Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Illusions on testing illusions

About a month ago my eye was drawn to "Real accountability or an illusion of success?"
It's 14+ page call to action is worth a read regardless of your personal / professional views on large-scale assessments such as the standardized tests used by Ontario's Education Quality and Accountability Office.
The call to action is to review standardized testing. The authors chose Ontario, the first of some interesting choices they've been making since releasing the report. According to the very chart provided, only Manitoba and Prince Edward Island use standardized testing less than Ontario does. One might of thought they could have called for a review of the practice in provinces where it's used across more grade levels than in Ontario (B.C. and Saskatchewan) or a greater number of subjects (B.C., Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador). The Ottawa-bylined but multi-based crew behind this chose to zero in on Ontario, perhaps because that's where they were exposed to a greater level of scrutiny over this form of testing.
All the main issues / critiques of testing are summarized in the call to action. I actually don't have any issues with the recommendations either— though the questions asked do presuppose this review of standardized testing in Ontario would conclude they should become sample-based or eliminated. It includes more questions of testing from its critics than from the agency tasked with administering the tests and holding all that data.
I've come to the conclusion however, reading the tweets sent out by the authors, that their anti-standardized testing bias is quite evident. Read 'em for yourself. Not one pro-testing or neutral tweet, they're all anti-testing or questioning the use/validity, etc.

As a result, I've come to the conclusion their goal is worthy, but this group should not be the ones leading the work that may lie ahead. Another Royal Commission may be the only way to ensure a balanced approach. The chances of that happening are small given other items before government right now, but if this group carries forward I'm not confident at this point the end result will be a fair examination of the questions.