Update: Ministry of Education shares statement on the Ontario Teachers Federation’s call for suspension of EQAO’s online literacy test pilot

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Ontario's publicly funded education system shouldn't be subjected to a poorly timed experiment in large-scale, online assessment, especially during a pandemic. (image via twitter)

Teachers’ unions are calling on the province to get rid of Ontario’s Grade 10 literacy test, which is set to be administered online as a pilot project this year.

In a statement released Friday, March 12, 2021, the Ontario Teachers Federation says that Ontario’s publicly funded education system should not be subjected to a poorly timed experiment in large-scale, online assessment, especially during a pandemic. The Ontario Teachers Federation and its affiliates are calling for the immediate suspension of The Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) online literacy test pilot.

The Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) tests are written in Grade 3, Grade 6, Grade 9 and Grade 10. The Grade 10 version tests literacy and is a usually a requirement for graduation, but that has been waived this year, as it was last year.

Yet, the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) is forging ahead with plans to administer the Grade 10 Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT). EQAO has indicated that a field test version of the online OSSLT will be administered between March and June 2021 to students in face-to-face, in-school settings.

The teachers federation states that EQAO will harness the results of the field test to gauge the effectiveness of its digital platform. “We can think of no compelling reason why staff and students should be subjected to a brand new, digital, large-scale assessment platform while they are still trying to cope with far more pressing life and learning challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic,” states Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF) President, Parker Robinson.

“Teachers and educators continue to be mindful of the mental health and wellbeing of their students and remain committed to trying to mitigate learning loss and closing gaps in learning, among other consequences of the ongoing pandemic”, the statement reads.

“To that end, OTF and its Affiliates have consistently and persistently underscored the fact that EQAO’s online OSSLT field test is an unnecessary distraction and burden for students who are required to take the assessment and for staff who are tasked with administering it.”

In recognition of current realities, OTF and its Affiliates, l’Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), call on Minister of Education Stephen Lecce to:

  • announce the immediate suspension of the administration of the 2021 Grade 10 OSSLT.
  • order the cessation of any other initiatives designed to measure the performance of Ontario’s publicly funded education system while it is operating in a state of duress without adequate support from the provincial government.

In a statement received from Caitlin Clark, Deputy Director of Communications, Office of the Hon. Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, the Ministry of Education acknowledges that student success remains the priority.

“While COVID-19 has forced upon us many changes to our schools and our lives, some things remain constant – the importance of quality education, our collective mental health, and the safety of students and staff. We remain focused on students receiving the quality education they deserve.
 
In support of students’ success and their mental health, Grade 3 and 6 students will not participate in EQAO assessments. Field tests for the EQAO Grade 9, and the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test will take place – however results for these will not be used in the determination of a student’s final mark unless agreed to by the teacher and student with the parent, and graduating students who are not able to complete the EQAO course successfully this year will be relieved of the burden of satisfying that requirement.
We are committed to student success and continued high quality standards of learning in this unprecedented school year.”

The Ministry of Education provided the following additional information,

For the 2020-21 school year, Grade 3 and 6 students will not participate in EQAO assessments, and field tests for the EQAO Grade 9 assessment of mathematics and the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) are taking place in the 2020-21 school year. EQAO is providing information on the logistics and implementation of these assessments.
The results of the Grade 9 assessment for EQAO shall not be used in the determination of a student’s final mark unless agreed to by the teacher and student with the parent, in support of the student’s success, nor will it impact students’ graduation requirement.