2016—2017 · Vol. 44 No. 2



Student well-being... EQAO’s newest frontier?

During the tumultuous years of the Harris government, when then Minister of Education John Snobelen created his infamous “crisis in education,” the general public was led to believe that there was an urgent need to measure how Ontario students were doing province-wide. In 1996, the Ontario government created an arm’s-length agency called the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO). Since that time, EQAO has administered standardized tests in math and literacy to students across the province’s publicly-funded education system.

Now, every year, the front pages of newspapers often include school-by-school results from these standardized tests, administered starting at the Grade 3 level and continuing into Grades 9 and 10. As a result, EQAO standardized testing continues to be a political tool for governments and the private sector to divide communities along class lines, and to launch attacks against publicly-funded education.

Student well-being... EQAO’s newest frontier? (Cartoon) 

OSSTF/FEESO policy is that these tests should not be used “to compare schools and/or district school boards.” Unfortunately, the public appetite for the inevitable media frenzy that ensues when EQAO results are released makes it difficult to fight for an end to EQAO testing. In the recent Discussion Document on Ontario’s Well-Being Strategy for Education, the government planted the seed for what is on the horizon: “We can work together to develop ways to measure our progress in promoting well-being, from the early years through to Grade 12.”

OSSTF/FEESO understands and supports the need to promote well-being. In fact, in 2014, our union provided a proposal to partner with the Ministry of Education on the subject of well-being, committing to the development and delivery of a resource and workshop on Building Resilience. We hope that our proposal will still be considered as the government moves forward on its commitment to student well-being.

OSSTF/FEESO also welcomed the additional goal of promoting student well-being as outlined in Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario. It is essential that the resources and supports created as the Well-Being Strategy is implemented and advanced, are directed primarily towards that goal.

The Ministry has made a bold commitment to promoting the well-being of students.
OSSTF/FEESO believes that any move towards the development of a measurement to be reported in the same fashion as EQAO literacy and numeracy scores will serve not to promote, but to undermine the well-being of students and staff—particularly in areas of the province that are affected by significant factors such as poverty and violence—that are known to impact learning. OSSTF/FEESO renews its ongoing commitment to the mental health and well-being of staff and students, and calls on the government to do the same. Future investments should be in support of well-being; nothing more, nothing less.

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