Agency concerned by recommendation to eliminate important source of data on early student learning
April 24, 2018
Following the release of the report of the Independent Review of Assessment and Reporting, the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) agrees with the Government of Ontario that further consultation is required on the recommendations related to Ontario’s large-scale assessment program.
As an independent government agency, EQAO contributes to continuous improvement and accountability in Ontario’s publicly funded education system. The Premier’s education advisors, who led the review, call for significant changes to Ontario’s approach to large-scale provincial assessments, and it is appropriate to discuss the implications of these potential changes further.
EQAO will take the opportunity to analyze the recommendations in depth, taking into account current trends in large-scale assessment, potential impacts on the availability of information to support student learning and a broad range of insights from stakeholders and experts. The agency will provide its analysis to the Government of Ontario for consideration as part of its decision-making process.
EQAO supports positive change and will continue to modernize. Prior to the review, the agency had launched a modernization initiative to allow it to better address principles of equity and inclusion, reflect classroom experiences more closely, broaden its range of insights into student achievement and increase flexibility in assessment administration—all topics that are addressed in the review’s report.
While further analysis is required to determine the implications of the recommendations, EQAO is concerned that the review is calling for the elimination of the primary-division assessment, currently administered in Grade 3. The removal of this assessment would result in the loss of an important source of data on early student learning—data that is used not only to improve programs in elementary schools, but also to monitor the effectiveness of public expenditures on education and the results of Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy.
EQAO is also disappointed that the report subscribes to a narrow and traditional view of large-scale assessments. The review recommends that large-scale assessments be used in a manner that is less practical and that ultimately yields fewer insights than currently possible. In contrast, EQAO believes educators should be empowered to leverage large-scale assessments as they deem appropriate to support their students’ growth trajectories, including diagnostic or formative purposes if they so choose. Through technology and a stronger understanding of the principles of equity and inclusion, there is an opportunity to create large-scale assessments that better engage students, that provide better feedback than has traditionally been possible and that deliver this feedback faster. EQAO hopes that continued discussions will consider the opportunities to modernize assessments so that they provide students, parents and educators more information to support goal setting, student learning and professional practice.
- In September 2017, the Government of Ontario announced a review of provincial assessment and reporting practices. Led by the Premier’s education advisors, the Independent Review of Assessment and Reporting considered classroom assessments, large-scale provincial assessments and Ontario’s participation in pan-Canadian and international assessment programs.
- EQAO encouraged active participation in the consultation process organized as part of the review.
- EQAO’s primary-division assessment measures the reading, writing and math skills students are expected to have learned in Grades 1 through 3. All EQAO assessments are created by Ontario teachers and based on expectations outlined inThe Ontario Curriculum.
- The proposed elimination of the primary-division assessment, currently administered in Grade 3, will impede Ontario’s ability to identify gaps in student learning in early years. Meanwhile, evidence has shown that the earlier interventions occur, the more likely it is for students to be successful. The loss of this assessment data will have a significant impact on our collective understanding of students’ long-term learning trajectories.
- In 2017, 95% of Ontario elementary-school principals used EQAO data to identify areas of strength and improvement, and 83% used it to support a change in teaching practices. These figures are derived from the results of EQAO’s Principal Questionnaire in 2017, to which 65% of elementary-school principals responded (i.e., 2294 out of 3541).
- As discussions about provincial assessments take place, the administration of EQAO assessments will proceed as scheduled.
“EQAO supports positive change and agrees that further discussion about the review’s recommendations is needed. It is important that we collectively understand the full impact these recommendations would have on Ontario’s approach to large-scale assessments. We will analyze the implications of these recommendations to understand how they align with trends in large-scale assessment and how they would affect the availability of information about our education system. We are concerned that the proposed elimination of EQAO’s primary-division assessment would effectively remove half of the independent data available to support continuous improvement in elementary schools. As we modernize assessments based on the feedback of educators and communities across Ontario, it is better to optimize assessment practices to address concerns rather than eliminate an important source of data on early student learning.”— Dave Cooke, Chair, EQAO
Information Paper: Modernizing EQAO to Better Support Student Learning (submitted during the consultation process organized as part of the Review)