TORONTO, Dec. 7 /CNW/ - Ontario's province-wide tests of elementary- and secondary-school students reflect the provincial curriculum expectations fairly and accurately, are consistent in difficulty from one year to the next and are administered and marked so as to ensure that their results are valid, consistent and reliable indicators of student achievement. These conclusions are among the Auditor General's key findings following an intensive audit of the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO), the arm's-length agency responsible for the provincial assessment program. The report on EQAO, released today, is part of the Auditor General's regular review of government programs.
This value-for-money audit also examined the agency's finances and determined that EQAO is fulfilling its legislative and policy requirements and maintaining solid financial practices. The audit praised EQAO's budgeting and procurement processes and acknowledged that the agency had reduced its annual expenditures by over 20% in five years while delivering substantially the same service.
"The Auditor General's report is a strong validation of EQAO's provincial assessment program and business practices," said Dr. Brian L. Desbiens, Chair of EQAO's Board of Directors. "The report is yet another independent endorsement of the value of the tests. It shows how EQAO results drive improvements in teaching and learning by providing reliable, independent information on student achievement."
"The student is at the heart of all that we do," said Marguerite Jackson, EQAO's Chief Executive Officer. "The Auditor General has acknowledged the stature of the agency's assessment program and has identified a few areas that we will thoroughly consider as we continue to build on the strengths of our program and provide complete and accurate information for all students, parents and teachers."
A link to the auditor's report can be found at www.eqao.com.
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The Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) was established in 1996 based on a recommendation of Ontario's Royal Commission on Learning. The commission consulted extensively with teachers, parents, students and taxpayers. It concluded that province-wide assessments would contribute to greater quality and accountability in the publicly funded school system. EQAO was created as an independent agency to conduct the assessments and gather objective information from our schools.
EQAO plays an important role in Ontario education by conducting province-wide tests at key points in every student's primary, junior and secondary education and by reporting the results. The tests measure student performance in reading, writing and mathematics in relation to a common provincial standard. The provincial standard (Level 3), which corresponds to a B- to B+ or 70 per cent to 79 per cent in the classroom, represents mastery of the knowledge and skills students are expected to demonstrate. The assessments are developed and scored in a way that ensures the results can be compared from one year to the next.
Another key strength of EQAO's province-wide assessments is the fact that they are directly based on The Ontario Curriculum--which is what teachers are teaching in the classroom every day. EQAO works with teachers, who bring their classroom expertise to develop the tests, score them and analyze the results. The assessments are written by students at the end of the primary and junior divisions in elementary school, which allows time for any interventions to support their successful progress. Compared to what occurs in many Canadian and international jurisdictions, this is a minimal level of testing to provide an independent gauge of how well students are learning the curriculum and acquiring fundamental skills.
Student results on EQAO tests are only one measure of achievement but, over more than a decade, they have proven to be a catalyst for positive change for young people across the province. Literacy and numeracy skills have steadily improved, with more students now reaching the provincial standard than ever before. For example, in the year 2000 only half (50%) of Ontario's Grade 6 students were meeting the provincial standard in reading. In 2009 that number increased to 69%, which represents over 20 000 more students meeting the standard in 2009 than in 2000. While progress has been noted in many areas, a collective effort must continue to expand teaching strategies that evidence shows are working to tackle the learning gaps that continue to exist in the province. For example, EQAO data continue to show that only 38% of students in the Grade 9 applied math program are successfully meeting the standard. Results also reveal that more than one in five students are not meeting the standard for reading, writing and math when in Grade 3, nor are they meeting it three years later when in Grade 6. EQAO data are essential for identifying where interventions are needed next.
Through efficiencies introduced over the past several years, the cost of EQAO's program has decreased considerably from over $50m to the current $32m. Each year, more than 20 billion dollars is spent on public education in Ontario. For only $15 per student, EQAO provides powerful information that contributes to the best possible education for all students. The cost is minimal; the value is considerable.
SOURCE Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO)
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