Standardized tests could soon be more fair to northwestern Ontario students

March 27, 2018

Standardized tests in Ontario's publicly-funded schools could soon be more reflective of northwestern Ontario realities.  

Officials from Ontario's Education Quality and Accountability Office will be touring the Keewatin Patricia School District next week, responding to concerns about equity in testing.

Currently, literacy tests sometimes ask students to respond to situations that are common to large cities, said Sean Monteith, the director of education for the Keewatin Patricia District School Board.

Some students can't relate to those scenarios, and that impacts their performance, Monteith said. 

"If you're asked to respond in writing on something that has no relevance, or that you as a child or student from northern Ontario have no experience in, one you're trying to understand what you're being asked, and then two, how do you respond to it?"  he asked.

As an example, he cited a question from a test several years ago that asked students to describe riding the Toronto subway.

"We have kids that, in some cases, haven't been anywhere outside northwestern Ontario," he said.

In an ideal world, Monteith said, tests would allow students to choose to answer one of a series of possible questions, each geared to realities in different parts of the province.

He hopes to see changes to the testing process within a year, he said. 

Currently, students in publicly-funded schools in the province undergo standardized tests of their reading, writing and math skills in Grades 3 and 6.  That's followed by a Grade 9 math assessment and by the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test in Grade 10. 

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