BY: KATHY MCDONALD
The EQAO is practically here. This year the exams are expected to take place between
May 23rd and May 30th. EQAO is the acronym for Education Quality and Accountability Office. The agency while it reports to the Ministry of Education “is an independent agency that creates and administers large-scale assessments to measure Ontario students’ achievement in reading, writing, and math at key stages of their education. All EQAO assessments are developed by Ontario educators to align with the Ontario curriculum. The assessments evaluate student achievement objectively and in relation to a common provincial standard”.
I wanted to share some of the information that I received at their EQAO information night that I found quite useful as well as thank the dedicated grade three team at Agnes Taylor Public School in Brampton. The team went over the vocabulary that is often encountered during these exams. Words like: compare, describe, explain, list, show your work, predict, define, summarize, use your own words, support or prove, relate, identify, purpose, total. Reviewing what these terms indicate when situated in a question will help students to improve their understanding of the requirements of the questions.
The specific test strategies were discussed. They included: read and understand the whole passage; read all information, for example, all captions; labeled diagrams, glossary etc.; highlight keywords in the questions; go back to the text and find relevant information; answer in complete sentences; give as much detail as possible; proofread; check for spelling, grammatical errors, and punctuation. When doing a multiple choice question, it is recommended that students solve the question before looking at the answers. Read all possible answers then eliminate the obviously incorrect answers. If in doubt go with your first instinct but never leave an answer blank.
Teachers help students prepare for these exams. In the classroom, students are tested on a subject matter that has been covered in a lesson. Students must be able to make cross curricular connections and not see the information they learn in a particular lesson as siloed information. They also encourage students to demonstrate their thinking and use relevant information to support their answers. Reading comprehension strategies are reinforced. The EQAO comprehension analyzes the student’s ability to make connections and predictions as well as examines the student’s ability to retell visualize and understand a passage. Teachers empower students by developing their ability to edit and proofread their work. Students are also taught how to organize their thoughts before writing with the aid of graphic organizers.
Parents are encouraged to read with their children and challenge their children’s thinking about the text, within the text, and beyond the text. Bloom’s taxonomy which was created in 1956 still holds true today. It promotes a higher level of thinking in education. Students go from remembering or memorizing, understanding, applying, analyzing and evaluating to creating new or original work. When reading with your child ask pertinent questions such as: “What is the text about? What might happen next?, How are the characters feeling?, What is another word for ____?, Is the text fiction or nonfiction?, Do you like this book?, What is the purpose of this text? What is the main idea?, Why is there an exclamation mark?, Why would someone read this book?, How does the picture help me understand what the text is about?”. These questions should always be followed up by asking “Why do you say that?” or “How do you know this?”. Promoting critical thinking is key.
It is important to be SMART. By this I mean: S leep, M otivate, A ttend, R eview, & T ickle the taste buds with healthy foods. This acrostic poem is useful in helping parents to ensure their child is mentally capable of writing the test. Adequate sleep is highly recommended for each child the night before they write this or any exam. Many children are anxious and would benefit from positive encouragement. Try to avoid scheduling appointments or holidays during this period and ensure that your children arrive on time each day. By visiting the website www.eqao.com parents can access test that your children can review. Eating healthy foods, exercising and proper hydration is important to help students stay focused and perform at an optimum.
Many students and others often refer to the acronym EQAO as Evil Questions Attacking Ontario. However, whether or not you subscribe to the relevance or validity of the EQAO test it is clear that the information garnered from these exams can yield very useful information when utilized properly. When reviewing various interpretations of the EQAO results it’s important to understand what the result actually reveal. Do you know that in some instances kids that don’t write the test or kids that are incapable due to, for example, being a newcomer or refugee that does not speak English are given an exemption but recorded as getting a zero? If a school that has 100 students writing the EQAO and of this cohort 30 are refugees and none of them write the test they are given a zero and included in the calculations for the school’s performance.
The same is true if a student is sick or is exempt for example if they are mentally incapable of writing the test. The bottom line is that Ontario students are excelling in all areas and they are more than a single test score. So, breathe and help your children to confidently go forward to the EQAO. Walk Good Belle Marché