Thursday, January 13, 2011

Keep those EQAO envelopes sealed

Somewhat of a conclusion to an investigation in the London-based Thames Valley District School Board regarding inappropriate handling of last year's elementary Education Quality and Accountability Office tests at a London French immersion school. The London Free Press' former education reporter Kate Dubinski tackled the meeting Wednesday evening where some parents from the school were informed of the results of the school board investigation and the consequences.
Results for last year’s standardized tests at Huron Heights French Immersion public school will be invalidated after an investigation confirmed the principal opened the exams improperly.
Parents learned Wednesday night the principal’s actions may have given teachers a sneak peek at the tests.
The principal has been permanently removed for her role in the scandal, which has rocked the tight-knit northeast London school.
“There is no excuse or tolerance for professional misconduct,” said Karen Wilkinson, superintendent of education for the Thames Valley District school board. Wilkinson outlined the results of an investigation into cheating during annual Education Quality Accountability Office (EQAO) tests at the school. 
A blogger / tweeter I follow was in the audience and has children at the school. Her post about the meeting and the consequence -- principal Francine Rheault has been removed from the school and any further consequence(s) will be dealt with through the board's human resources services department -- is here.
Some discrepancy with rules of how the tests are opened, they said. It was an anonymous tip from some clearly courageous (read: cowardly) individual who decided they needed to stir things up a bit at a school where the children are some of the brightest I've ever met and the teachers are some of the hardest-working. Karen Wilkinson of EQAO (ed. note: she's a TVDSB superintendent) noted that there was no evidence suggesting that the kid's test results were compromised. And yet we lost our beloved principal Francine Rheault.
It's unfortunate that some people make poor choices when it comes to how the EQAO tests are administered. The rules are very clear, and the options available to a school board or the EQAO when it becomes aware of someone breaking the rules leave little room for flexibility. The integrity and independence of the tests must be upheld if the data produced by the tests is to maintain its integrity. That data -- to those who wish to and know how to use it to inform instruction -- is so valuable because the EQAO takes the steps it does to ensure the integrity of the only mass, independently administered evaluation of key skills in literacy and numeracy. I empathize, deeply, for the school community that has lost a leader it trusted and valued. A leader who made a poor choice and decided to show teachers the test before it was opened and given to the students. If this sort of choice is allowed to stand without repercussion then it will happen elsewhere (it likely does) and then how independent is the test? I don't agree with the blogger's opinion in calling the whistleblower a coward. It takes courage to do what that person did.
Some will comment, as this mom has, about the stressful way in which the tests are administered and the way some schools continue to choose to prepare their students for it. It's unfortunate these choices continue to be made-- I've seen teachers successfully handle this preparation in a way that doesn't overly stress them out.
The school board has acted appropriately. It's a loss to the school community, but I wouldn't want a principal who cheats on rules doesn't follow the rules to be leading my kid's school. What lessons does that teach? Many schools integrate accountability for one's behaviour into their safe-school and behavioural expectations for students. If this principal had been left at that school, what accountability would there be?
The message here should be that this principal made a poor choice. Now others are affected by the consequence of that bad choice.
In a related note, the London District Catholic School Board (coterminous board to the TVDSB) launched an investigation into concerns over EQAO testing at one of its Tillsonburg schools last week-- another situation where the concerns centre on the school principal, a man honoured as one of Canada's best principals by The Learning Partnership last year.


Sandy said...

Good post Hugo. I have no idea why principals feel it is necessary to cheat. Like you, I know of many situations where teachers prepare the children well and there is no unnecessary stress. Seems like the problem is not the tests per se but the rankings. In the private sector, its called competition. Public schools don't like it.

Yet, I can't help think what Britannia did in East Vancouver. A poor downtown urban school that people shunned is now a magnet for those from other neighbourhoods.

I guess we can see why the teachers' unions don't like the tests and if the McGuinty gov't is re-elected, guaranteed, EQAO will be on the chopping block.

Hope your leave is going well. Happy New Year!

P.S. By the way, I had a choice to renew theretirededucator or crux-of-the-matter and I chose the latter domain name since I have used it from the beginning in Jan 2006.

Anonymous said...

Hugo - once again missing the biggest education news in the country while writing the irrelevant. Nothing to say about the gay ban at the Halton Catholic District School Board? Cat got your tongue?

Anonymous said...

Excuse me ....

Where exactly did you learn that the tests were distributed and shown to teachers?

That has never been shared or acknowledged by the school board - exactly the opposite. The board stated there has been no evidence that the results were compromised, only that the test were opened early (which could only be a maximum of three days prior to the test). To your point about protecting the integrity of the tests - shouldn't the independent body (EQAO) that is contracted by the provincial government be the ones that actually administer the test??? Seems logical. Could it be (gasp) that there are there be kinks in the system?

I can only speak first-hand on this principal who is hands-down the best principal I have ever encountered. She has implemented ECO-Schools, anti-bullying campaigns, student character recognition awards, school mascots, french spirit weeks, ....the list goes on. This clearly isn't right. I do wonder what message that sends to our children, they are taught to own up to mistakes, learn and move forward. Instead they have seen their principal vanish from the school in the middle of the school year.

You mention that there is little leeway that the board or EQAO has in such matters - who is measuring EQAO system and the impact that the system is having on the schools / communities? Take the 30 million/year and put it into pro-active measures to enhance the education of children that need breakfasts, special needs...etc.

I see this is happening again to an award winning principal in Tillsonburg. Hmmmm.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Education Reporter said...

Darnit. I just typed out a lengthy reply to the last three comments and Blogger swallowed it when I hit post.

I might retype some of those thoughts later.


Anonymous said...

Hugo, Please do re-post. I am most interested in what you have to say on the previous posts. Paul

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

As usual adults, ALL ADULTS, including both the anonymous posters are making things worse for students.

Hugo - when I read the post of Anon. 21:02 I wondered whether this person has put your blog at risk of a potential lawsuit because unless there's proof of anything he/she says you should protect yourself and
remove it.

As a reader of your blog is there any truth to those rumours? I'll call them that because that's what they are to me. Rumours by parents with nothing better to do than fight with each other.

Sandy said...

Without proof, I would remove the potentially libelous comment as well. Can't be too careful in this day and age.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 21:02,

I am happily not part of your school community. But ... if you know this principal so well, outside of having your children attend her school, i have a couple of questions.

Are you her "friend" or colleague?
If it has been going on for five years, why are you only coming forward now?
How is it exactly that you have such detailed "knowledge" of what indeed "occurred?"
Why on earth do your children go to this school if you feel the way you do about their principal who sets the tone for the whole school?

This is very interesting to me and I look forward to your response.

Anonymous said...

It's only slander if it is proven to be wrong.

Anonymous said...

@ 20:33 - With every post, the less credibility you have

Education Reporter said...

OK, let me give this another go.

First - I'm always hesitant to pull a comment that's not outright spam. I'm a big believer in freedom of expression and too often one person's opinion is labelled as libellous simply because another person who disagrees doesn't want it to continue to exist. If whoever wrote the comments wants to contact me privately, I would welcome it.

Second - Let's clarify libel and slander. Libel is defaming someone's character or motives in writing. Slander is doing so verbally. The internet is not immune from libel (too often it's a cesspot of it), and courts can treat libellous material on the internet exactly the same way they do when it's printed on paper. All it takes is for the subject of the libellous statement to file the claim. That said, some comments in question above do speak to motive and that's exceptionally hard for any reasonable person to prove. I've removed several comments that were above and saved them locally on my hard drive-- although the reality of the internet is they have been cached and would still be available to those with the skills to seek them out. If I can confirm some of the statements, I will repost them.

So. What do we know?
A complaint was filed.
An internal/EQAO investigation was completed.
Some of the results of that investigation were released to the public.
A principal who, it has been publicly confirmed, was the subject of the investigation has been suspended from her position at the school and reassigned.
The school's EQAO results will be nullified, though each student's individual results will stand.
Parents and students at the school are upset they've lost a principal they admired as a valued leader of that school community.

Only the principal in question, the complainant(s)/whistleblower(s) and investigators know more about this situation beyond what's written above.

None of the above -- nothing -- leads me to a different conclusion that what I stated in the post. Someone made a choice. That choice had a consequence. That consequence has an impact on the entire school. I continue to believe the consequence was appropriate. I continue to empathize with parents and students who've lost a valued leader in their community. A loss that should be explained as a consequence of a bad choice.
Good people sometimes make bad choices. That doesn't make them bad people, but it shouldn't mean that just because they're good people they shouldn't have to deal with the consequence of their bad choice.


Anonymous said...

What should i do and who do i contact to let EQAO know the school i attended, had cheated on the Grade 6 2012 EQAO multiple choice, part. By having the teacher looking at the test and telling us to fill in a bubble and walks around the class. The students from my school do not want to betray the teacher, and don,t have much evidence but some screen-shots of people saying they feel a bit guilty.

Anonymous TDSB Student

Education Reporter said...

Anon 27 June 2013:

Contact the EQAO. They will deal with the information appropriately.