GUELPH – Due to the ongoing strain of the pandemic, the Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) is requesting that the Ministry of Education defer EQAO testing for Grades 3 and 6 outside of this school year to another year.
UGDSB trustee Mike Foley put forward a notice of motion in a Jan. 25 board meeting requesting that, due to the current mental health needs of students, the board write a letter to the Minister of Education requesting that EQAO testing for Grades 3 and 6 be considered for deferral.
“Due to the increased anxiety, stresses and overall mental health of our students I ask that the board send a letter to the Ministry of Education asking that the EQAO testing for Grades 3 and 6 be deferred to sometime in the future when things are back to some sort of … normal again,” he stated. “Where the stress has been reduced for children and youths can start focusing better.
“I think it’s incumbent upon us to look at the mental health and know that the results of these tests would be skewed at this point in time with the amount of anxiety and stress that these students are facing.”
In response to the ongoing challenges of pandemic learning, the board recently made the decision to pause the Grade 9 EQAO assessment until further notice.
UGDSB director of education Peter Sovran said that while the board was able to pause the Grade 9 assessment, “any alterations or full on cancellation or deferrals outside of this school year would require a ministerial order.
“At this time we don’t have that, all we have is the ability to defer the current Grade 9 EQAO,” he explained.
“Any remaining EQAO assessments that would be required this year would need to proceed unless the Ministry of Education provides an order otherwise.”
In response to Foley’s notice, trustee Barbara Lustgarten Evoy said she wasn’t entirely convinced on the necessity to defer the EQAO assessments for Grades 3 and 6.
“I feel that there’s been too much stress placed on students and that we won’t get an accurate assessment,” Foley responded.
“Students are in class, they’re out of class, they’re forced to isolate, their teachers are different – there’s so much movement that I think it’s in the best interest of everyone,” he added.
EQAO assesses students’ literacy and math skills at key points in their kindergarten to Grade 12 education.
The board is required to administer EQAO by the end of June. The administration window for EQAO assessments for the primary and junior division are currently scheduled to take place from May 4 to June 24.
“I do know that it is a significant stressor for students and for the staff in schools,” trustee Martha MacNeil agreed. “I don’t think it can hurt to ask the minister and the ministry to consider the possibility of taking this action to perhaps ease some of the stress on our students and our staff.”
“I’m reluctant to support it,” trustee Gail Campbell maintained. “It would seem to me that for something this radical that the ministry is doing … I’m very hopeful that they have considered it extremely carefully and this is the best way they think to progress at this time.”
Foley said the information the education system has received from the ministry has been “controversial at best.
“They’ve fumbled the ball on so many issues,” he said. “I can’t look back with absolute certainty and say that they’ve done right by the educational system.”
Trustee Jen Edwards said although she supports Foley’s motion, it is important to know where the students stand academically.
“I do think it takes a lot of time and a lot of stress for these tests but I also value the metrics that we get, we do need to know where our students are at,” she said, also asking if there are other metrics the board can use to determine where the students stand.
Sovran said the only other metric the board has is through it’s in class assessments from teachers, in addition to regular report cards.
“There is value in having a different metric in which we can compare cohorts to other cohorts in terms of where they are currently with the really important areas of reading and writing and math,” he noted.
“What I can assure the board and our families and our staff is that should we continue with a provincial assessment such as EQAO we would continue to provide the most support.”
Foley’s motion was approved and the board will write the letter to the ministry requesting them to defer EQAO testing.