Testy Over Standards
Most private schools refuse to take part in provincial EQAO program
By JENNY YUEN, SUN MEDIA
Last Updated: 2nd March 2009, 4:41am
Toronto-area private schools aren’t putting stock into the standardized testing that parents can count on in the public system.
In an exclusive elementary school report card issue yesterday, the Sunday Sun reported private schools came second among GTA school boards, following the Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud.
However, it’s difficult to get a full picture of how private schools rank in the evaluation by the Fraser Institute. Only seven of 250 private schools in the GTA voluntarily have their students take standardized provincial testing from the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO). While the testing is mandatory for public schools — it’s not in the private system.
The Fraser Institute, an independent think-tank, releases the annual report card, basing its findings on the province’s standardized EQAO tests, which are given to kids in Grades 3 and 6.
TOO MUCH COMPETITION
So why don’t private schools think EQAO is the way to go?
“We find our testing (Canadian Test Centre’s CAT-4 evaluation) tells us more about where we need to improve as teachers,” said Sybil Taylor, principal of Century Montessori Private School. “We did two years of EQAO in early 2000 and there was a feeling that there was too much competition with ranking.”
The North Toronto Christian School, a private school in the Finch-Bayview Aves. area, doesn’t perform EQAO testing because it costs $55 per pupil for private schools.
“Cost is an issue and we would generally question the value of this,” said Gordon Cooke, the school’s administrator. “We’re not convinced that EQAO is vigorous enough to test performance.”
The school, which has 600 students from JK to Grade 8, uses CAT-3 and Canadian Tests of Basic Skills as ways of evaluation. Cooke said the school also rejects EQAO because it takes up class time.
Cooke added that parents don’t need to see private school rankings on the Fraser report to know it’s a quality school.
WORD OF MOUTH
“Parents are convinced of a (private school’s) strong academic state through word of mouth and coming to the school and talking to staff,” he said.
Peter Cowley, of the Fraser Institute, said Ontario is the only province where many private schools opt out of standardized testing.
“The vast majority of private schools in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec all participate in province-wide testing, and that is because a portion of their tuition fees are covered by the provincial ministry of education,” he said.
Dr. Revathi Chennabathni, the principal at Sathya Sai School, said her private school participates in the EQAO exam because “it provides an unbiased assessment of our school for parents to decide if this is the right school for their child.”
More parents are choosing private schools because of smaller class sizes, said Agatha Stawicki, who organizes annual private school fairs for parents in Toronto and Oakville.
“More and more smaller schools are opening to fill a gap that’s for the community,” she said. “About 30% of kids that attend private schools come from families with incomes less than $50,000, which means parents are making significant sacrifices to make that choice to enrol their child in a private or independent school.”
Parent Kesh Maharaj said he sent his two kids to Sathya Sai School because it offers a human component.
“For the schools that don’t participate in the Ontario standard testing I can only hope that the kids are gaining the correct lessons from the teachers,” said Maharaj, 32, who is also co-chairman on the Sathya Sai School parent council.
“There is also a level of responsibility and ownership which parents must take in the success and proper functioning of any educational system. Personal responsibility and personal commitment to continued education at home are equally important for the successful education of our children.”
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