EQAO & issue of cheating re standardized tests

There were allegations that a principal with the Thames Valley District School Board (London, Ontario) unfairly opened an Ontario’s Education & Quality Accountability Office (EQAO) standardized testing package ahead of time so that teachers could prepare students.  To read about the whole issue and the outcome of the investigation, check out Hugo’s blog at The Education Reporter

Now, Hugo does a very good job of explaining the ifs, ands and buts of the allegations, along with providing highlights from the report of an investigation into the incident. However, I wouldn’t go so far as to call what happened “cheating.” Breaking EQAO rules perhaps, but not cheating. I say that carefully because not letting teachers know what a testing package is about is going against everything I have ever learned about how to teach kids — and that is to always review curriculum content and demonstrate skills before a test.   

In my opinion then, this is a power struggle between EQAO and the professionals in the system. You will do as EQAO says or else you will be punished by your school board — maybe even be fired. Isn’t it, in fact, cheating the students when teachers have to completely ignore their pleas and questions during the time they are completing the EQAO tests. Some students, let’s not forget, are only 8 years old and in Grade 3 and don’t yet have abstract reasoning skills.

So, while I agree with the concept of standardized testing, I would recommend that EQAO ease the rules to allow teachers to better prepare their students — which will help reduce the stress for everyone involved. Otherwise, the testing process, in Ontario at least, is not really about finding out how well our children are performing, or how well individual schools are performing in relation to others, but how well they are at test taking.

Which begs the question: Would advance preparation be considered simply “teaching to the test?” And, if so, what would be wrong with that? In my view, nothing, as long as the preparation time was short because, after all is said and done, the validity of the tests would still be there given it is individual children who complete them.  

Something to think about.

33 thoughts on “EQAO & issue of cheating re standardized tests

  1. I was heavily involved in the defence of a teacher for cheating. The teacher was head of SE at Moira HS in Belleville. The cheating involved the principal, the VP, and the head of SE. The local OSSTF group blew the whistle. All three were punished, demoted and pushed to early retirement. It was all in the blue pages of COT magazine.

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    • Doug — I don’t always read the COT magazine, particularly the blue pages. But, that is really sad, especially regarding special education students. I am now beginning to see why the unions want reform on the testing. Perhaps the teachers’ unions should talk about learning theory instead of sounding like they simply want to reduce the workload.

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  2. The test simply evaluate the content of what was taught over a period of several years ie have they learned basic skills. If all teachers at eacj grade level teach the relevant content adequately then the students would have no difficulty with the tests. Test taking skills can be practiced using past tests or practice tests. It boils down to have the teachers done their jobs or not and if some student s are not achieving satisfactorily because of learning difficulties then implement the corrective remedial instruction.
    Teachers don’t like these tests i know that i didn’t and each year found that i had to worry about the students did not learn in previous years when there was no testing and no pressure to cover curriculum adequately.

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  3. In the early days, we were able to afford (albeit with considerable sacrifice) to send our daughters to a private bilingual school. Said school had standardized testing for all grades yearly, quite apart from the mandated provincial exams. The attitude of the school was that such tests gave them an independent measure of both what their students knew and how effectively various subjects had been taught. If the exams showed that a given class was deficient in a particular subject, notice was taken and the teacher involved mader certain tht subject was covered. It wasn’t a blame thing, just another tool to ensure all subjects were covered adequately.

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  4. The fact that each year more and more parents are making the choice to keep their children at home rather than participate in EQAO suggests that many parents and taxpayers in the province are questioning the usefulness of EQAO in their children’s lives.

    Just a note about remedial help – quite often, remedial help requires the approval of parents and many parents make the choice to not allow their children to take parent in any remedial work. Many parents are concerned with their children being labelled if they agree to remedial assistance.

    In an ideal world, EQAO success would be recognized as both successful teaching and successful parenting. Many parents don’t give themselves enough credit for the successes exhibited by their children.

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  5. It DOES NOT boil down to have the teachers done their jobs. Every teacher and admin in the system knows that the teachers in poorly performing schools are just as well trained and work just as hard, harder in fact and are just as dedicated but the scores match the SES of the schools overwhelmingly. It has virtually NOTHING to do with the ability and dedication of the teachers in low performing schools.

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    • On that Doug, we agree at 3:38pm. Teachers in low performing schools are working just as hard as those in high performing schools.

      Some kids just can’t perform well and what is sometimes hard to accept is that sometimes there are more underperforming students in one school than another. I don’t want to guess the reason, because there are many. Learning disabilities. No support at home for an education. No computer at home to research. Parents who don’t read to their kids. Parents who too busy to help their kids or have them in so many sports and other activities, they don’t have time for homework, etc.

      I once had a father tell me it was my responsibility to make sure his Grade 5 son did well. Trouble is, even when I worked with his son before school, during recess and sometimes even after school, he simply would not co-operate. He had the ability but, given some family problems, just wouldn’t do what was expected of him. I asked the father what he could do to help and he said nothing. That is your job.

      In other words, no matter how much you motivate some children, you can’t open up their heads and drop in the knowledge and skills. Some help is needed by parents.

      I wish it were otherwise, but not all children are equal in aptitude or willingness to do what is necessary to learn. If a school is low performing, the question is why and the blame should not automatically be placed on teachers. Yet, it usually is.

      In my special education practice, I worked with children and youth with learning problems that the school system could not help. Why did my strategies work? Because I was working one-on-one. That is simply not possible in classes with 20 to 30 students. Think of the bell curve. The kids at the bottom of that curve are who keep school performance numbers down. Not nice to talk about or politically incorrect? You bet. But the truth.

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  6. Some like to tell me, Doug you are from the big city where neighbourhoods are highly polarized by social class but in the rest of the province, this is not the case. I beg to differ. I grew up in Owen Sound and everyone knew that all of the highly sucessful kids came from Ryerson or Hillcrest or Dufferin PSs. Everybody knew that Alexandra, Strathcona and Victoria were much tougher neighbourhoods. A city of 20 000 was just as polarized. When I represented the fed in the same meetings, a school called Bruce Peninsula was overflowing with problems. Sure there were a lot of Aboriginal kids with all of their problems but the Bruce Peninsula is also a poor neighbourhood for the permanent residents. It shows up in the schools.

    We tend to talk right past each other but conservative need to realize that success in school A and failure in school B has much more to do with the parenting and class level of the homes that the teachers. You can switch all the teachers from the high scoring to the low scoring schools and you will get the same result next year.

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    • Doug — re 2:02pm — I don’t see the issue as a “conservative” issue — lots of progressives that I talk to have a problem with the education system as well. I see it simply as personal opinion. On much of what you are saying, I agree with you. But, then, in the final analysis, I am a retired educator and I suppose some would say I have already drunk the cool aid. Which is why I am not going to be blogging for awhile because I don’t actually see my commentary as right wing. It is just based on my values and my experience.

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  7. Oh progressives have a lot of problem with the Ontario public school system but we would probably list the problems this way:

    1) The system is seriously underfunded
    2) Standardized testing whipsaws the system to the detriment of the students
    3) The streaming system sells thousands of kids short
    4) The creativity is being sucked out of the system
    5) The classes are still too big
    6) We could move faster in the ECE, JK childcare file
    7) There are far more “expectations” than could ever be taught or learned
    8 ) The system is under-resourced
    9) The school boards are too big and too weak, impotent giants.
    10) Far too many schools are being closed too fast without social repurposing

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    • Doug — That may be the way you “think” progressives would identify problems. However, that is not the way my university teacher education colleagues necessarily talk. You assume far too much my friend and blame far too much on political ideology.

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  8. Doug seems inclined, yet again, to equate what he thinks to what all sorts of other folks believe even there’s no evidence he’s been given a mandate to speak on their behalf. Let’s add “progressives” to parents, kids, the public, business and various others to the list of folks he doesn’t represent.

    What does “seriously underfunded” even mean?
    “The creativity is being sucked out of the system” Ditto; who knows what that even means?
    Who decided “classes are still too big” and based on what?
    Who decided “the system is underresourced”?

    And so on…

    If this is the sort of fatuous, unconvincing fluff “progressives” produce I’d think they can safely be ignored. I suspect some, or most, of them can make a better case.

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    • John L — Who says or who decided? Hmm. One guess. The teachers’ unions! Surprise. LOL

      Underfunded my foot! Creativity being sucked out? How? Well, quite possibly because creativity is not rewarded in our current school system because equity and mediocrity and treating everyone the same, from students to teachers (e.g., no merit pay comes to mind), are what the unions say the system must have.

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      • Doug and the unions are always complaining about Mike Harris. Well, I remember all too well that the education budget was $12 billion in 1995 when his gov’t came into power. The only “cuts” were to divy up the pot so that the Catholic system got the same money as the secular public. In the 1999 provincial election, the education system was getting $15 billion. It is now over $20 billion. Just how more money would help I don’t know. It is simply, like health care, a bottomless pit!

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  9. It must be a union thing wherin not getting the increase demanded is a “cut”. I’d love to try and convince my boss that only giving me 2% when I was expecting 3% is actually a “cut” of 1%.

    On a sidenote Doug is busy over at Educhatter lecturing me on how wanting a Lexus but only being willing to pay for a Toyota is unrealistic, or words to that effect. I suspect that’d mean Doug is rather like a Toyota salesman trying to convince folks they’re paying for a Lexus.

    I think he’s in need of a timeout; its gettin’ a little strange

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  10. It was clear in Belleville, one school just kept coming first every year, Centennial, and the school that always came second was getting many complains from the parents, even though they were second in the HPEDSB. Moira had far more SE due to the board’s bussing policy and it was the SE kids that were holding Moira back. The admin including the SE head conspired to help the SE kids because they were tired of always coming second. It was even affecting property values.

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  11. In Belleville, teachers who were asked to cheat and thought it was wrong, went to the local federation OSSTF who went to the provincial fed, the media and the board.

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  12. My question is who reported this to the EQAO – it had to have been a teacher because parents have no access to the tests

    No, it could easily have been a support staff member, such as an educational assistant or special needs assistant. They are often asked to assist with materials handling for EQAO and would be in a position to report irregularities.

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  13. If testing improved the system the USA would have a great system and Finland’s system would be terrible. The reverse is true.

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    • Doug — I don’t understand what you mean exactly. Does Finland have standardized testing? Whatever. There is no sense bringing up Finland. They are a very small homogeneous country.

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  14. The leading educators of the world are all looking at Finland as having the very best OECD results and they all notice that aside from OECD testing that is random, there is not standardized testing in Finland. It is small but so is Singapore, and many other OECD test nations. There are large minorities of Swedes and Lapps in Finland. Detractors try the “Finland doesn’t count” stuff but they themselves are very clear on how they went from well back in Europe to #1 in the world. The Finnish education spokespeople say, we only recruit teachers who have finished in the top 25% of their graduating class at university and we require most teachers to have 2 Master’s degrees, one in ‘education’ and one in their subject discipline. This is THE formula for rapid improvement but traditionalists simply put their fingers in their ears and say ” no talking about Finland” because they are #1 in the world with no testing, no vouchers, no charters, no teacher testing, strong unions, democratic control, small but not very small classes.

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    • Doug – You wrote: “The Finnish education spokespeople say, we only recruit teachers who have finished in the top 25% of their graduating class at university and we require most teachers to have 2 Master’s degrees, one in ‘education’ and one in their subject discipline.”

      One quarter of education graduates qualify for jobs? Two master’s degrees? I can’t believe you think that option is better than standardized testing and some parent choice. In Ontario, you can’t even apply for a Master’s degree in education or the equivalent without at least one year’s experience teaching. Talk about a can of worms.

      Strong unions in Finland? If they agree to those standards, they sure aren’t independent. If our College of Teachers did that, we’d have a huge shortage of teachers and outrage by the rank and file. I know, because I used to do research on the numbers of grads who got jobs with a B.Ed.

      Even when I taught in the McMaster M.A.(T), MSc.(T) program, my students were all practising teachers or practising nursing educators who only ended up with one master’s degree, a degree that covered both education and their subject discipline.

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  15. You can knock it Sandy but this is what teaching experts like Linda Darling-Hammond are calling the gold standard in teaching. BTW there is zero evidence that testing and choice will get us anything. It clearly does not work in the USA but they don’t let that stop them.

    Most of the nations that finish on top of the OECD are almost totally public systems with very strong unions. Finland has the winning formula but they took this road in the mid 70s. We need to start now moving in this direction.
    Take a look at LDH’s latest book Education in a Flat World. She lauds the Finnish system and BTW thinks Canada is pretty good as well.

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  16. As has been discussed previously the conditions in Finland, a small population, a failrly homogenous society, overly reliant on one company, Nokia, for a big share of their national economy, etc, etc may not be particularly appllicable in countries almost entirely different in economy, culture, demographics, etc.

    You could fit the entire population of Finland into the GTA so let’s keep it in perpective.

    Let’s do apples-to-apples comparisons.

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    • John L — apples and apples comparisons is right. Moreover, the notion that only union workers do the best job is a myth long past its before date. Emergency workers, government employees, you name it, that is always the claim. It is offensive in the extreme. In fact, it is just the opposite. Private sector workers work their butts off. And, we all know there is a “union mentality” and that does not bode well for patients and customers. I recently had experience with those types while in an emergency hospital observation area. No, a good worker is a good worker, whether they are unionized or not. But, if you are going to have the work to rule types, they will be union workers every time.

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  17. Sandy and John,

    Just because you do not like the Finland formula, there is no case to try to minimize it based on demographics. The OECD says this is the model. Experts like Darling-Hammond state, this is the model. The fact that it is small has nothing to do with it. Voucher/charter models from the USA are tiny in comparison with Finland by conservatives attempt to extrapolate results from very very tiny models.

    Canada the USA and Finland are apples apples apples models. You need to understand that the Finnish experts are all over the world these days (including Dalton’s recent conference) explaining how they do it. You to may attempt to belittle the Finland model because it does not fit your beliefs but the most serious experts across the world are paying more attention to Finland than any other working model of top level education.

    Of course Sandy, we cannot demand 2 masters degrees next year but we must soon insist one one masters to be allowed to enrole in teacher training and establish a timetable for the day we expect 2.

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    • Doug — When it comes to deciding teacher training, you are over your head! You have no idea what you are talking about. I have sat on admissions committees and 80% of applicants would be rejected on the basis of the Finnish criteria — resulting in a major teacher shortage. That is why it is different in a larger country. No one is minimizing Finland, just being realistic for Canada. If you look at the stats, 2% of a population have a doctorate and 10-15% have masters. Ask for two masters and you are down to the 2% — and they are only the ones who finish their dissertations. Because, 20% of the 2% go ABD — all but dissertation.

      Sure, you could do the same as when a B.A./B.Sc. was required in 1971 when I attended — five full credits (first year university) the first year, ten credits the next year and then fifteen credits and a degree by the third year.

      But, sorry, I would rather see a four year B.A./B.Ed be required, followed by a M.Ed within five years. Teaching is, contrary to what you are saying, not rocket science. Most pre-service students are average, hard as that is to believe. Nothing wrong with that. That is where most in society function.

      So, you can stop minimizing what John L and I have said. You are not the sole authority on education in Ontario.

      End of your particular discussion. Thanks. Let’s stick with the EQAO issue.

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  18. Of course we cannot jump to their policy, they took 35 years to reach that point but we must develop a steady pace that demands a higher university standing every year until we get there.

    2014 only A avg allowed to apply to teacher’s college
    2018 Only MA in subject for HS teachers or Med for elementary
    2022 MA in a subject + MEd to be allowed to apply to TC.
    I would also demand minimum DEd for Superintendents by 2015

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  19. I find it intriguing that someone with a Masters degree can be doing exactly the same job as the person teaching next door with a BEd. Either one is underqualified or the other is overqualified for the job held. Maybe we should link higher qualifications with higher responsibilities.

    Let’s also make sure that the higher degree will actually lead to higher competence and not just be a credential unrequired for the work being done. Credential creep is common these days.

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  20. About 25% of teachers in Toronto have a MEd or higher. 90% of those are in a position of responsibility.

    The world’s experts on teaching say Finland is the best. Finland says we are the best because we demand teachers be A level grads with Master’s degrees, most with 2 masters. We need to pull our best university grads away from other professions and into teaching to improve education. This is the proven formula for success.

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    • Doug — Like I said, could we get back onto the EQAO topic? I might do a post on this topic soon, but it just doesn’t fit here.

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      • By the way Doug, I have been approving your comments because they have added to the discussion and because differences of opinion are not the problem.

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      • FYI — I just added the following “Endnote” to the bottom of my top post:

        I will be busy over the next little while dealing with both health issues and finishing a research report. As such, new postings on Crux-of-the-Matter will either be few and far between or not at all — meaning if there is a federal election, I will not be taking part as a blogger. However, I plan to leave this post and link to my Harper government accomplishment list at the top during my absence. Comments on posts older than 30 days will automatically be closed, while more recent comments will be on full moderation. My sincere thanks to all the regulars who have stopped by here and the theretirededucator.com over the past five years!”

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