TORONTO - There appears to be a breakdown of process and procedure at the TCDSB. The past two years have been chaotic for parents and students navigating the education system while looking for clarity and stability. It has not been easy for anyone.
Families maintain that the constant disruption between schools opening, then closing, and re-opening has had a negative impact on their children. They say the back and forth between virtual and in-person instruction has not helped the social, mental and academic well-being of their children.
Perhaps to mitigate some of the stress students have suffered under the constant changes, the TCDSB sent a letter to the Minister of Education. The letter dated February 7, and signed by the Chair of the Board, Angela Kennedy, requested that the Minister consider suspending all Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) testing for students in elementary and secondary schools until the 2022-23 academic year.
The decision to write and send the letter stems from a Board meeting (January 27) when the original motion was presented to ask the Minister to pause the EQAO tests. The Board has yet to discuss and vote on the motion but went ahead and sent the letter anyway.
Neither the Director of TCDSB nor the Chair of the Board Chair returned our phone calls or responded to our emails when asked to comment on the timing of letter. However, a spokesperson from Minister Lecce’s office replied to the Corriere’s request stating unequivocally, “the Ministry is proceeding with EQAO assessments this year”.
According to the Ministry, the assessments have already started earlier this year with 140,000 students completing their assessment so far. During the 2020-21 academic year, EQAO paused the assessments while it transitioned to an online platform.
“We modernize EQAO assessments by digitizing tests so that assessments of math and language skills can occur”, the Minister’s spokesperson said. The Ministry maintains that the assessments enable them to “measure progress and make data-driven decisions to lift student performance and enable success in literacy and numeracy”.
The EQAO is an independent government agency. They develop and oversee literacy and mathematics tests that students take in Grades 3, 6, 9 and 10. The assessment outcomes provide an important indicator of school performance. Furthermore, the tests give parents, school staff and school boards information that help identify strengths and weaknesses of the student body and school system in the areas of reading, writing and mathematics.
The TCDSB appears to be one of several other school boards in Ontario that have asked the Ministry to defer the EQAO tests. They profess concern that the added stress of writing the tests may impact negatively on students already struggling with increased anxiety and mental health issues.
There is no doubt that the pandemic has had an impact on student learning. The tests may offer a better perspective on where Ontario students stand according to international standards. They may also provide a greater focus for school boards to track student achievement and address the learning gap at all levels of the education system.
It is unclear why the TCDSB would want to interfere with that process. Again, they declined our offer to comment on the Minister’s response to their letter.
P. Pajdo is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter