Why do Ontario Teachers Legitimize EQAO by Scoring the OSSLT?

Ms. Muscatello's Gr.10 Science class working on OSSLT worksheets.

The EQAO news report writing task asks students to invent and to fabricate content in order to meet the OSSLT standards. The photo above dipicts an Ontario teacher trying to explain this paradox to her Gr.10 science students.

This past April 2014, an undisclosed number of OSSLT “scorers” gathered at The Toronto Congress Centre to assess and to evaluate the literacy of thousands of eligible Grade 10 students in the Province of Ontario. This crew of “literati” consisted of a mix of Ontario Certified teachers in good standing (and not in good standing), retired teachers (with suspended or retired standings) and those never trained as teachers (with no standing). They underwent an apparently rigorous interview process and a supposedly even more intense training boot camp on scoring large-scale assessments. Their efforts over three weeks in April 2014 have resulted in the people of the Province of Ontario believing a lie: that Ontario’s teachers support EQAO’s version of standardized testing, the OSSLT.

Despite EQAO’s claim that approximately 1,500 teachers participated in the scoring of this year’s test, I have difficulty believing them. Joanne Rinella, Program Manager for Secondary Assessments at EQAO, assures me that each “scorer” (not necessarily a teacher) participates in less than a day of test training (actually 3/4 of a day) and must pass a qualifying test. After less than a day, scorers (not necessarily teachers) are ready to mark. She also boasts that content is created by Ontario teachers and educational consultants, albeit in an American-style test “blueprint.”

The fact is that Ontario’s teachers largely don’t support this OSSLT. I have yet to meet an Ontario teacher who thinks students absolutely must know how to write a news report based on fabricated content. Most teachers look at the multiple-choice questions used in this test, as cheap shots; intended to trick students instead of offering them opportunities to showcase their learning or their thinking. Even the notion of the type of literacy this test is trying to assess, is questionable. Their literacy construct fails to include any 21st century skills.

Ms. Rinella admits that the test blueprint hasn’t changed in the last 15 years. When asked why this was the case, her response was that EQAO wants their data to be “reportable.” If the test blueprint changes, then it won’t be able to be compared with previous test results. I wonder how many teachers maintain a sub-par or obsolete and antiquated test “blueprint” for over a decade, refusing to adopt 21st century learning models, web. 2.0 designs and collaborative learning models because that would mean it wouldn’t be able to be compared to previous years? Is EQAO, our body responsible for reporting on the quality of our education system really saying that nothing has changed in education in 15 years?

Ontario’s Growing Success document which outlines guidelines for assessment, evaluation and reporting in the province admits that these tests “differ from classroom assessment and evaluation in their purposes and in the way they are designed, administered, and scored” (92). Any Grade 10 student will tell you that the OSSLT is unlike any other assessment they have experienced and YET, this test is intended to provide parents, teachers and government with a “snapshot of the strength and weakness of education” (92). What it ends up doing is driving content and trumping the good, authentic work that teachers are trying to do. Like the science teacher in the photo above, shown spending her instructional period teaching her students to invent news report details instead of focusing on an authentic, collaborative and modern learning goal.

Ontario Teachers: stop financially benefitting from the OSSLT by scoring it and by contributing content to their obsolete test blueprint. Let’s make EQAO more Accountable for Equity and Quality in Ontario’s educational system. EQAO needs to change. They need to learn.