Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Another Online Math Challenge/Contest

WORLD MATHS DAY, the largest global online math competition, is launching a Canada-only version this fall. Students in three age groups from five to 18 will try to answer correctly as many mathematics questions as they can in one-minute sessions. Successful contestants progress to higher levels until a winner is crowned.

In the worldwide competition in March, students from Ontario schools led every age category in Canada. Those top young Canadians represented Helen Wilson PS in Brampton (Peel DSB), ages five to eight category; Holy Spirit Catholic ES in Hamilton (Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic DSB), ages nine to 13; and Don Mills CI (Toronto DSB), ages 14 to 18. Some 40,000 students across the country were among the more than 1.2 million students from around the globe who participated in the competition.

“We’re hoping for an even greater turnout for the first National Canadian Challenge,” says Rene Burke, CEO of Calgary-based 3P Learning, Canada, which provides the software for the competition.

Teachers interested in registering their classes and schools should visit www.canadianmathchallenge.com.

Registration is scheduled to begin on September 27, with the national competition taking place the week of October 25.

To see the original source of this post on the Professionally Speaking website, click below...

Monday, August 30, 2010

"There's a natural tendency to value what we measure, rather than measuring what we value."

Ontario's students do better, but still behind

TORONTO (Aug 30, 2010)

Ontario students continue to make steady gains in reading, writing and math, but not as many as the province would like.

Results of the latest round of provincial testing, obtained by the Toronto Star in advance of their release this morning, show more students in grades 3, 6 and 9 have met provincial standards on the provincial tests in reading, writing and math.

Math continues to cause some students trouble, with slightly fewer grade 6 students making the grade, and grade 9 French students in applied math also struggling.

Overall, 68 per cent of students in grades 3 and 6 are meeting the standards in reading, writing and math, up from 67 per cent in 2008-09, and from 54 per cent in 2002-03.

Still, the province has not met its long-ago promised target of 75 per cent, which it had hoped to reach by 2008.

But test results naturally plateau after several years, experts say.

"Some (tests) show no change after about four years -- they've actually shown some increase over the years," said Don Klinger, an education professor at Queen's University who is also part of Ontario's Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) panel.

He said the province's EQAO has done better than most jurisdictions in seeing a boost in results.

The challenge now is how the system can better serve those students who typically do not fare well in such testing -- generally those from lower-socioeconomic groups and those in rural communities, Klinger said.

The 2009-10 results come as teacher unions exert pressure on the government for a two-year moratorium on the $32-million-a-year tests for about 500,000 students, arguing more public consultations are needed on the value of such large-scale assessments.

The EQAO was established in 1996.

But some experts say the tests aren't going anywhere -- governments need them to show the money they are spending is paying off, and parents like them.

The value of EQAO testing is that it is a "rough audit" of how the system is doing, said John Myers, of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.

Myers added, however, that there is "not a shred of evidence" that such testing improves the system. He noted that Japan and Singapore, which do well in international rankings, conduct a lot of such testing, while Finland, which also does well, does very little.

"It confirms kids whose backgrounds aren't as wealthy as other kids tend not to do as well. It allows a look at bright spots -- where schools in poor areas are doing better than expected, what's the secret? What are they doing differently and is the different stuff worth it?

"It serves a limited purpose, but (the tests) are not going away."

Myers also noted that Ontario results come after children have moved on to another grade, "and one of the things we know about quality feedback is that it needs to occur fairly soon after the event."

Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, has said the tests are costly, stress students out and force teachers to focus narrowly on literacy and numeracy and spend less time on other subjects that aren't tested.

They are also misused to rank schools, and some experts say they are overused by schools as they create improvement plans.

In 2005, the province cut the testing time in half and scheduled them later in the school year because of teacher concerns.

The union would ultimately like to see the test done away with, a call the province has rejected.

Students in grades 3 and 6 are tested in math, reading and writing; Grade 9 students are tested in math, and Grade 10 students must pass a literacy test in order to graduate from high school.

The province has created a $70 million Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat to help schools and teachers with resources.

Calls by teachers for a moratorium on tests come as their colleagues in the U.K. boycotted testing earlier this spring.

Experts say while such tests do have some value, EQAO should be looking to the future.

The value is that using the EQAO data can be "one measure that helps schools focus their efforts," said Klinger.

Louis Volante of Brock University says Ontario is getting "pretty close" to plateaued results.

He also said that while EQAO testing measures reading and writing, "what about speaking and listening," which are also keys to literacy?

"There's a natural tendency to value what we measure, rather than measuring what we value."

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Halt standardized tests, elementary teachers say

Exams for grades 3, 6 are costly, take away from non-test subjects

Ontario's public elementary school teachers have called for a two-year moratorium on standardized tests in Grade 3 and Grade 6, saying the annual exams are expensive, detract from other subjects and give parents the wrong idea about what makes a good school.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), which represents 76,000 teachers and education workers, asked Monday for the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) tests to be halted to allow for public consultation on the uses, value and impact of the current testing regime.

"Something is very wrong when areas including science, history, social studies and the arts are getting sidelined in the race to get young students prepared for EQAO, which is focused solely on literacy and math," said Sam Hammond, ETFO's president.

He added the province spends more than $100 million on the testing and what he called "the Literacy and Numeracy education bureaucracy."

The teachers union hired Environics Research Group to conduct eight focus groups -- including two in Ottawa -- with ETFO members back in June. A total of 64 teachers with at least five years' experience, all of whom were paid an incentive for participating, were asked to discuss the pros and cons of the tests, which have been in place since 1996.

The results, which Hammond unveiled to delegates at the union's annual meeting in Toronto, suggest parents and the public may believe EQAO scores are an indicator of a good school, but teachers do not.

Teachers say the standardized tests have created opportunities for professional development, fostered more collaboration among teachers and helped some plan lessons.

But those benefits could have been achieved through cheaper means and some teachers add EQAO is of limited or no use for informing parents about their child's progress in school, or assessing the quality of the education system as a whole.

The report suggests the goal of making all children capable of performing to a specific level in EQAO is at odds with the Ministry of Education's goal that learning should be geared toward a child's specific needs.

Teachers say EQAO testing means non-test subjects such as arts, drama, music and even science get less attention than the subject areas of the tests, which focus on literacy and numeracy skills.

Teachers also say the pressure on students, particularly those in Grade 3, is too much.

"They are starting to think of school as a series of hoops to jump through," one participant was quoted as saying.

The standardized tests also have "huge drawbacks" to special-needs and English-as-a-second-language students, as well as those from different cultural backgrounds, students with behavioural issues or learning disabilities, and highly gifted students.

And despite the tests being "standardized," the report claims EQAO tests are not uniformly administered, putting test results, comparability and tracking over time into question.

According to the teachers, schools administer tests differently, and the standards of marking have changed over time, as have the difficulty of the tests.

Finally, there is the cost -- in both class time to prepare and resources spent to administer the EQAO tests.

"School boards are always cutting back and saying 'we can't afford this' -- things that I would say are essential, like educational assistants and more personnel, yet they're willing to put tons of money into EQAO," says another participant.

The study says most teachers think the testing should be eliminated. Otherwise, they recommend the government reduce the scale of the test to reduce pressure on students and teachers, consider random sampling, and take steps to reduce the importance of EQAO testing in the eyes of the public as the best or only way of evaluating a school.

Phil Serruya, the communications manager for EQAO, said the testing costs $17 per student annually and provides good value for money.

"It provides information at key points in each student's education about how they're developing these fundamental literacy and numeracy skills," he said.

While a rich curriculum is important -- including subjects not covered by the test -- students must master literacy and numeracy.

"They are the foundation for success in all other subjects and for life outside of school," he said.

Read more:http://www.ottawacitizen.com/opinion/Halt+standardized+tests+elementary+teachers/3406302/story.html#ixzz0xiqPRnv8