Position Letter - January 2020
January 21, 2020
On August 20, 2019, the Government of Ontario passed Regulations 271/19 and 272/19, requiring all teacher candidates (TCs) in Ontario who will not have a completed Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) application on or after March 31, 2020, to pass a math proficiency test (MPT). The MPT will be developed by the Education Quality Accountability Office (EQAO) and will be a standardized, online, multiple-choice assessment for TCs in both math proficiency (70%) and pedagogy (30%). The Government of Ontario has positioned the MPT as part of its $200-million math strategy, which aims to increase student math scores on the EQAO math assessments administered to Grade 3, 6 and 9 students across the province. The Ministry of Education (MoE) and the EQAO are currently in the process of developing the test for TCs enrolled in Faculties of Education across Ontario, including candidates graduating in the spring of 2020.
The Ontario Teacher Candidates’ Council (OTCC) strongly opposes Regulations 271/19 and 272/19. TCs from Faculties of Education across Ontario are standing together in solidarity against the MPT. We believe that equitable assessment strategies best serve the students of Ontario as outlined in Ministry-issued documents such as “Growing Success: Assessment, Evaluation, and Reporting in Ontario Schools (2010) and Learning for All: A Guide to Effective Assessment and Instruction for All Students, Kindergarten to Grade 12 (2013). As teacher candidates, we expect the same balanced and fair assessment practices from the Government of Ontario. We are disappointed in the Government of Ontario and the Ministry of Education for voting in favour of a standardized proficiency test, negating equitable assessment for TCs.
The majority of TCs graduating from Ontario Faculties of Education in the spring of 2020 began their initial teacher education (ITE) programs in September of 2018. When they entered the program, the MPT was not a requirement to obtain certification with the Ontario College of Teachers. Prior to the MPT requirement, TCs graduated from ITE programs with a recommendation to the College of Teachers from their respective Faculties of Education for certificates of qualification.
On average, it takes four years for the EQAO to develop, pilot and insert a new question on a test. In the current case of the MPT, EQAO is forced to develop an entire test at over four times the usual rate.
The Ontario Teacher Candidates’ Council recommends that the Government of Ontario retract the MPT requirement for accreditation for 2020 and reconsider the rollout timeline for the test to ensure equitable, evidence-based practices are being implemented in the design and administration of the test. We urge the government to consider the negative implications of imposing an under-researched and under-developed assessment for TCs. Simultaneously, Faculties of Education are faced with the urgent, unclear task of preparing their students for a test that does not yet exist. The OTCC recommends that the Government of Ontario reconsider the rollout timeline to allow for proper course development, implementation of support resources for TCs and evidence-based strategies for assessment to be developed and thoroughly tested before administering the MPT for TCs.
Math Proficiency Test Implications
The negative implications of the MPT on TCs across the province are unconscionable. The lack of support resources, test administration dates and communications from the Government of Ontario will have lasting effects on TCs for years to come. In addition, the OTCC has discovered that many TCs are expressing their intention to leave Ontario to work in other provinces or countries in response to the MPT, and the lack of information, resources, and equitable assessment practices from the provincial government. Due to the government’s ineffectual implementation, Ontario will lose the valuable, effective and empathetic teachers in whom it has invested.
The OTCC has been actively communicating with the government, urging it to provide appropriate support resources for the MPT. Although the MPT regulation was passed on August 20, 2019, TCs were left without support resources until December 2019, at which point EQAO launched its math proficiency information website. However, the newly introduced information site (www.mathproficiencytest.ca) explicitly states that the “preparation” material on the website is not considered to be an appropriate support resource for study in preparation for the MPT. With Faculties of Education unprepared for the precipitous new requirement, TCs are left to pursue independent resources and out-of-pocket training in preparation for the MPT.
TCs across the province are set to complete their ITE programs in April 2020. Due to Regulations 271/19 and 272/19, TCs are no longer able to receive their OCT certification without the completion of the MPT. The EQAO information website explains there will be a Winter 2020 pilot test, but does not offer administration dates for either the pilot or the first administration of the MPT. The most recent EQAO communications now state that the first MPT administration will be in the spring of 2020, but are still silent on the specific administration dates. The OTCC believes the absence of dates and information regarding the administration of the test is unacceptable and puts TCs in an alarming and potentially damaging situation.
While the government withholds test administration dates, TCs are left wondering when they will be able to complete their OCT certification and how they will adequately prepare for the test. OCT certification is a requirement for any teacher candidate to be able to teach in the province of Ontario. As of 2019, OCT wait times for accreditation are two to three months. If the MPT dates continue to be delayed, TC certification will be further delayed, preventing entry into classrooms in any professional capacity. Additionally, this will pose problems for TCs wishing to enroll in Additional Qualification (AQ) courses for professional development and specialization. Many TCs want to use their summers to grow as professionals and develop skills which will further support students in Ontario. In order to participate and receive credit for completing an AQ course, the candidate must first be certified by the OCT. With the new development of Spring 2020 administration dates, this poses a detrimental threat to TCs ready to take AQs and work as fully certified teachers in September of 2020.
The negative implications of the MPT are not limited solely to currently enrolled TCs, but also impact aspiring teachers who are currently in high school and undergraduate studies. The OTCC consistently receives communications from individuals who were considering a future career as educators, but have been deterred due to the imposition of the MPT. This has potentially enormous ramifications to the education system in Ontario as many of these individuals may have been able to fill the desperate need for French teachers in this province. Furthermore, many current TCs have indicated that they will choose to leave the province to pursue their careers. As the previous government recently halved enrollment for Faculties of Education, the outflux of prospective teachers puts Ontario’s students at risk for a teacher shortage. These are just a few of the detrimental implications that the Government of Ontario should consider before implementing the MPT. The OTCC strongly urges the Government of Ontario to fully examine the implications of administering a test that is clearly under-researched, under-developed and detrimental to Ontario’s education system as a whole.
The EQAO’s 2016-2017 Annual Report states that standardized testing costs the province an estimated 35 million dollars each year. Adding the cost of a Math Proficiency Test to this already substantial yearly estimate is impractical and avoidable. The Government of Ontario should reconsider the financial responsibility and unnecessary financial burden put on the taxpayers of Ontario to administer additional standardized testing each year.
The Government of Ontario has stated there will be a cost, currently undetermined in value, associated with attempting the MPT more than once. This presents financial barriers for TCs who have already invested thousands of dollars obtaining their Bachelor’s degrees from accredited universities that provide both practical and content-based knowledge in preparation to be an educator. TCs have invested approximately six years of their lives and tens of thousands of dollars in teacher preparation programs with the understanding that they would be accredited by the end of their Bachelor of Education degree program. The MPT presents unnecessary financial hardship and stress on TCs who have invested both time and money into their teacher training programs.
Pedagogy & Assessment
Teaching pedagogy puts students first by considering social, political and psychological influences on students through the use of equitable practices of assessment and evaluation. Growing Success: Assessment, Evaluation, and Reporting in Ontario Schools (2010), a document prepared by the MoE, makes the following statement: “The primary purpose of assessment and evaluation is to improve student learning” (p.6). Assessment and evaluation practices improve student learning when facilitators fully consider equity and inclusivity in their practice. To allow students to demonstrate their full capacity for learning, assessments are ongoing, differentiated, and administered over a period of time to provide multiple opportunities for success. In addition, the document outlines seven fundamental principles that substantiate that assessments, evaluations and reports should be transparent. Given the MPT’s standardized, multiple-choice, online format, lack of differentiation, lack of transparency and impending dates of administration, the implementation of this test is patently hypocritical.
Standardized Testing of Teacher Competency
In August 2019, EQAO released a Literature Review of the Empirical Evidence on the Connection Between Compulsory Teacher Competency Testing and Student Outcomes. The document examines existing teacher competency tests, and identifies that they frequently fail to improve student outcomes. It further states that the results are not consistent enough to “[justify] their widespread implementation”. Standardized tests have also been shown to present a significant achievement gap for racialized groups. The OTCC stands against the use of taxpayer dollars to implement a solution that research evidence shows to be unworthy of support, especially when it imposes access barriers that particularly disadvantage marginalized TCs.
The Ontario Teacher Candidates’ Council has been formed by Ontario TCs as a unified body of representatives from Faculties of Education across the province, which stands in opposition of the MPT. The OTCC believes the provincial government should provide students and educators with proper math supports and assessment practices that are equitable, inclusive and differentiated to foster the improvement of math skills in Ontario rather than impose a high-stakes test of questionable value. The math proficiency test for TCs will not assess their ability to be empathetic, compassionate and effective teachers.
Recommendations to the Government of Ontario and the Ministry of Education:
Retract and reconsider the timeline rollout of the MPT to ensure equitable, evidence based practices are being implemented in the design and administration of the test.
Provide Faculties of Education with adequate preparation resources to support TCs in preparation for a high-stakes assessment.
Retract and reconsider the MPT as an accreditation requirement for obtaining certification with the Ontario College of Teachers.
Retract the MPT and consider the implications imposed on TCs by the premature administration of the MPT.
Reconsider how this test will differentiate for teacher candidates who will be certified to teach in different divisions and who may not be teaching math.
President, Ontario Teacher Candidates’ Council