Ontario Teachers Union calls for moratorium on high-stakes tests

While the debate over Chicago's public school budget grows more heated and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis points out that the Chicago Board of Education is wasting more than $60 million per year on testing programs above and beyond the tests required by the State of Illinois, union leaders elsewhere are calling for a complete moratorium on the testing. The Associated Press Reported a story from Canada on August 17, 2010.

Ontario Teachers' Union Calls for Halt of Standardized Tests (Published Online: August 17, 2010)

By The Associated Press

The union representing elementary school teachers in Ontario said Monday it wants to halt standardized testing for elementary school students to allow for public consultation.

The Education Quality and Accountability Office testing is given to students in grades three and six, and focuses on testing literacy and math skills.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario has called for a two-year moratorium on the testing.

The federation said the tests rob students of other curriculum subjects, such as history, social studies and the arts.

"The best evaluation and assessment that can take place across the board is the day to day evaluation that our members do in the classroom," Sam Hammond, the union's president, said in a phone interview.

But the government said a moratorium is not a part of the educational plan for the province.

"We've found that the results of the testing have been quite useful in providing information on how we can continue to better support teachers and school boards," said Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky, as she reacted to the union's call.

Hammond said the federation commissioned Environics Research Group to convene focus groups with teachers across the province to find out about their experience with the testing.

The teachers said the testing did little to improve learning.

While Hammond said there have been some positive aspects of the testing, overall teachers revealed they've been buried by the exams, and other subjects have been sidelined, including science, history and social studies.

"Teachers are spending increasingly more time teaching to those tests and preparing for those tests," said Hammond.

Education advocates have also questioned the value of the standardized testing.

Annie Kidder of People for Education, a parent-led organization, said testing every single student in Ontario is not necessary.

"The testing drives the system rather than the other way around," said Kidder, adding that policy ends up focusing on one area of learning and skews the whole education system.

Kidder has said assessments should be done by sample testing.

"We have a system in Ontario where people are working very hard to get the top ten per cent of level 2 students up to level 3, now — to me — that doesn't sound like a vision of education," said Kidder.

But Dombrowsky said provincial tests have been an important tool for Ontario and for teachers.

"This is a tool that is used twice in an elementary career," said Dombrowsky.

"I think what that says is that the other assessment tools that are used by teachers are very key in telling parents how their children are doing," she added.

Hammond has also said the testing is also forming the basis for the School Information Finder, which real estate companies use to rank schools and neighbourhoods.

Dombrowsky said the government is looking to make that database more effective.


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