Education Quality and Accountability Office

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Logo of the Education Quality and Accountability Office

The Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) is an arm’s-length Crown agency of the Government of Ontario, Canada, legislated into creation [1] in 1996 in response to recommendations made by the Royal Commission on Learning in February 1995.[2]

EQAO is governed by a board of directors appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council. The chair of the board is currently Brian L. Desbiens.[3] EQAO has an annual budget of approximately $33 million CDN.

Purpose[edit]

The purpose of EQAO tests is to ensure that there is accountability between school boards and schools in the publicly funded system in Ontario. Educational accountability is important to three key stakeholders: taxpayers, elected officials, and teachers.[1] By providing these yearly standardized tests, the Ministry of Education hopes to increase the quality of education in Ontario, while also using the tests to make plans for future improvement.[2]

EQAO tests are intended to measure the students' ability to:

  • Make sense of what they read in different kinds of texts;
  • Express their thoughts in writing using appropriate grammar, spelling and punctuation and
  • Use appropriate math skills to solve problems [3]

EQAO vs Classroom tests[edit]

It is important to note that EQAO tests have different goals and intentions than normal classroom tests. These tests are not the same, but when considering the EQAO test results along with the classroom results, they can provide a meaningful picture of the students' overall learning.

Classroom tests:

  • measure how well students have learned specific information;
  • provide quick results teachers can use to modify teaching strategies;
  • may have subjective components, based on the teacher’s knowledge of each student, and
  • provide results that may not be comparable across the school, board or province [4]

EQAO tests:

  • measure students’ cumulative knowledge and skills in relation to a provincial standard;
  • are given at key stages of students’ education;
  • are administered, scored and reported on in a consistent and objective manner and
  • provide results that are comparable across the school, board, and province from year to year [5]

Mandate[edit]

EQAO’s mandate is to conduct province-wide tests at key points in every student’s primary, junior and secondary education and report the results to educators, parents and the public.

The specific responsibilities of the Office include:

  • developing tests for students in both the French- and English-language publicly funded school systems,
  • overseeing the administration and marking of tests, in co-operation with school boards,
  • evaluating the quality and effectiveness of Ontario’s education system,
  • managing Ontario's participation in national and international tests,
  • researching and collecting information on assessing academic achievement,
  • reporting to the public and to the Minister of Education and Training on the results of tests and generally on the quality and effectiveness of elementary and secondary school education and on the public accountability of boards,
  • making recommendations to the Government of Ontario on any matter related to the quality or effectiveness of elementary and secondary school education or to the public accountability of boards.

EQAO conducts province-wide tests annually. Students attending publicly funded elementary and secondary schools in Ontario are required to take the respective tests at their grade level:

  • Grade 3 (literacy and math tested at the end of the primary division);
  • Grade 6 (literacy and math tested at the end of the junior division);
  • Grade 9 (math tested in the first year of secondary school) and
  • Grade 10 (literacy tested as a graduation requirement, known as the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test).

For students with special education needs, some accommodations that are consistent with regular classroom assessment practices are permitted on the provincial tests. Special provisions may also be permitted for English language learners. In extenuating circumstances, the principal may exempt a student from writing the test if they are unable to complete part or all of the test, even with the appropriate accommodations.[6]

The question on EQAO’s tests are developed by Ontario educators and linked directly to the learning expectations in The Ontario Curriculum.[4]

Use of test results[edit]

Educators use the results of Ontario’s province-wide tests in combination with other important information, such as demographic information, to help improve student learning and achievement. According to a 2010 survey by EQAO, more than 95% of elementary school principals[5] and 80% of Grades 3 and 6 teachers [6] use EQAO test results to identify areas of strength and areas for improvement in reading, writing and math programs. More than 95% of principals also reported that they use the data to guide overall school improvement initiatives.

Ontario students have made significant progress over the years in meeting the provincial standard in reading, writing and mathematics. For example, in 2010, more than 28 000 additional Grade 6 students met the provincial standard in reading and writing than in 2000, and more than 12 000 additional Grade 6 students met the provincial standard in math than in 2000.[7]

Information for parents[edit]

EQAO tests are based on The Ontario Curriculum, which is the foundation for what is taught in classrooms everyday. Therefore, students should not need to study or do extra preparation for the test. All of the information in the test will have been covered by the classroom teacher throughout the entire school year. The best way for parents to support their children in writing the test is to simply be supportive and a play an active role in their children's learning everyday of the school year.[7] This support includes being aware of what the students are learning, being in constant communication with the classroom teacher about the student's learning development and needs, and providing a welcoming environment at home where students are able to complete any homework or assignments they may have.

Additional ways that parents can help students in preparing for the test is to visit the EQAO website (eqao.com) in order to find links explaining the format and sample test items, a result guide that explains how to interpret the marks, as well as a parent bulletin regarding the test.[8] The school boards also provide parents with information sessions regarding the tests, to ensure that the parents are fully aware of the purpose, format and implementation of the test.[9]

Challenges[edit]

One of the biggest challenges surrounding EQAO testing is the idea that the traditional paper-and-pencil test does not assess all aspects of student learning. While the test is able to assess students' reading and writing, it struggles to effectively assess performance-based skills such as being able to work effectively in a group, designing a project or model, and speaking clearly.[10]

Another challenge associated with EQAO testing is that students' ability to do their best on the test may be affected by feelings of stress and test anxiety. Some students may feel pressured to do well, because of external pressures from the teacher and parents, or pressure from themselves to succeed, and therefore may struggle to complete the test in a way that truly demonstrates their knowledge and learning.[11]

Criticisms[edit]

The establishment of the EQAO, and in particular standardized testing in Ontario, has been criticized by a number of groups, including the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) [8] and the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO). [9] . Since the beginning, EQAO has received a lot of criticism, especially surrounding areas such as validity of the test, timelines for the tests, uses of the data results, and security.[12] The ETFO published a video on August 17, 2010, titled "Is EQAO Failing Our Children?". This video provides an outlook on EQAO from the teachers perspective, discussing how the test may be causing more damage to children than good. This video can be seen on YouTube here.

While technical reports [10] are available on the agency’s Web site, some have criticized that the Office publishes little technical information about its tests. Some have also criticized that EQAO’s staff tends to be drawn from the provincial education establishment. For example, former chair Charles Pascal, is a former deputy minister of education. The Office's impartiality has been questioned when it has issued test results that might be taken as reflecting well on the provincial government.

Another major area of criticism is focused on the monetary expenses used each year to conduct the EQAO tests. The annual report states that $33 million was used in 2009/2010, plus an additional $77 million spent by the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, in hopes to improve future test scores.[13] Some critics believe that the money poured into these annual tests could be better spent on things such as smaller class sizes, new schools, new classrooms, additional technology in classrooms, additional educational assistants, and additional classroom materials.[14]

Some critics believe that the teacher knows best about the students' learning, and that a standardized-test does not adequately assess the authentic learning that has gone on in the classroom throughout the year.[15] Teachers are able to see the students everyday, track their learning progress, and provide the students with beneficial feedback to continue improving their work. EQAO tests on the other hand, approach learning from a structured and systematic perspective, forcing students to demonstrate their knowledge in a way very different from that which is typically done in the classroom. The test does not allow for the student to grow or learn from the process, due to the fact that feedback is prohibited throughout the time writing the test. The majority use of multiple-choice questions limits critical thinking, and restricts creativity in the students. In addition, the test provides only one form of assessment. Authentic assessment is that which provides students with multiple ways to demonstrate their learning (example, through writing, speaking, demonstration, and hands-on interactions).[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Volante, L. (2007). Educational quality and accountability in Ontario: Past, present, and future. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, 1(58), 1-21.
  2. ^ (2012). Education Quality and Accountability Office. Retrieved from http://www.eqao.com/categories/home.aspx?Lang=E.
  3. ^ (2011). EQAO tests in elementary school: A guide for parents. Retrieved from http://www.eqao.com/pdf_e/11/EQAO_ParentGuide_PrimaryJunior2011.
  4. ^ (2011). EQAO tests in elementary school: A guide for parents. Retrieved October 26, from http://www.eqao.com/pdf_e/11/EQAO_ParentGuide_PrimaryJunior2011.
  5. ^ (2011). EQAO tests in elementary school: A guide for parents. Retrieved October 26, from http://www.eqao.com/pdf_e/11/EQAO_ParentGuide_PrimaryJunior2011.
  6. ^ (2011). EQAO tests in elementary school: A guide for parents. Retrieved from http://www.eqao.com/pdf_e/11/EQAO_ParentGuide_PrimaryJunior2011.
  7. ^ (2011). EQAO tests in elementary school: A guide for parents. Retrieved from http://www.eqao.com/pdf_e/11/EQAO_ParentGuide_PrimaryJunior2011.
  8. ^ Mu, M., & Childs, R. (2005). What parents know and believe about large-scale assessments. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, 1(37), 1-24.
  9. ^ Mu, M., & Childs, R. (2005). What parents know and believe about large-scale assessments. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, 1(37), 1-24.
  10. ^ Volante, L. (2007). Educational quality and accountability in Ontario: Past, present, and future. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, 1(58), 1-21.
  11. ^ Volante, L. (2007). Educational quality and accountability in Ontario: Past, present, and future. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, 1(58), 1-21.
  12. ^ The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario. (2012). EQAO testing. Retrieved October 26, from http://www.etfo.ca/issuesineducation/eqaotesting/pages/default.aspx.
  13. ^ The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario. (2012). EQAO testing. Retrieved October 26, from http://www.etfo.ca/issuesineducation/eqaotesting/pages/default.aspx.
  14. ^ The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario. (2012). EQAO testing. Retrieved October 26, from http://www.etfo.ca/issuesineducation/eqaotesting/pages/default.aspx.
  15. ^ The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario. (2012). EQAO testing. Retrieved October 26, from http://www.etfo.ca/issuesineducation/eqaotesting/pages/default.aspx.
  16. ^ The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario. (2012). EQAO testing. Retrieved October 26, from http://www.etfo.ca/issuesineducation/eqaotesting/pages/default.aspx.
  1. ^ Government of Ontario elaws, Education Quality and Accountability Office Act, 1996 Retrieved 2011-03-17.
  2. ^ Ministry of Education news release, Royal Commission on Learning provides a blueprint for changing Ontario schools Retrieved 2011-03-17.
  3. ^ “Board of Directors.” About EQAO. Education Quality and Accountability Office. Retrieved 2011-03-17.
  4. ^ Framework: Assessment of Reading, Writing and Mathematics, Primary Division (Grades 1–3). Education Quality and Accountability Office. Retrieved 2011-03-18.
  5. ^ Principal Questionnaire Results, 2009-10. Education Quality and Accountability Office. Retrieved 2011-03-17.
  6. ^ Primary Division Teacher Questionnaire Results. Education Quality and Accountability Office. Retrieved 2011-03-17.
  7. ^ The Power of Good Information. Education Quality and Accountability Office. Retrieved 2011-03-17.
  8. ^ Critical Issues Series. Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation. Retrieved 2011-03-17.
  9. ^ Says Teachers Assess Students Better Than EQAO Tests.aspx ETFO Says Teachers Assess Students Better Than EQAO Tests. Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario. Retrieved 2011-03-17.
  10. ^ EQAO Technical Reports. Retrieved 2011-03-18.

External links[edit]