Testing rooted in learning

You know your kids are thriving when they rush home to tell you about what they learned that day. So why doesn’t our testing system work like that too?

ETFO has consistently raised concerns about how Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) tests, first administered in 1997, have negatively affected elementary classrooms by promoting an overly narrow focus on literacy and numeracy to the detriment of a more holistic program and by creating a test-driven school culture through the large number of diagnostic assessments that the Ministry of Education and school boards have imposed on classrooms as part of the drive to improve provincial test results. The tests and preparation for them consume considerable classroom time and create stress for students and their teachers. They also fail to measure more complex skills required for problem solving and innovation, lead to “teaching to the test,” demotivate students and are misused to rank schools.

EQAO test results are being misused by real estate agents and organizations like the Fraser Institute to rank schools and neighbourhoods and by the government’s online School Information Finder to compare schools. This is socially divisive and a misuse of the results. ETFO believes EQAO’s $36 million budget would be better spent if the funds were allocated to frontline education programs.

According to ETFO’s recent poll, over two-thirds (68 per cent) of Ontarians agree that EQAO testing doesn’t accurately measure student success and that teachers’ classroom assessment should take higher priority

The narrow focus on literacy and numeracy and on student performance in EQAO assessments over two decades has led to system fatigue. Educators – from classroom teachers to superintendents – are stressed. And so are students. It is not only staff who are calling for fundamental changes. Ontario-based education experts advocate for a new vision for education, one that is not focused on standardized test results. Their vision is based on creating supportive and collaborative school cultures where educators can exercise their professional judgement regarding their classroom practice, curriculum and assessment strategies.

There are alternatives to Ontario’s testing regime. Finland, a top-performing nation on international assessments, uses random sample tests to occasionally check if its curriculum and teaching approaches are appropriate. The international tests that Ontario students participate in, conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), are random sample tests.

In the end, the most effective assessment of student progress is the assessment that teachers do every day in the classroom. Teachers strive to balance their instruction with assessment that provides students with immediate feedback about their own progress and helps them to work more productively on their own and with other students. Teachers use ongoing assessment to reflect on their teaching, improve their teaching strategies and respond to individual student needs. If the government is truly interested in improving the levels of student success, it should put its focus on supporting teachers’ professional judgement and ongoing classroom assessment skills rather than on the EQAO tests. This view is supported by a majority of Ontarians. According to ETFO’s recent poll, over two-thirds (68 per cent) of Ontarians agree that EQAO testing doesn’t accurately measure student success and that teachers’ classroom assessment should take higher priority.


Act on this!
Take action for testing that works Share it!
  • Cancel EQAO grades 3 and 6 tests.
  • Respect teacher professional judgement and place more emphasis on the role of ongoing teacher assessment of student progress.
  • Revise the elementary Ontario curriculum by reducing the number of prescribed student outcomes and identifying, instead, a set of core learning goals.
  • Provide all elementary classrooms with resources that support hands-on, experiential learning.


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