ST. THOMAS, Ont. — The agency responsible for standardized Ontario school tests needs to review its safeguards, says Premier Dalton McGuinty, in the wake of revelations of cheating and other irregularities in last year’s tests.
“I think it will make EQAO [Education Quality and Accountability Office] ask a few questions of the kind you’re asking right now — whether we have the appropriate checks and balances in place to make sure that we can have continuing confidence in a very important testing system,” McGuinty told reporters at the International Plowing Match in St. Thomas.
On Tuesday, the EQAO confirmed 10 schools were being investigated for a range of possible infractions by teachers. The provincial testing agency did not release specifics about the infractions.
“In terms of what … actions were taken by the employees of the school, we’re going to have to refer you to the school board to speak about it,” said EQAO spokesman Phil Serruya.
“Those are HR issues that the employer needs to speak about. What we can say is we had sufficient evidence to not feel confident that the results coming out of that school meet with the kind of reliability, in terms of individual student achievement. So if we’re not confident with the results, then the only recourse is to not report on them.”
The infractions involve a range of rule-breaking by teachers, according to the agency, such as teachers giving instruction after the test began, cases of photocopies of past years’ tests used for practice, examples of students not completing a session in one continuous sitting, and cases where students were given access to dictionaries, according to Serruya.
A Grade 6 math teacher at Ottawa’s Bernard-Grandmaitre, a Catholic school, did not follow the rules, a spokesman for the board said Tuesday.
“The principal did have some indication that protocols were not being followed and notified proper authorities,” said Francois Masse, superintendent of education for the French Catholic School Board Centre-East.
Tuesday’s revelations have reignited a debate over the merit of standardized testing.
Andrea Horwath, leader of the Ontario NDP, says the EQAO and the tests they administer have enforced a “cookie-cutter” approach to education, and forced many teachers to simply teach the test.
“It’s a system that, from our perspective, has failed students,” she said.
Mr. McGuinty, however, expressed confidence in the current system.
“We’re not going to stop moving forward with our standardized testing. That’s become a very important of our educational landscape.”
His government was elected on a promise to have 75% of all students meet the provincial standard in EQAO tests, which measure reading, writing and math proficiency in grades 3 and 6.
They have still not met that target. The combined average of students that met that standard in 2009-10 was 68%.
However, some feel the pressure on teachers to improve test results could be behind the latest cheating scandal.
“We’re all under pressure in different ways,” Mr. McGuinty said. “That’s just a part of life. The issue is what is the right way and what is the wrong way to respond to pressure.”
A list of all the schools under review:
Ecole Catholique St-Louis — Le C.S.C.D. des Grandes Rivieres
Ecole elementaire Bernard-Grandmaitre — Le C.E.C.L.F. Centre-Est de l’Ontario
Graham Bell-Victoria Public School — Grand Erie DSB
Notre Dame Catholic Separate School — Windsor-Essex Catholic DSB
Ontario Street Public School — Kawartha Pine Ridge DSB
Quaker Village Public School — Durham DSB
Sanford Avenue — Hamilton-Wentworth DSB
St. Peter’s Secondary School — Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington CDSB
Waterford Public School — Grand Erie DSB
The EQAO is not releasing the name of the 10th school under review because the investigation is ongoing.
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Ontario schools under investigation in cheating probeIn Canada on September 22, 2010 at 15:05