It’s that time of year again. A time that many of us know all too well. Test time. Assessment time. Call it what you want.
Believe me, you are not alone in feeling the pressures of the provincial test. As I read blog posts, chat with colleagues and connect with my PLN, I feel the tension of the EQAO test. You are struggling with how to cover all of the strands in a condensed amount of time. You are struggling with how to get your naturally collaborative working class to get used to working independently. You are struggling with how you will not give feedback and support when that is what is naturally ingrained in what you do as a teacher. You are struggling to not leave anyone behind while being pushed ahead by the pressures of the test. You are struggling to focus on the child when so much emphasis and focus is placed on “the test”.
I have been teaching grade 5/6 since the inception of the EQAO assessment and I share your same struggles. Throughout the years, my students have scored all over the map on the provincial assessment; extremely high, low, and everywhere in between. Experience has taught me a valuable lesson. I now refuse to “teach to the test” and allow my students and myself to become a slave to it. I teach to my kids and to their individual learning needs. I have stopped focusing on the test and the results. In fact, I believe “the test” has become an inhibitor to quality instruction, particularly in math. How much time are teachers spending using EQAO practice booklets, multiple choice questions and worksheets? Is this not robbing our students and teachers of the opportunity for developing and working or rich, complex and relevant questions?
I am committed to doing what is best for my kids; to make them want to get up and come to school everyday, excited to learn, share, explore, be challenged, ask questions and solve real problems to real world questions. I want them to learn and understand how to use the multitude of tools that they have available to them make a difference for themselves, others and their future. This kind of learning doesn’t result from being “test focused” it is the result of being “kid focused”. And do you know what? I am confident my students will be well prepared for any type of test that life has to throw at them!
Perhaps it’s not that teachers need to change; in fact I’d argue that we are always innovating and evolving for the good of our students. Perhaps it’s EQAO that needs to be innovative in how they assess our kids . WHAT IF students could submit ePortfolios, podcasts, videos and screencasts to demonstrate their learning? Better yet, WHAT IF EQAO could send PEOPLE to our schools, to spend time, sitting and listening to our students? If that’s not possible, WHAT if each of our students had the opportunity to demonstrate their learning via a Skype call or a Google Hangout? If this were the case, how much different would the learning look in our classrooms? Would the results be different?