This space is provided for analysis of EQAO questions. The questions from the Reading section of previous test will be analyzed and evaluated. The objective is to consider challenges that students may face while taking the test.
The Ministry of Education in Ontario relies on the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) for assessing the reading skills of students in Ontario. It is not the only form of assessment, but it is arguably the most significant form for assessment because the results are used in policy making. Grade 6 is a benchmark year in Ontario as it is one of the three grades for the EQAO standardized testing for students (Grades 3,6, and 9). EQAO testing does not include any assessment of digital literacy. The test does not have a media section and does not place any emphasis on the development of the digital skills essential for success in the 21st century. The EQAO test has changed over time, to include greater use of visual texts such as graphs, pictures and images however they continue to lag behind in terms of digital literacy. EQAO is a ministry assessment tool for the curriculum. However, the media section is either exempt or deemed less important because the EQAO test does not consider it.
Looking at the reading section of Language booklet 1 for the 2010 EQAO test for grade 6 students it is clear that much of the content would be hard to relate to for many of the students. The first part of the test is a reading passage about the experiences of a goaltender on a hockey team. The story is about a young boy who is feeling anxious about his ability to perform well in goal. As the story continues, the young boy performs well and overcomes his fears. Many boys and girls will have an easy time relating to this story. The story is about a young person playing arguably the most popular sport in Canada. If the teachers have done a sufficient job covering the skills required for this comprehension exercise the students should be able to identify the big idea and regardless of whether or not they play sports, they should be able to relate to the question. Further, a young person in a nerve-racking situation is something that many of the students can relate to. However, in the second part of the test, the students are required to read a short passage about a team of Huskies attempting to reach their destination before night fall. The story includes references to dog sledding and the Northern Lights. The majority of the student population in Canada lives near the American border. And although, they may have seen or read about dog sledding and the Northern Lights, it is unlikely that many of them have experienced either. Again, the argument could be made that if the teacher has prepared the students with the skills required to identify the big idea and strategies for comprehension they should be able to perform well on the task. However, the Ontario curriculum does suggest that students need to have their prior knowledge activated in order to make the connections that helped them better understand the text. In this situation, there are likely very few students who would be able to make these connections and therefore utilize the reading comprehension strategies. The final part of the Language 1 booklet is a reading on a Canadian musician named Gordon Lightfoot. Once, again the students are unlikely to be familiar with the main character of the reading. With young Canadian stars dominating the pop culture scene right now, one wonders why EQAO would not use someone like Justin Bieber, Avril Lavigne or Drake as the main character of this section. Overall, the test seems to be written from a stereotypical understanding of the Canadian way of life. The test covers, hockey, dog sledding, the Northern Lights, and 60s folk music. I would say with the exception of Hockey, the majority of the students writing this test, would not be able to connect to the readings.
This is the most recent EQAO test. As previously mentioned, the test has evolved to incorporate greater use of visual cues, however it is still a very traditional form of assessment. When considering the Ministry of Education’s recognition of the evolving definition of literacy as well as the recent research it becomes clear that this assessment is out of synch.