Monday, March 19, 2012

Standardized Coercion

This was written by Sheila Stewart who is a former educator and parent from Ontario. This post first appeared here on her blog. She tweets here and blogs here.

by Sheila Stewart

I recently followed a discussion on Twitter regarding the inclusion of provincial standardized testing outcomes as part of the report card marks in Alberta. Joe Bower (@joe_bower) blogged about it here.

Ever since Ontario’s EQAO standardized testing began I recall assurances that the outcomes would not impact report card marks and classroom assessment. That seems to still hold true for Gr. 3 and 6 testing. However this is not the case for the Gr. 9 EQAO math testing. When my oldest child was in Grade 9 five years ago I was informed that the EQAO did allow for up to 5% of the test outcome to be factored into the course grade. I recall getting clarification on that at that time from the teacher and from an EQAO contact person. Now I am hearing that there has been a further change in this regard – it can now be counted up to 30% of the course mark. It seems to be at the discretion of the school and I have heard about ranges of 5-15% being decided upon and communicated to students and parents. When it was 5% I didn’t hear too much concern from other parents, but I have certainly heard more concern and questions now.

In looking closer at the EQAO website, I came across a research bulletin which confirmed the 0-30% range. It can be found here.

It states that student survey results indicated that students were more motivated to take the EQAO tests seriously knowing that the outcomes could be a part of their course mark:
“The questionnaire results show that students’ knowledge of the EQAO assessment counting has the potential to improve results. Also, approximately 70% of students indicated that this knowledge increased their motivation to take the assessment more seriously.”
Below is the actual question I found from the survey and the results.

Does counting the Grade 9 Assessment of Mathematics as part of your class mark motivate you to take the assessment more seriously?

Here are the responses from students in the Applied Courses:
Yes (10 183) 71%
No (1 629) 11%
Undecided (2 321) 16%
No response/ambiguous response (174) 1%
Here are the responses from the students in the Academic Courses:
Yes (39 082) 74%
No (6 316) 12%
Undecided (6 880) 13%
No response/ambiguous response ( 514) 1%

Complete results of the student and teacher questionnaires can be found here.

What seemed to start out like a small incentive for students to write this test has seemed to become something more. Even though students answered that this is “motivating”, does this make it a sound assessment and evaluation practice? Should we question a little deeper why almost 30% of students in each of the course pathways did not answer yes to the motivation question? Is it a good idea to continue with such “external motivators” for performance in the name of improved results on standardized testing?

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