Student testing an important tool

For families with school-age children, the day after Labour Day marks the beginning of a New Year every bit as much as Jan.  1 does -perhaps even more so.

School’s back next week. It’s a good time to think about the importance of public edu­cation.

Ontario’s education system has considerable strengths, most notably our motivated students and caring teachers.

But we can never, ever rest on our laurels. If Ontario seeks to be a leader in Confederation once again, which surely should be our common objec­tive, we need a culture of con­tinuous improvement in our schools.

Canada’s new Governor-General designate David John­ston gave an interview pub­lished July 31 in the Waterloo Region Record. Always a passionate supporter of public education in his capacity as President of the University of Waterloo, Professor Johnston urged greater efforts to improve test scores. He’s absolutely right.

The Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) was created by a Progressive Conservative government in 1996 to administer standard­ized testing and measure and report on students’ progress and knowledge of the Ontario curriculum. Testing also helps to identify areas of weakness and then help students, teachers and parents work together to achieve success.

Often criticized in principle and practice by the Ontario Liberals while they were in opposition, the EQAO survived the change of government in 2003. Today, the EQAO pro­vides for testing in reading, writing and math for Grades 3 and 6, Grade 9 math, and a test of literacy that students must pass to graduate high school.

It’s true that EQAO testing is costly at $32-million a year, has its limitations, and should never be used to criticize teach­ers.

But standardized testing measures progress and success, and helps to encourage students and teachers alike to reach for the top.

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One of the Ontario legis­la­ture’s most distinguished and effective members is my colleague from Kitchener-Wat­er­loo, Elizabeth Witmer.

While our party was in government, Witmer was our deputy-premier, and she served as Minister of Education, Environment, Health and Lab­our. Currently she is the official opposition critic to the Minister of Education.

Last year, Witmer highlight­ed the need to take action against bullying in our schools.

She raised awareness by outlining the nature and scope of the problem, and offered con­structive suggestions to help solve it. In response, the legislature passed a resolution declaring the third week of November as Bullying Aware­ness and Prevention Week.

As well, Witmer is encour­aging safe school teams to direct the development of activities for their schools during this week.   As the new school year begins, the Ministry of Edu­ca­tion and our school boards need to make plans to implement her recommendations.

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Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott welcomes your comments. He can be reached toll free at 1-800-265-2366. His website is www.­


Ted Arnott MPP, Waterloo-Wellington