Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Surprise, surprise.
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.
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 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.
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, I'm curious to see how this plays out it looks like members have chosen a new path.


Anonymous said...

This is a very good post!

I don't think that the school system as we know it could have gone without eventually adopting some sort of measurement of skills, or the evaluation/initiatives that result in the analysis of those measurements.

Some teachers in my family admit to not being afraid of the testing at first, actually welcoming it, but being caught up in a type of promotion of fear by the usual suspects and media types who parrot the fear without really understanding measurement themselves.

One also has to suggest that if the teacher unions continue to demand more and more and more, as the student nos. decline at some point the public is going to ask for proof of value for their tax dollar.

As a parent the expectation usually means knowing what your child is expected to learn, how they're learning it and how I can tell at the end of the day that it's been learned. There was one time in this province when the system could not answer that question.

I sure hope we don't go back there and as you've suggested individual teachers learn how to master their own measurements and communicate it directly to their partners in education....parents and their school community.

Anonymous said...

ETFO members, teachers, generally argue against the validity of EQAO results.

How would these same individuals defend their report card assessments?

Nice to see Clegg got the boot, but too bad it's the idiot from Hamilton who was their CN who took them out on a strike for massage therapy benefits. Did ETFO just jump from the frying pan into the fire?

Congratulations on you hit total. Keep up the great effort Hugo.