So, I have never been a fan of large scale assessments. I agree they offer information, as does anything and everything a student does. However, I suspect it is because of the small environment I have always worked in, large scale assessments rarely tell us anything we did not already know or suspect. They are far more valuable to me, to track trends over time in a larger scale, than in individual data.
I will tell a funny story though. Not sure my daughter reads my blog, but she will be mad at me. My eldest daughter was an early reader. When she arrived in school, she was more than ready. She also, was very interested in math as a child too. So, along came grade 3 testing, and when I received her information (my first year as principal), I was a bit surprised to see a lower level in reading, as compared to math and writing. So, I asked her about it. Her response, perhaps not verbatim after all these years, but very close to it, was: “I like to read, but I do not like answering stupid questions about what I read”. Out of the mouths of 8 year olds. She is now 19, in second year university, loving her chemistry major with courses in math and french…..other than some reading in French, no “stupid questions” to answer, but she still reads voraciously. Go figure.
So, I got away from my intended path with that anecdote, but I love telling that story. How many results in EQAO testing reflect student engagement, or lack thereof? However, that goes for every assessment, doesn’t it?
So, EQAO, or for those of you reading who might not be from Ontario, the Education Quality and Accountability Office, has announced that starting this fall, they are moving towards all EQAO testing to be electronically done. Again, for non-Ontario residents, we do large scale provincial testing in grades 3 and 6 (math, writing and the aforementioned reading), grade 9 mathematics, and grade 10 literacy. The grade 10 literacy test is a graduation requirement.
My first thoughts upon reading the news release on Twitter, was “wow, they finally moving the pencil and paper test, to a format more conducive to the pedagogy we all practice!” I was pleased. Then I thought “wait, this is a government agency. Could simply be a money saver…”. So I took a closer look, and much to my great surprise and glee (well glee is a bit heavy of a word), but the first two points in the news release were, in regards to why the move is taking place:
- bring the provincial assessments in line with the digital world we live in and the digital classroom that plays an increasing part in education;
- make the assessments more engaging for students by allowing them to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in a number of different ways;
There are also several other bullets that highlite other reasons, all of which are sound and to me, an improvement in the testing. If you are interested, check out: http://www.eqao.com/NR/ReleaseViewer.aspx?Lang=E&release=b14R008
So, I suppose I should wait for the proof before I become a convert to the new EQAO, but I have to say, that I am buoyed by the prospect. It sounds to me that EQAO is moving testing into the 21st century digital world, and with a reference to “flexible scheduling”, perhaps even beginning a massive shift from the very structured environment within which we deliver education. You know, that system that still operates on the agricultural calendar.
However, of all the elements that intrigue me the most, is the form of the test. It hints, ever so seductively at a test that can offer students a wide array of ways to demonstrate their learning, their intelligence and their creativity, in ways that paper and pencil simply cannot do. This is the exact reason our pedagogy is slowly lumbering towards this goal. However, what this shift will do, is accelerate that process. Everyone knows that schools “teach to the test” in the sense that our pedagogical strategies and expectations are aligned with EQAO, which represents the curriculum. It is not the old days of “teaching to the test”,. but an acknowledgement that our strategies in the class must align with the expectations of the curriculum, as represented by EQAO.
So, excited I am, because I truly believe this seismic change will help to prepare students for the world they are living in, and the future world we know nothing about. I also believe it will help to move our school system to one that recognizes that fact by using more and digital and interactive resources to develop our students’ minds and creativity.
Now, I am on the clock….not time for an edit, so please, forgive my numerous, I am sure, syntax and style errors….