for students to achieve high scores?
A: This statement is not based in fact. The tests assess the same knowledge and skills in each administration and the questions contain the same balance in terms of difficulty level. Each year EQAO’s assessments are reviewed by experts in large scale assessment and validated as comparable from year to year. Each year students are required to demonstrate the same skill areas. The tests are comparable with previous years’ tests, as students are required to demonstrate the same skills.