*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

EQAO standardized testing: the observer-expectancy effect, "damn lies and 'statistics'"

As most of my few readers are not from Ontario, I'll give a potted history on the EQAO testing done to grades three and six in elementary schools.  It was brought in for spring of 2001 by a right-wing government hostile to all public servants.  This happened to be my first year of teaching, so I only stayed in teaching as they got soon voted out.*  Proof it was a tool by a hostile government is how difficult it was  made the first year in order to insinuate the entire teaching profession hadn't been earning their keep, and how much easier the test was the second year so they could harp on how they'd overhauled the education system in a single year...  That it still exists is because the succeeding governments have been craven, just not hostile.*

Teachers have a limited effect on student's overall learning in the aggregate, as anyone with any class consciousness knows.

The education of mothers is as important, but you can see it tracks the same way as income and student outcomes.  A good teacher is humble enough to know they can help, but are not the deciding factor: that's Hollywood bullshit.  A decent society floats all boats on the tide, but that's not ours any longer.

If a government were interested in student learning, they'd be interested in all social outcomes: they'd be interested in income equality.  [Ruefully laughing my ass off.]

The test isn't even an accurate test of the failures of our society.  The books get cooked.

Put aside the schools which've had their wrists slapped for changing students' test booklets, and the others who supplied students the answers, because that's an inevitable flaw of all standardized testing: all part of the 'Observer-Expectancy Effect', and why none of them are very good.  Did I mention that the students' classroom teachers present the test to their own classroom?  Their administration is ridden hard by the superintendents for results that have little to do with socioeconomic realities in the school?  Or that the government marks the test themselves?  Cannot see how there'd be any conflicts there.  We INTJs are not subject to the 'Dunning-Kruger Effect', unlike the majority of the other personality archetypes.  Humans are a fucking trial.

An anecdote: a  decade ago, the staff laughed aloud at our principal, due to the 'Lake Wobegon Effect'.  She said, "We expect all the students to be above average."  OK, I did start the laughter.  Another: my school board, which cries poor over class sizes, technology, facilities, staff-benefits and work conditions and much more, has found it in their budget to have EQAO 'tutoring'.

You must understand, as I make my students and their parents understand, the test has no outcomes negative or positive to an individual student, or even teacher for the moment (though the hostile government would have made that happen, and I would now be abroad or in another career**).  It's a, deeply flawed, tool to see how the province, schools, and socioeconomic groups are doing.  Why are we teaching kids to do artificially well at this?

Jesus wept.

*Succeeding governments have less improved conditions than made them no worse.
**The day of the election that had the neo-cons voted out of the province, I announced aloud in the staff-room that if they retained the government I wouldn't be back the next year.  It'd only get worse so fuck it.  I was young enough to start over, with only two years invested.  I was right, but fucked if I know what I would've done.  I'm a teacher.  International schools in Japan would've been the best choice for me, but I knew nothing about them in 2001.

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