The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, meeting this week in T.O. for its annual convention, doesn't like standardized testing. The earth may have moved when they formalized the announcement, for which they'd already said they would do some time last week. Too bad the rest of us didn't feel the tremors. (Additional story here)
In a nutshell, the federation feels too much time is wasted preparing students for the test. Doing so stifles teachers and forces them to spend time in ministry training, local PD and working with data when, as we should all know, the federation would prefer its members spend every minute they're not directing their own preparation time and professional development in front of their students, teaching away like good little teachers.
I got wind of this last week, when contacts at the Education Quality and Accountability Office sent me a statement on ETFO's position regarding standardized testing. I've converted it and posted it in my picasa album here.
It reads, in part:
Full-census assessment results help the province, school boards and schools identify student strengths and target areas where attention and resources are needed. Government and school board initiatives that have been developed based on EQAO’s full-census assessment data have had a measurable impact on tens of thousands of Ontario students, as demonstrated by the significant improvement in student achievement in schools across the province.I have er, a bit of experience in regards to this particular topic. I'm also a big fan of evidence- or data-based decision making. Time and time again, I have seen teachers (many of them ETFO members), principals and the two school boards I cover get better at using the data from their assessments (not just EQAO, but things like the Developmental Reading Assessment and the Early Development Instrument) to drive program and staff placement and decisions. Taking a longitudinal look at life, the body of evidence is growing that shows these targeted deployments work and do result in students' results improving.
Data collected from full-census assessments have enabled the Ministry of Education to establish such successful initiatives as Learning to 18, the Turnaround Schools Program and the Ontario Focused Intervention Partnership. EQAO data provide evidence for tracking the influence of these and other Ministry initiatives as well as supporting the Ministry’s work on professional
development for educators, targeted funding and collaboration with boards on local strategies to ensure each child learns effectively. The success of these and future initiatives relies on the close monitoring of every student and the availability of data that can come only from full-census assessments.
I am always reminded of a response I received from a now-retired superintendent and acting director of education (not the one who is a frequent responder here) about standardized testing and speaking to the complaint of teaching to the test.
"What's wrong with that if we're testing the skills they need to be successful?"
Having lived in a classroom for six weeks and seen what's happening first-hand at an Ontario Focused Intervention Partnership school, I find it hard to disagree with that response. If I had kids, I'd want them to be learning about the main idea, to spend time analyzing different writing styles, etc. etc. I'd want them to be in a school where teachers are analyzing their assessment results and changing their teaching methods to match the way my child and his/her peers learn.
There may be an element of 'the old guard' at ETFO that's squawking about the old days and reluctant to change (change for things that have been in place for over 10 years). I wonder how representative this opinion is amongst all ETFO members. Let's also see what happens with the executive elections today-- given how the provincial executive absolutely bungled the most recent round of bargaining and screwed their members out of wage parity with secondary teachers,