Standardized tests, such as Ontario's EQAO tests, are used to compare the instruction and performance of students, schools, and school boards. When used appropriately, standardized testing can give a good picture of a student's strengths and weaknesses and can inform instructional strategies and policies. However, some people question what the tests are actually measuring and how authentic and informative these tests are.

Some Problems with Standardized Testing

  • Many say the tests often sample only a small range of student knowledge and skills at one point in time. A child's literacy, although multi-faceted, is often only assessed by a reading and writing with a paper and pencil test and the results are used as an indicator of a child's overall literacy level.
  • Both parents and teachers have reported that preparing for the EQAO tests produce anxiety in students, which then impacts their test-taking ability.
  • Schools that score above average are acclaimed for the effectiveness of their instruction whereas below-average schools are strongly encouraged to improve their performance the next time around. The "competition" that results from the publication of EQAO results and school rankings has led to administrators who implement policies designed to raise test scores.

Teachers and schools are blamed for poor test results, which are often made public both online and in the press. Teachers are pressured to improve their students' performance on the tests so they "teach to the test". They spend curriculum time on test content. Using test sample questions, students practice answering questions to maximize their scores. Does this improve EQAO scores? Maybe, but it doesn't improve student learning.

Why are these tests important?

Despite the shortcomings of standardized tests, they seem to be regarded as one of the most important assessment tools for measuring academic performance. Those who support the use of standardized tests argue they make schools more accountable and allow meaningful comparisions of all students, schools and school boards.

Are standardized tests better indicators of student performance than a diverse group of assessment practices?

In the end, standardized tests provide different information. A standardized test is essentially a snapshot in time using one method of assessment. Teachers assess their students using a broad range of tools. A more holistic and complete picture of a student's performance can be seen from various types of assessment that the teacher does throughout the year. Many educators believe that if educational decision-making is based on a teacher's year long assessments of students, rather than one standardized test, improvements in student learning will be achieved.

The Solution

Don't use your child's EQAO test scores to measure overall achievement. You're better off relying on regular contact with the teacher who can show you your child's portfolio, which is being updated all year long. You'll have a more clear and accurate picture of your child's progress.