Today is the OSSLT (Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test) and yet again, I’m questioning the necessity of this standardized test. My current timetable includes two sections of ENG 2PI and so I’ve dedicated a great deal of my class time to preparing the students for today’s test even though the test goes against every aspect of my pedagogy.

I really don’t understand how a one size fits all test can adequately assess the literacy skills of my students. It doesn’t include access to technology (except for certain situations) and in our society, that is such an antiquated idea.

It also doesn’t allow for creativity. The students have very straightforward tasks that are designed to produce very similar answers and that is not what education should reflect. We want outside the box thinkers who push limits and this test squashes all aspects of creativity.

I also question the inclusion of a news report writing task. I have not written a news report in my lifetime and I can’t imagine how this is a critical skill for life…

But one of my final criticisms is that the test takes assessment of students’ abilities out of my hands. What happened to professional judgement? Why is it that I can spend all semester assessing a student’s abilities only to have people who don’t know my student decide that they are “literate” based on a three hour pen and paper test? It doesn’t make any sense to me and in fact makes me angry. I spend so much of my time making my lessons engaging and assessments meaningful and the literacy test does neither. How is what I do credible as compared to this test where the rankings are splashed through the media and touted as an accurate means of assessing teaching? (Obviously I don’t care what the rankings are and how my teaching differs but EQAO results matter to many parents and play a role in some family decisions and that’s what bothers me.)

But as I told my students yesterday, it’s just a hoop to jump through. And even though it goes against all my beliefs about education, it’s something I will prepare my students to do because I must do everything in my power to help them be successful whether I believe in it or not. Sigh.

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