Shawn Jeffords, the Canadian press
Published Friday, November 16, 2018, 16:47 AM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 16, 2018, 5:50 PM EST
TORONTO – Students taking standardized tests in Ontario schools this year will be able to carry headphones and access some online calculators and language resources, "said Ontario's education quality and accountability office.
EQAO chief assessor Steven Reid said that the agency changes the rule after consultation with teachers and parents to better reflect regular assessment environments in classrooms. The purpose of the changes is to reduce the amount of stress students feel as they take tests – in order not to increase the score, which has always fallen into areas such as mathematics, he said.
"We feel that we get the best information from students if they are in a comfortable environment," says Reid. "If it uses headphones, it uses headphones."
The new rules released Friday say that students who take the test will be able to wear headphones and listen to music or white noise.
Students will also be able to access the Internet for some online instructional tools such as translators and calculators through online apps.
Reid said that only students wearing headphones or using other instructional tools during normal class time will be able to use them during EQAO testing.
"The students will really be more comfortable, that's what we want," he said. "We want them to enter the classroom and just to be another day."
Reid said teachers will now also be able to leave classroom screens and student work and only remove material that is "instructional" during testing.
"We really do not want the students to enter a classroom where nothing is on the walls or everything is covered," he said. "That's where we will have consistency throughout the province."
Standardized test results released in August showed that mathematical results among elementary school students in public schools have decreased over the last five years, indicating that government's efforts to reverse the trend have not worked.
EQAO data showed that 49 percent of class 6 students met the province's mathematical standard during the last school year, down from 54 percent in 2013-2014. Among grade 3 students, EQAO 61 percent met the provincial standard 2017-2018, from 67 percent 2013-2014.
Meanwhile, 45 percent of Grade 9 students were included in the applied mathematics course, while the figure was 84 percent for the academic mathematics course. Academic courses focus more on abstract applications of concepts, while applied courses focus on practice.
Reid said that EQAO will continue to modernize its testing method, but will also ensure that its assessments are strict.
"In the long run, we hope to … make it an environment that may be a little more fun for students and maybe a little less stressful," he said.