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Questions and Answers for Parents

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General Questions

  1. Why does Ontario conduct province-wide tests of reading, writing and mathematics?

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    Ontario conducts these tests because, in 1995, Ontario’s Royal Commission on Learning recommended such tests for Ontario students. The Commission made this recommendation after consulting with parents, educators, students and others who wanted greater accountability and assurances of quality in the public education system.

    In the Commission’s words:

    It seems obvious to us that the public school system is responsible to the public, and owes it to the public to demonstrate how well it’s doing with our children.

    It seems equally obvious that in learning, as in most other endeavours, your family is helpless to assist you to improve yourself unless you and they know the criteria for success and how close you come to meeting them.

    Finally, what holds for the individual holds for the system: its programs too must be assessed to determine if they’re working properly.

    So we take a stand on behalf of close monitoring of every child’s progress right from the earliest years, and of the system itself at every level, in order that both can learn to be even better.

    The Ontario Government established EQAO in response to the Commission’s recommendations.

  2. Are other Canadian provinces doing this kind of testing?

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    Yes, other provinces conduct similar large-scale testing. The practice is common in many other countries as well. The tests are used to monitor students’ progress and gather information to inform improvements to the system.

  3. Are EQAO tests based on the material taught in the classroom?

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    Yes. EQAO tests are based on The Ontario Curriculum. This document details the knowledge and skills that students are expected to develop in each subject, at each grade level.

  4. How is the EQAO test different from the tests my child already does in class?

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    Classroom tests and EQAO tests have different goals and provide different kinds of information about student learning.

    Classroom tests
    • provide the richest and most comprehensive measure of your child’s educational progress;
    • cover all of the knowledge and skills that students are expected to learn as outlined in The Ontario Curriculum;
    • gather data from a variety of sources over an extended period of time;
    • assess a variety of factors—such as your child’s knowledge and motivation—in addition to the performance on a particular set of questions;
    • produce results that are considered within the context of all of the knowledge about your child that his or her teachers have acquired over the years;
    • may have a subjective component, based on the teacher’s knowledge of your child;
    • measure how well students have learned specific information about topics and themes that have been taught in the classroom and
    • measure how well students have learned specific information about topics and themes that have been taught in the classroom and
    EQAO assessments
    • provide a snapshot of your child’s achievement based on a six-hour test;
    • are given at the end of key stages in a child’s education;
    • are administered, scored and reported on in a consistent and objective manner;
    • assess only your child’s performance on a particular test;
    • have no subjective component that might affect your child’s score and
    • generate results that provide students, parents, teachers and the public with a “big picture” snapshot of students’ learning at the time of the assessment.

    When students write an EQAO test, they’re being measured on the same skills and answering the same questions as every other student in the province.

    The tests are scored “blindly,” meaning the scorer doesn’t know who a student is, which school a student attends or where in Ontario a student resides. This ensures that the assessment results are objective and not affected by any biases—unintentional or otherwise—on the part of the scorers.

  5. Does my child have to take the EQAO test?

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    Yes. Ontario’s Education Quality and Accountability Act states that all students in publicly funded schools must participate in these tests. Students don’t need to study for the test—we just ask them to demonstrate what they already know.

  6. What do Levels 1, 2, 3 and 4 mean?

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    They describe a level of achievement on a scale of 1 to 4. Level 3 is the provincial standard.

    Teachers across the province use the achievement levels from The Ontario Curriculum to evaluate their students’ work.

    The following are brief descriptions of the various reporting categories for this assessment:

    Level 4The student has demonstrated the required knowledge and skills. Achievement exceeds the provincial standard.
    Level 3The student has demonstrated most of the required knowledge and skills. Achievement meets the provincial standard.
    Level 2The student has demonstrated some of the required knowledge and skills. Achievement approaches the provincial standard.
    Level 1The student has demonstrated some of the required knowledge and skills in limited ways. Achievement falls much below the provincial standard.
  7. When and how does the testing occur?

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    The testing takes place during a two-week period in late May and early June. Each school determines the exact dates during that period on which students will write the test, which is administered by your child’s regular teacher in his or her own classroom.

    The test takes a total of six hours to complete.

    It is made up of three booklets—two for language, one for math. Each test booklet has two sections, each of which takes one uninterrupted hour to complete.

    Test sessions can be scheduled at any time within the specified two-week test period.

    You will receive your child’s test results in the fall.

  8. What happens if my child is absent on the day the test is given?

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    If your child is absent on the day(s) the test is administered, the school can make arrangements to have your child write the test when he or she returns, but only if that happens within the specified two-week test period.

    If your child does not return to school within that two-week period, he or she will not be able to participate in the test.

    Test sessions can be scheduled at any time within the specified two-week test period.

    You will receive your child’s test results in the fall.

Administering the EQAO Assessments

  1. What does EQAO do to ensure that the assessments are valid and fair for all students?

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    The fairness and validity of EQAO tests is extremely important. EQAO works hard to ensure that its assessments are both fair and valid. EQAO tests are

    • developed by Ontario educators;
    • reviewed by experts for various forms of bias (e.g., racial, gender-based, cultural) and sensitivity;
    • assessed by statistical experts;
    • reviewed by educators, who make sure that the curricular content is appropriate;
    • field tested with random samples of students from across the province and
    • administered consistently across the province.
  2. How reliable are the results?

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    Very reliable. EQAO has reliability checks in place at every stage of the assessment cycle—from the development of the tests to scoring by teachers to the reporting of results.

  3. Who scores the tests?

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    All scorers for the primary and junior division assessments are certified Ontario teachers. These teachers receive training in how to use scoring guides to evaluate students’ work. After this training, they must pass a test to qualify as an EQAO scorer.

    Scorers do not score entire test booklets. Teams of scorers are assigned a single question or group of questions that they score for all students. This means that any student’s overall score will have been contributed to by several EQAO scorers; these same scorers will have contributed to the same portions of every other student’s overall score.

    These procedures ensure consistency of scoring and the reliability and validity of the results.

  4. Is the content of the English- and French-language tests the same?

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    No, these are two different tests, because the curricula for English- and French-language schools are not the same. For this reason, the results of the English- and French-language tests cannot be compared directly.

    The two assessments are very similar, however, because they are developed according to the same principles, guidelines and criteria.

Results and Reporting

  1. What do EQAO results tell me about my child?

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    EQAO test results provide a snapshot of your child’s achievement in relation to the provincial standard. Students who meet or exceed the standard (Level 3) have demonstrated most or all of the required knowledge and skills in reading, writing and math expected at this stage in their education.

    However, no single test can offer a complete or definitive picture of what your child has learned. In the end, no one better understands the true measure of your child’s abilities and knowledge—or is in a better position to assess them—than his or her classroom teacher. When used together, the results of EQAO and classroom tests provide a more complete picture of your child’s knowledge.

  2. How do I make the best use of the results?

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    The best thing to do with your child’s EQAO results is to discuss them with his or her teacher. Together you can review how the EQAO results compare with those from classroom and other evaluations. You can also discuss the broader issue of your child’s overall progress.

    EQAO also provides schools with reports that detail how each student answered each test question. If your child needs additional support, you can review this report with your child’s teacher to help identify specific skills on which to focus.

    Here are a few specific questions you may wish to ask your child’s teacher at the next parent/teacher interview:

    • How does my child’s performance on the EQAO test compare with what you observe in the classroom?
    • How can I offer additional support to my child at home?
  3. Suppose the scores on the test don’t match up with the grades my child is getting. What do I do?

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    EQAO test results provide a snapshot of your child’s achievement based on a six-hour test. They form only one gauge of his or her overall achievement. Ongoing classroom evaluations—which assess your child’s knowledge, motivation and a variety of other factors—provide the richest and most comprehensive measure of your child’s progress.

    Your child’s EQAO test scores should be considered together with the wealth of assessment-based results his or her teachers have collected over the years. These will constitute a comprehensive profile of your child’s learning.

  4. Why are student-achievement results not more specific?

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    EQAO’s reporting of results reflect the four levels of achievement established by the Ministry of Education for Ontario students.

  5. What is EQAO recommending to boards to help them improve their results?

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    In our provincial report, we recommend specific strategies for instruction that classroom teachers can use.

    We also recommend that school boards look at the trends in their data and identify the strategies most likely to address the areas most in need of attention or remediation.

Your Child’s School

  1. Where can I go to find out how my child’s school did in comparison with other schools?

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    EQAO results should not be the basis for comparisons among schools.

    The results of one test administered at one point in the year hardly form the basis for comparisons of schools’ overall quality.

    Moreover, test scores in and of themselves don’t necessarily provide the whole picture of any student’s or school’s achievement. A school might produce strong results although its students are not achieving their full potential. Another school, on the other hand, might not perform as well as others, based on the numbers alone, but may demonstrate substantial progress when measured over time and against specific targets.

    Comparisons often ignore the particular circumstances affecting individual schools’ achievement.

    The data provided by EQAO test are intended to

    • ensure the quality and accountability of the public education system and
    • serve as a basis for improvements in student learning.

    You can find information about your school’s performance in the School, Board and Provincial Results section of this Web site.

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Education Quality and Accountability Office, Suite 1200, 2 Carlton Street, Toronto ON  M5B 2M9  
Telephone: 1-888-327-7377   •   Fax: 416-325-0831
www.eqao.com
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