So today is the yearly literacy test for grade 10 students in Ontario and as in the previous two years, I am again thinking about the effect this test has on my students. In my current timetable, I have three classes of grade 10’s so almost every one of my students is writing today and I can’t help but think about how this test goes against every aspect of my pedagogical beliefs.
An idea that I’ve really been trying to promote this semester is that the importance of that learning is not in the finished product, but rather in the journey to the end. We’ve spent much time working on skills related to the English curriculum which involved many opportunities to practice, get feedback, and redo, but the literacy test doesn’t allow for this model. Sure, I engaged in the preparation activities and spent some class time giving the students strategies to be successful on the literacy test, but for a test that determines if they can graduate or not, this model goes against the idea of formative and summative work which is how we are expected to teach here in Ontario.
Where is the feedback? Where is the focus on learning? When the results come out, all the students know is that if they don’t hear anything, it’s all good. How can they grow as “literate” individuals if they don’t get any feedback? Descriptive feedback is so important in our board and how can we in good faith offer this test without providing the opportunities to make mistakes and redo their work? (other than taking the test a full year later or taking the OLC course.) It really bothers me that we are being told to teach with this rich pedagogy in place but yet we turn around and have to administer this test every March.
It also bothers me that this is likely the last year that students will be writing a paper and pen test as next year the plan is to have it be available online. I feel for the students writing this year’s test as in school we don’t accept hand written summative tasks and yet that is the expectation with the literacy test (for most students).
Finally, I have the best interests of my students at heart and spend a lot of time thinking about how I can reach and help each individual student and this test is a one size fits all model. It takes away the personal connection and what I think is so important at the heart of education which is to encourage the growth mindset in all of our students. Tomorrow I will have some work to do to build the confidence (again) of some of my students as today will have been the most frustrating and demeaning day of the year. How is that good for education? It is mind boggling to me… Sigh.