Do EQAO Tests Matter? Understanding the Ontario EQAO Testing

Parent Resources

For several years, calls have intensified to examine the efficacy of, and potential damage caused by, standardized testing in our public education system. Parents concerned about test stress and frustrated educators alike have wondered: How can a standardized test really provide a snapshot of an entire population with disparate backgrounds, socioeconomic realities and learning abilities?

Perhaps no year before has standardized testing seemed so out-of-context as it does in this first full in-person academic year after the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents have already been concerned about learning losses and teachers are scrambling to get students back up to speed. Yet, the Ontario government has revived its standardized testing performed by the EQAO (Education Quality and Accountability Office) for the 2021-22 school year.

Here’s what you need to know.

What Is the EQAO?

According to the EQAO itself, the EQAO is “an arm’s length government agency that contributes to the quality and accountability of Ontario’s publicly funded education system for K-12 and post-secondary institutions.” The EQAO was created after the 1995 Royal Commission on Learning recommended the introduction of standardized tests in Grades 3 and 11. The EQAO provides standardized language and math literacy testing for grades 3, 6, 9, and 10.

These tests were suspended for one year due to the pandemic. Now the assessments are back for the 2021-2022 academic year, and are completely digital for the first time ever. Grades 3 and 6 will be assessed on math, reading and writing. Students in Grade 9 will be assessed on math skills.

The EQAO also administers the OSSLT (Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test) which has been reintroduced in Grade 10 for the 2021-22 school year.

Does the EQAO matter?

As the EQAO evolved through subsequent provincial governments, the focus of its testing was professed to be solely for internal use – a sort of self-assessment for the effectiveness of the Ontario education system in implementing math and language curriculum. 

The EQAO test is meant to provide a snapshot of the state of Ontario education in order to “keep the public education system accountable to taxpayers,” according to the EQAO. “The agency provides schools and school boards with detailed reports about their students’ achievement, as well as contextual, attitudinal and behavioural information from questionnaires… These data are used to improve school programming and classroom instruction.”

However, in practice, the EQAO results tend to cause more comparison amongst individual schools and students. What was intended to reveal inequality across school boards and the province has exacerbated it by encouraging parents to locate themselves in preferable school districts with higher EQAO rankings. This, along with a broader controversy about the inefficacy and inequality of standardized tests, has led many to question whether EQAO testing should be cancelled altogether.

Should EQAO Testing Be Banned?

Support for standardized testing is waning in modern times. In fact, the very teachers mandated to deliver the EQAO tests are some of its most vocal opponents.

According to the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, there are 3 main issues with the EQAO assessments:

1. The tests are unnatural and, thus, not accurate assessments. Silent, multiple-choice testing doesn’t reflect a normal learning experience or allow all children to demonstrate their skills to the best of their ability. Test data is hyper-focused, doesn’t reflect well-being and other skills, and doesn’t account for the many other aspects of the school experience.

2. The $30 million investment in the EQAO would be better spent on enhanced staffing and resources for smaller class sizes, more 1:1 support for learning disabilities, and stronger systems for equity and inclusion. These investments would enhance learning for all students.

3. The EQAO results are used to “rank” schools unfairly, without consideration for background factors affecting school averages. This further serves to encourage inequity across districts and school by school, by attracting parents and real estate markets to particular school districts based on ranking.

Should My Child Study for the EQAO Test?

If you’re like most parents, the EQAO test likely doesn’t cross your mind until your child comes home stressing about their performance. It’s natural for children to pick up on the stress teachers and administrators might be facing in preparation for the EQAO assessment.

The EQAO test is meant to provide a snapshot of the state of Ontario education in order to “keep the public education system accountable to taxpayers,” according to the EQAO. “The agency provides schools and school boards with detailed reports about their students’ achievement, as well as contextual, attitudinal and behavioural information from questionnaires… These data are used to improve school programming and classroom instruction.”

If your child feels worried about their EQAO “performance,” remind them these are tests of the school system and not them as individuals. As with any testing situation, staying calm is the best strategy.

The EQAO results do not impact your child’s grades or their success at school. Talk to your child’s teacher or suggest your child speaks with their teacher if they feel pressured to perform in a certain way on the day of the tests. You can also minimize the attention paid to the EQAO results when they come in. 

If you are concerned about EQAO testing and the impact of test results on education in Ontario, find out more at buildingbetterschools.ca.  

 

Is your child writing an EQAO assessment this school year? Share below!