Using an international literacy spin-off to make funding decisions: A first in Canada and the world

As far as I can tell, and you can tell me different, no other government funded education or learning system in Canada has ever tied the results of student testing to funding. In other words, the LBS system in Ontario will be the first and only publicly funded system in Canada to base funding decisions on students’ test results. Even more perplexing, this is being done in a learning system that receives a small fraction of the funding received by the elementary, secondary and post-secondary systems. A chronically under-resourced system must use more intrusive accountability measures than others. Why are the stakes so high for LBS?

To add to this first, Ontario is (again, as far as I can tell) the only jurisdiction in the world to have integrated international literacy testing methods directly into its curriculum and accountability frameworks, compelling programs to integrate the methods into their day-to-day teaching and learning.

And they are not just forcing programs to use one assessment. Three different assessments are or will be mandated and tied directly to accountability and funding decisions in what is called the Performance Management Framework (PMF).

PMF

Each one of the three tests is aligned with an effectiveness category in the PMF. A weighting or percentage value is also assigned to each category to indicate the influence of each measure when making overall program evaluation judgments and funding decisions. Combined, the results of the three tests carry half the value in the PMF.

Effectiveness Category Tests
1.       Completion of Goal Path (worth 20%) Culminating Tasks, each learner must complete one of 15 or so available tests
2.       Learner Progress (worth 20%) Milestones, each learner must complete one of 60 mini tests
3.       Learner Gains (worth 10%) ESEE (currently being piloted), learners must show a score gain in pre/post tests

That means, the most educationally marginalized learners in Ontario carry half the weight of the accountability framework. It’s their performance that could determine whether a program is deemed eligible for funding. No other education system in this province burdens students in such a way. And these are students who have already experienced challenges, sometimes failure and often frustration, in Ontario’s education system.

What gives? Why would anyone with responsibility for the design of this system think this is a fair and reasonable approach?

 

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