By Lisa Walsh, Ph.D., EQAO Chief Assessment Officer
Few milestones are reached without preparation and perseverance and free of challenges. On October 20, when a potential 190 000 secondary school students across Ontario attempt the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test online for the first time, we at EQAO and our school and school board partners will have reached an important marker.
Since September 2014, we have been moving forward with plans to modernize the provincial assessment program. Optimistically, but by no means naively, we knew that upending the well-established approach to how we manage assessments—from creation to administration and scoring—would mean revising each and every step of our process while upholding the existing program’s standards and rigour.
In the area of administration specifically, three years of intensive research, two surveys of the technical readiness of school boards and five field trials involving a total of 35 310 students in every region of Ontario have led us to October 20—a province-wide voluntary trial of the online testing platform.
This additional test day will help us assess the technical readiness of EQAO and of the possibly more than 900 participating secondary schools to support an online assessment, before the regularly scheduled assessment in March 2017.
Progress is never straightforward. Plans provide a foundation, but they hardly prevent failure. While we are actively preparing our systems and working closely with our school and school board partners to ensure that they, too, are prepared, we can’t be certain that technical issues, both big and small, will not arise. It would be unrealistic not to—a trial of this kind, size and scope has yet to be attempted in Ontario. For this reason, we have been mindful to design the trial in a way that will benefit students: if they succeed, they will satisfy their OSSLT requirement early; if they don’t, or if there are significant technical issues, it won’t be counted against them.
So what happens on October 21?
It will certainly be a day of reflection. The trial will provide us with rich, important data to guide next steps and the future of online assessments in Ontario.
As an agency, we will use the findings to refine how we move forward with our plans to offer the online OSSLT to secondary students in the spring and to shape how we design, present and offer future assessments. The trial will also generate new facts, figures and feedback from Ontario’s educators and students on how to bring the provincial assessments in line with the digital world in which we live in a way that will give students the best opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.
No matter the outcome, we will certainly have a more informed answer to the question Is Ontario ready for online assessments?
Take the leap from paper to the online OSSLT on October 20