Amid NDP, Liberal pledges to overhaul EQAO, study suggests how to make it count 

On the heels of the Liberal and New Democrat promises to end EQAO testing, if they are elected, comes a study that says student assessments need to be reformed in most provinces.

The Liberals say they would end EQAO assessments so students and teachers can focus on making up for lost learning during the pandemic. They will also work with parents, teachers and education experts to develop a new assessment strategy in order to capture and address the pandemic’s impact on learning.

The NDP promises to collaborate with educators to determine how random sampling could spot early trends and areas for improvement. It says standardized testing is rigid, outdated and ineffective.

Meanwhile, a new study released on Tuesday by the Fraser Institute has found that provincewide testing of K-12 students in most provinces could be improved by ensuring the tests are consistent, transparent, and count toward students’ grades or academic progression.

“The decline of standardized testing in Canada has reduced the availability of important data that’s essential to understand how our education system performs and how to best help students improve,” said Paige MacPherson, associate director of education policy at the Fraser Institute and co-author of Testing Canadian K-12 Students: Regional Variability, Room for Improvement.

The study finds that provincewide student assessment programs (testing) across Canada could be improved by a) offering regular uniform testing at multiple grade levels and b) making school and district performance results available to the public, which would incentivize educational improvements among schools.

Previous research shows that increasing the significance of these assessments—for example, making them count toward a percentage of final grades—produces more meaningful results.

With the exception of Saskatchewan, every province administers provincewide assessment programs.

For example, in Alberta, students are tested in grades 6 and 9, and with Grade 12 diploma exams that count for 30 per cent of a student’s final grade.

In Ontario, students in grades 3, 6, and 9 are tested in reading, writing and math (and a Grade 10 literacy exam). In Quebec, students in grades 10 and 11 complete curriculum-based exams on a variety of subjects.

In British Columbia, where secondary school tests have recently been weakened to no longer count toward students’ final grades, students take a literacy and numeracy assessment in Grade 10 and a Grade 12 literacy assessment.

“Solid provincewide student testing – beyond just classroom tests by teachers – can actually improve student achievement and provide direct accountability to parents and taxpayers,” said MacPherson.

“If provinces wish to strengthen their assessment programs, they can learn from other jurisdictions and other provinces to make their testing more transparent to the public and more meaningful for students.”

end EQAO assessments so students and teachers can focus on making up for lost learning during the pandemic. Since we’ll need a way to measure how our kids are catching up in math and literacy, we’ll collaborate with parents, teachers and education experts to develop a new assessment strategy to capture and address the pandemic’s impact on learning.

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