Photo: Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu/Unsplash.
Reading Time: 2 minutes


You know the feeling. You’re both exhausted and overwhelmed following a late-night study session. You can’t think about your evaluation without being overcome by a mix of dread and nervousness. It’s exam time. 

While test-taking is stressful for many students, there is one thing that’s worse: taking a test so that teachers can be evaluated — not students. Among Ontario elementary and secondary school students, such a test happens in Grades 3, 6 and 9. These standardized tests are called EQAO.

The acronym stands for Education Quality and Accountability Office; however, the seemingly relentless tests are commonly known by Ontario students as ‘Evil Questions Attacking Ontario.’ 

I maintain that standardized tests are indeed ‘evil’ and don’t promote education ‘quality.’ Nevertheless, parents are understandably concerned following recent EQAO test results. The Globe and Mail reported sizable drops in Grade 3 and 6 students who met provincial standards in reading, writing, and maths. Notably, just 47 per cent of Grade 6 students met the provincial standards in mathematics this past year. 

Inevitably, two perspectives will emerge from these results. Some may argue that teachers and school systems are crumbling and consequently failing students. This is a perspective which I oppose. Rather, I believe that standardized tests fail to reflect the quality of education. The goal of examinations should be to test the knowledge of the students. However, these standardized examinations only test the ability to memorize and regurgitate information. 

In elementary school, I excelled with class assignments but struggled with test-taking. Suppose I was being evaluated on my understanding of essay structure with two methods: a test and a project. Students like myself would ace the project, but fail the test. If an EQAO analyst were to evaluate my test, they would conclude that I cannot structure an essay. However, upon evaluating my project, it would be clear that I can successfully apply essay structure.

There seems to be a disconnect between what students learn and what they are able to remember. Testing, although it measures memorization, fails to capture a complete picture of education. Therefore, with regard to the low EQAO results, a high level of concern seems unwarranted.    

Ultimately, the only concerning thing regarding these scores is that standardized testing continues to be imposed on students to evaluate the quality of education in Ontario. 

The goal of the EQAO testing is to provide credible results about the quality of the province’s education systems. Therefore, the method of evaluation should allow the students to justify their thinking and, as a result, the quality of their education. 

I propose an evaluation which focuses on critical thinking as opposed to memorization. Such a project could be available for students to work on throughout the year and submitted at the end of the term. This project would still incorporate all the skills that are evaluated in current EQAO models, but the topic should be decided by teachers and students. 

In addition to being student-centred, this method of evaluation will develop critical thinking, research and innovation — crucial skills for this upcoming generation. Of course, these assignments are sure to take more time to create and evaluate. But, if you’re going to put ‘education’ and ‘quality’ together in the title of your organization, you’d better be ready to prepare a quality assessment and spend quality time assessing it.


  • Sydney Grenier is a second-year student studying Conflict Studies and Human Rights at the University of Ottawa. She is a passionate advocate for Indigenous rights and environmental protection. Sydney's experience includes volunteering for various organizations relating to human rights protection such as Results Canada and Amnesty International. When she is not brainstorming new stories and solutions you can catch her consuming ridiculous amounts of coffee, hiking or singing to herself.