New format means new baseline for EQAO testing

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

At the March 7 Rainy River District School Board (RRDSB) Trustees meeting members of the RRDSB Special Education Advisory Committee presented results from last year’s Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) testing, and strategies for improvement going forward

EQAO testing was last fully administered in the 2018-2019 school year according to the report. During the 2019-2020 school year the testing was interrupted by job action and then further interrupted when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) took place in the fall of 2021. The EQAO Grade 3 and Grade 6 assessments occurred in the spring of 2022. The test had been revised from its previous format, moving from paper and pencil to an online, adaptive model. The curriculum has also changed since the last EQAO assessment with the introduction of a new elementary Math curriculum introduced in August 2020, the committee noted in its report. “Comparisons to previous results are therefore not reliable and so school boards across the province view the results from 2021-2022 as the new baseline going forward,” it said.

During the meeting, committee members showed trustees examples of the new digital testing format and described some of the advantages and potential pitfalls to the new electronic system, including a progress bar. The committee received feedback that students may have been rushing through the test.

“I would say that with math, when questions get difficult and kids have to do a lot of thinking about them, it is really easy for them to just pay attention to the progress tracker, look at the time and just think ‘I’m just gonna pick something.’ Just so they can get to the end like a race,” said the committee member.

“Sometimes it was difficult for teachers because even though you had a monitoring page, you weren’t allowed to talk to kids and say ‘hey, slow down, it’s been five minutes and you’re on question 11.’ You couldn’t say anything like that and I think it did have an impact on the results.”

Overall, results were down across the province, the report says.

For the RRDSB the results were near the bottom of provincial rankings across the six categories. Out of 63 provincial boards, RRDSB ranked 57th in grade three reading, 55th in grade three writing, and 56th in Grade 3 math for per centage of students meeting or exceeding the provincial standard. Among Grade 6 students, the board ranked 57th for reading, 53rd for writing and 54th for math.

“Our results indicate that we have some area for improvement,” one member said. “(In grade 6 math) 31 per cent of our students met or exceeded provincial standards which again indicates that we have work to do. But to add context to that, a full 48 out of 60 English-speaking boards all had achievement that was 50 per cent or lower of their students meeting or exceeding standards.”

The data gathered is a snapshot of a moment in the past, and it will take time to see the impact of strategies put in place.

“What EQAO gives us is a point where we can reference and we can see trends over time, but it’s not really something that teachers can use on a daily basis, or it shouldn’t be something that they’re using on a daily basis to inform instruction,” one member said.

To that end the committee said that many teaching tools are being implemented in classrooms around the District.

Kindergarten initiatives are putting the focus on literacy, with the Heggerty Program being implemented into all Kindergarten classrooms and options for Grades 1 to 3 classrooms. Heggerty works to provide lessons in phonics and phonemic awareness daily to students. “Phonemic awareness is the ability to understand that spoken words are made up of individual sounds called phonemes, and it is considered one of the best early predictors for reading success,” said the committee.

In response to The Right to Read Report the committee is also working to refine the Board Literacy Plan. The committee has been working to implement a program called Literacy Footprints which is a guided reading system to be used across all schools, in K-6 classes.

In an effort to improve numeracy, a number of strategies are being implemented, including the inclusion of coding, which was added to the updated elementary math curriculum. The Ministry of Education has also recently introduced new Science and Technology elements, and the board has been working to implement them through professional development and other techniques.

To see the province’s full results, which are searchable by board and school, view practice tests and learn more about the EQAO, visit