Category Archives: EQAO

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The Right Drivers for Whole System Education Reform

Very interesting piece from the Huffington Post (called The Global Search) on the left sidebar, under Numeracy in the News.  Read the entire article below, or click here for the link to the original source

“The way to improve the quality of teaching is through teamwork in the schools, and then surround it with better teacher pre-service, better attraction of the profession, and better professional development.” — Michael Fullan

Michael Fullan has been working to identify the right drivers for whole system education reform. His paper, “Choosing the Wrong Drivers for Whole System Reform,” has stimulated considerable interest from educators around the world (including the U.S.) to understand the policies and strategies that can help get education into successful system reform, i.e. real solutions to closing the achievement gap and improving learning so that students learn better than they did before.
Michael Fullan is Professor Emeritus at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, and is Special Adviser on Education to Dalton McGuinty, the Premier of Ontario. Fullan served as dean of the faculty of education at the University of Toronto from 1988 to 2003. He is currently working as adviser and consultant on several major education reform initiatives around the world. His work is based on how large-scale reform can be successfully accomplished. He has written several best sellers on leadership and change. His latest book isChange Leader: Learning to Do What Matters Most.
What kind of education system will permit a country to have the people skills needed to compete globally?
We did a qualitative study called “The Slow Road to Higher Order Skills” to take a look at what we call the 21st century skills. The skills that are normally listed, like creativity, communication, collaboration, problem solving, reasoning and digital literacy, are not well operationalized. Even though there has been a big project from Cisco/Intel/Microsoft to do that, the progress has been very slow. In Ontario, we want to start deeply with literacy and numeracy. We do not want to be narrow in our focus, but we also do not want to get into the vagaries of the 21st century skills that people talk about but do not operationalize. In short, no one seems to know what “there” looks like when it comes to higher order skills, and correspondingly, no one knows how to get there.
What are your views on standardized testing?
The worst thing a system can do is load up on standards and assessments in a way that overwhelms schools. This is wrong driver number one. Instead, we have to focus on instruction and learning (personalized to each student) as the centerpiece, and then link to standards and assessments. The driver here has to be assessment-instruction up close with the student and the teacher. In my paper, “Choosing the Wrong Drivers for Whole System Reform,” I identified how some systems are mishandling accountability.
Note: To briefly summarize Fullan’s paper, the four wrong drivers are the focus on accountability (versus intrinsic motivation and capacity building), individual quality (versus group quality), technology (versus instruction), fragmented (versus systemic) solutions.
Testing is important in what I am going to call the accountability strategy, but the push on standardized testing can become too narrow and it becomes a mindset that says we have to load up on assessment and also identify with world class standards (such as PISA) in terms of assessment. Almost all of the skills that I consider the high order skills are measurable if you want to measure them. Politicians make assessments based on testing that is narrower than it should be. The PISA test is a great example of how we can break out of that mold. On top of this, we have been working on the “black box” of implementation for which you not only need better assessments, but you also need innovative instruction in relation to those assessments. Once again, the core is assessment-instruction personalized to each learner.
We seem to have become assessment obsessed in the U.S. since our poor results in the last PISA Test.
The greater urgency the U.S. places on competing internationally, the more that becomes an obsession in the wrong direction. The U.S. school systems have been losing ground since 1980 with growing gaps between high and low performers, and poor rankings internationally. The U.S. needs to take PISA benchmarks seriously, they need to get behind the numbers and realize that the top performers got there by building the collective capacity of teachers in the country — all the teachers.

2011-10-23-cmrubinworldmichaelfullan1400.jpg“With Sir Ken Robinson, we want to map out the curriculum that includes the arts as well as literacy and math.” — Michael Fullan

What can be done to better address the emotional well-being of some kids today given the rise in competition and the pressure to achieve?
We have too many tests, so one way to reduce stress is to have fewer tests. I agree we have to reduce the stress on kids. Enabling them to have more success would be a great stress reducer. So, I would rather ask first what goals we are striving for. Let’s build those goals into the learning experience. And those goals have to include the well-being of our kids.
I think of the problem as a three legged stool. Let’s call the three legs: standards, assessment, and instruction. I want to go beyond the word curriculum and focus also on instruction. We’ve got standards. Even though they’ve not improved enough, there is a foot in the door around higher level skills, which should include well being. Our solution is to strengthen the two way street between instruction and assessment. Assessment should be a strategy teachers use to personalize the curriculum for kids and to improve instruction.
Dylan Wiliam has published a book called Embedded Formative Assessment (Solution Tree), and it’s all about teachers and students engaged in the two way street between instruction and assessment of how they are doing. The answer for me is to zero in on instruction and assessment. In addition, we are beginning to work with Sir Ken Robinson to ensure curriculum is broadened to include the arts. Students’ well-being will be greatly served by tapping into the intrinsic motivation of a range of kids.
Note: see Global Search for Education, my interviews with Sir Ken Robinson and with Dylan Wiliam.
What is the nature of the respect for teachers in countries that are doing well in education?
When you look at Finland, Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong, all of which have high quality teachers, you will see that it’s not just that they have good teachers, but also because they have improved the whole profession. It’s a combination of incentivizing teachers and improving working conditions. Teacher’s salaries have been going up in the U.S., so it’s not just about teachers’ salaries. It is more about the respect for teachers, the quality of their preparation, the working conditions, and enabling teachers to work together. It’s a big task for the U.S. because the U.S. is starting so far behind.
What the U.S. is counting on is the wrong driver on teacher appraisal. We think the way to improve the quality of teaching is through teamwork in the schools, and then surround it with better teacher pre-service, better attraction of the profession, and better professional development. Those surround things are enablers rather than causes, and the core cause is to improve the profession itself. You have to improve the entire teaching profession, not just reward the top 20 percent and punish the bottom 20 percent. You have to improve the daily work of all teachers, which is what we are doing in Ontario.
Does Canada’s definition of educational excellence take into account the quality of life of individuals and of a society’s artistic and cultural achievements?
No, not yet. I have been an advisor to the Premier of Ontario since 2003. We are in our 8th year now and we have spent a lot of time getting the house in order, so to speak. I would say that what we have done is get to the point where our next phase is to go for the whole well-being of the child. We have the stage set to do that. Five years ago, OECD UNESCO did a report on child well-being in rich countries. This study assessed the well being of students in about 20 countries. It showed Canada well down. A policy objective has to be the well-being of students. We are looking forward to working with Sir Ken Robinson from the UK who, as you know, has advocated for the arts in education for over a decade. We need to integrate some of Ken’s thinking into our ongoing goals. Specifically, what we are now working on is to integrate technology, pedagogy, and change knowledge to accelerate personalized learning. We need learning that is deeply engaging for students, precise (i.e. it has to be specific and concrete), high yield (big return for the effort) and higher order. With Sir Ken Robinson, we want to map out the curriculum that includes the arts as well as literacy and math.

2011-10-23-cmrubinworldmichaelfullan.jpgProfessor Michael Fullan and C. M. Rubin

Election Platform Aims to Put Focus Back on Education, Not Ineffective Testing

Here’s an article from the news feed. You can view the article from its original source by clicking here.

Election platform aims to put focus back on education, not ineffective testing

Ontario teachers are tired of feeding government’s insatiable appetite for evidence that its top-down initiatives are working.

In anticipation of the October 2011 provincial election, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) has prepared an education platform

ETFO, which represents more than 76,000 education workers, believes the system can do a better job of addressing the learning needs of diverse student population and ensuring that graduating students are well-prepared for higher education, training, and citizenship. “Strengthening the education system will contribute to a healthy, vibrant society in the future,” writes ETFO President Sam Hammond.

A top issue for ETFO is a standardized testing and how this deprives more important educational priorities of needed resources.

ETFO says that current Liberal government has focused on increasing the achievement levels in literacy and numeracy as measured by the grade 3 and 6 tests administered by the Educational Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO). “The political imperative to see 75 percent of grade 6 students achieving an above average level 3 in these tests has led to a disproportionate amount of classroom time and resources being allocated to teaching literacy and numeracy.”

Teachers, ETFO says, are spending increasing amounts of time collecting assessment data related to EQAO “to feed the government’s insatiable appetite for evidence that its myriad top-down initiatives are leading to improved student test scores. Consequently, not all students receive a balanced curriculum that pays sufficient attention to social studies, science, the arts, or health and physical education. Scaling back on the literacy and numeracy assessment initiatives is the top concern identified by ETFO members.”

There are alternatives. Finland, a top-performing nation on international assessments conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development uses random sample tests to occasionally check to see if its curriculum and teaching approaches are appropriate. Ontario should adopt the same approach, ETFO says.

“The most effective assessment of student progress is the assessment that teachers do every day in the classroom,” the platform states. “If the government is truly interested in improving the levels of student success, it should put its focus on supporting teachers’ skills in ongoing classroom assessment rather than on the limited measurement of EQAO tests.”

Meanwhile, the number of specialist teachers at the elementary level has significantly declined since 1997-1998 as the result of a funding formula introduced by the Mike Harris Conservatives. Recent small increases in funding for specialist teachers “still leave elementary students significantly short-changed in terms of their access to quality programs in the arts and health and physical education,” says ETFO.

‘Crazy, crazy over-emphasis on these results’

To see the post below from its original source, click this link:

Peter Giuliani, president of the Ottawa-Carleton Elementary Teachers’ Federation, says many teachers in the public school system worry about being assigned Grades 3 or 6 — grades in which Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) tests are administered — because of the heavy focus on results.
“The real stress lies in the crazy, crazy over-emphasis on these results and how it permeates every aspect of school improvement,” he said.

“You don’t want to feel like you’re the person who was responsible for it.”

Giuliani said he often hears proponents suggest that EQAO results are only one measure of student progress, yet he points out that the results are often used to drive everything from school-improvement plans and school-board initiatives to the agenda of the province’s Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat and real-estate sales.

The results are also widely published, placing a “tremendous” responsibility on teachers, even though the tests fall at the ends of the primary, junior and intermediate divisions and don’t reflect the work of just one person. “Because you are holding the bag as a teacher that year, a lot of teachers feel a tremendous amount of pressure and it’s not something they can control,” Giuliani said.

There are many teachers who might have taught Grades 3 or 6 in the past and would enjoy teaching those grades again, but avoid doing so because of the EQAO tests, he added.

The provincial testing authority is overhauling its 17-page assessment guide for teachers and principals after 10 Ontario schools had their EQAO results withheld because some teachers broke the rules by providing students with questions beforehand, photocopying the previous year’s tests or providing resource materials such as dictionaries.

Bernard-Grandmaître, a French Catholic elementary school in Riverside South, is one of the 10 schools.

EQAO’s chief assessment officer says the revised guide will draw people’s attention to the dos and don’ts.

“My suspicion was, and perhaps it’s been borne out by what’s happened, that fewer and fewer people were reading the guide,” Marie Parsons said. “When you don’t read the guide, you can more easily make errors.”

The guide will now include a checklist on how to administer the annual tests. Among other things, the checklist will tell teachers whether a calculator is allowed on the math test, inform them they can’t read passages aloud on the reading test and clarify when dictionaries can and can’t be used.

Parsons says the clearer instructions should give teachers fewer excuses to say they were not aware of the rules.

Still, the former public-school superintendent acknowledged the stress the tests can cause.

“There probably is a heightened anxiety level,” she said, adding the EQAO does not endorse many of the ways its results are used. “We don’t support using the results to rank schools and sell real estate.”

Parsons said the measures to catch cheaters are more rigorous than in other provinces, but EQAO does rely on an honour system when it comes to teachers who deliberately or unintentionally break the rules.

This year’s problems were discovered through calls to an EQAO tips line or the schools themselves admitting there had been problems with the testing.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

ELEMENTARY TEACHERS’ FEDERATION OF ONTARIO | Students Short-Changed by Government’s Focus on Test Scores

ELEMENTARY TEACHERS’ FEDERATION OF ONTARIO Students Short-Changed by Government’s Focus on Test Scores

Click on the link above to view the article from it’s original source OR read it below:

Students Short-Changed by Government’s Focus on Test Scores

TORONTO, Feb. 4 /CNW/ – Teachers have raised concerns that the provincial government’s push for improved provincial test scores is making it difficult for them to provide a balanced program for elementary students.

According to an Environics Research Group survey of Ontario elementary school teachers, 77 percent of teachers feel that the range of topics taught to students is being narrowed because of the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) testing program.

“Teachers feel their students are being denied a well-rounded education because of the government’s focus on test scores. It has created a skewed emphasis on literacy and numeracy to the detriment of other subjects,” explains Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) president Sam Hammond.

“The government has recently underlined, for example, the importance of arts and physical education, but the intense focus on literacy and numeracy means there is just not enough time for these other subjects,” said Hammond.

The majority of teachers surveyed also think that EQAO testing has either made no difference to the quality of elementary education in Ontario, or even made it worse. A large majority think EQAO testing should be phased out.

“Other jurisdictions with a history of large-scale assessments are reducing or cancelling their testing programs. It’s time for Ontario to review its student assessment regime,” Hammond said.

The Environics survey was conducted in early November, 2009, among a sample of 1,010 Ontario elementary teachers who are ETFO members. The margin of error for a sample of this size is considered to be plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario represents 73,000 elementary public school teachers and education workers across the province and is the largest teacher federation in Canada.

For further information: Sam Hammond, President, ETFO, (416) 962-3836 (Office); Larry Skory, ETFO Communications, (416) 962-3836 (Office), (416) 948-0195 (Cell)

EQAO In-service Session Two

A reminder that the EQAO In-service continues this Wednesday at the JC Hill computer lab for grade 3 teachers in the morning and grade 6 teachers in the afternoon. Remember to bring your reading strategy to share with the rest of the teachers. It isn’t often that we get to meet across schools to share our strengths so please take advantage of the opportunity. Also, feel free to share the resources and strategies with your entire primary and junior divisions. The EQAO assessment is a responsibility that entire divisions share, not just the grade 3 and 6 teachers. Look forward to seeing you on Wednesday!

EQAO Strategies

Fresh off the EQAO e-mail newsletter.

How YOU can fix your scores too!!!
Follow the link.

EQAO In-service to come

Robin and I are working on some assistance/PD/in-service for teachers in the EQAO grades. Keep your eyes, ears and mind open for more on this to come.

In the meantime, here is some info that was came off the Numeracy in the News feed that is a part of this blog.
Some of the common themes that schools identify as factors in addressing the literacy and numeracy needs of students are professional learning communities; data-driven decision making; a whole-school approach to literacy, numeracy and student achievement; small-group learning for literacy and numeracy; differentiated instruction; high-quality teaching; early intervention; tracking of all student progress; parental involvement; the coordination of school and board improvement planning; and implementing Ministry of Education initiatives.

The provincial news release “EQAO Publishes School- and Board-Level Results of Provincial Testing” and a backgrounder are also available.

Results for all publicly funded elementary and secondary schools and their school boards are available at