Goldfish and trees
There is a quotation often attributed to Albert Einstein which goes something like this: “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a goldfish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Ontario’s Education Quality and Accountability Office recently released the latest round of scores for standardized tests it issues to students in grades 3, 6 and 9. Scores at Haliburton County schools and schools throughout the Trillium Lakelands District School Board are generally down, with fewer students at or above the provincial average in core subject areas than the previous round.
EQAO results do serve a function and it’s good to have that snapshot, a benchmark against which academic performance within the province’s school boards can be measured.
Certainly falling scores are not good news and in a release the TLDSB said it is reviewing the data and determining next steps.
However, there is also no need for anyone to go all Chicken Little.
EQAO results should be kept in perspective.
Testing is done based on the three traditional pillars of the education system – reading, writing and mathematics. And this makes sense, with reading and writing the foundation of the arts and mathematics the foundation of the sciences.
However, the testing does not take into account a host of other subject areas. Extraordinary aptitude in music, say, or visual art is not measured by EQAO testing. Neither are certain technical skills. Remember the guys from high school who perhaps didn’t thrive in traditional subjects, but who had a seemingly supernatural ability to disassemble and reassemble things, who could repair a small engine just by looking at it from the right angle?
Standardized testing doesn’t take that sort of intelligence into account, either.
The tests themselves also need to be considered. What kinds of demands are being put on young students?
Rewind four decades and a Grade 1 student may have been expected to functionally spell his or her name by the end of the school year, all of the letters facing the proper direction.
Now, Grade 1 students are expected to write almost a small essay by the end of the year, a coherent piece of writing with a theme and a clear beginning, middle and conclusion.
At what point are we simply putting too much pressure on kids? Are we approaching that tipping point? Are we asking a goldfish to climb a tree?