Thursday, September 17, 2009

A different take on EQAO

I spent a good chunk of time this afternoon doing some different data analysis on board-level results released by the Education Quality and Accountability Office. Going back to an earlier post, I wanted to see the Level 2 results, and the change over the five-year period included in the multi-page board reports. This also included a look at the change in Level 3 and 4, "provincial standard" results. The page is embedded below, and linked here.

The chart doesn't publish well embedded as you can see, but the link will take you to the sheet as a webpage over at GoogleDocs.
As I started doing the analysis, it ended up showing in these three boards — the Thames Valley District School Board, the London Catholic District School Board and the Conseil scolaire des ├ęcoles Catholiques du Sud-Ouest — there isn't any significant movement from level to level. Up to a four per cent swing in Level 2 results, but you have to go back and look at Level 1 and Level 3/4 to see where the resulting gain or loss comes from.
I didn't end up doing much with this for my print article on the results given how 'all over the map' this chart is. The attempt, however, was to try and show Level 2 — equivalent to about a 'C' grade — results and how they might change over time. Change at this level is one other way of showing whether a board's particular efforts are leading to any improvements.
If I come back to this, I'll post more.


educ8m said...

Except for some isolated cases, and the initial bump in results at the beginning of EQAO testing over a decade ago, NOTHING significant has changed in how kids are taught fundamental literacy and numeracy skills. Just doing the same thing only harder has translates into marginal increases year over year to the point that most school boards have flatlined.

A couple of weeks ago, the Toronto Star reported a study led by the Dean of UWO's Faculty of Education that summarized if kids can read well by the end of grade three are at much higher risk of dropping out or failing to graduate.

She went on to say that teachers are NOT taught how to teach reading. Maybe she can make a difference at Western.

Education Reporter said...

educ8m-- did you mean to say if kids CAN'T read by Grade 3? I think that would make more sense in the context of your comment.

I agree completely that teacher education in this province is sorely lacking in many areas. From what I've seen, a teacher's first few years on the job are invaluable to setting them on the right track.

No doubt the early years are crucial to lifelong success. That's why I'm such a huge fan of the model advocated by Dr. Charles Pascal, Fraser Mustard et. al.

I keep coming back to whether it's time to review what our expectations are. Can 75 per cent of eight-year-olds read, write and do math at a B-grade level? Well, they can in some schools and in some boards. But not in others. Looking at provincial-level results, they can't.
Are they then illiterate if they can't read at that level by eight? Or 12?


Anonymous said...

ER - what expectations do you think need reviewing?

I think when we morphed from expecting educators to instruct directly using proven programs and methods, and instead expect only that educators facilitate students we lost along the way.

I agree that some thing needs to change at the faculty level. We just can't continue to increase the amount Ontario spends on education every year and continue to get the results we're getting.

At some point something's got to give. You'd think that with all of the resources going to support the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat that we'd be doing better.

Has that initiative failed?

Education Reporter said...

You'd think.

However, what solid data do we have pre-EQAO that tells us we're doing worse than before? There wasn't anything comparable when I was in elementary and secondary school-- we wrote standardized assessments like the CCAT (forget what that stands for but do remember it as the first fill-in-the-bubble answer sheet I ever completed at the age of eight or nine). It was a sampling however, and samplings are always prone to the variances and errors of surveys.

EQAO comes out and the Tories first used it as a means of discrediting and division. McGuinty comes to power and says (based on what rationale?) his government's goal is to have 75 per cent of all students achieving a B-grade Level 3 or higher in these assessments.

Are we a B-grade society? Are we capable of having three of every four of us reading, writing and doing math that well by the age of eight or 12?

EQAO has revolutionized teaching and provides a solid set of data (along with other assessments) that teachers can actually use to help students become better at these skills over time, by having unbiased assessments of each student's strengths and weaknesses. This is leaps and bounds over the way it "used" to be done-- where if you learned the way the teacher taught you did well and if you didn't well, what exactly would happen? How successful would you be?

I continue to ask: is it time to review the goal? After years of barely-budging results, I start to wonder if we're actually capable of meeting this standard at all. Instead of approaching it from a 'look at all the money and time' perspective though, I ask whether we're simply expecting too much from the ones grabbing the pencils and writing the tests.


Anonymous said...

"Are we a B-grade society?"

What a great title for a book:-)

Great question? Further, is the goal of education simply to reflect that "B-grade society" or is it to move and aspire to bigger and better things?

If we are a "B-grade society" let's hope we don't get sick, or need bridges built any time soon because wouldn't it be a sad statement on how "B" standard has become the norm and the best that we can be?