A group of parents is threatening to sue the Ontario government if it doesn't abolish the mandatory Grade 10 literacy test that must be passed to graduate from high school. David Baker, the lawyer representing the students and parents, claims the standardized literacy tests were designed to fail 20 per cent of students because they don't take into account the needs of those with disabilities or those in the applied rather than academic education stream...
The parents are demanding that passing the test no longer be required to graduate from high school.
Education Minister Gerard Kennedy said he'll look at the test for fairness and balance, although it has been screened for bias.
"We are concerned of the impact of the test on kids," he said. "We've been looking at this for a while."
There's nothing wrong with looking at impact, which is different from bias. A test that is perfectly fair and bias-free can still have differential impact on different groups. If Group A is of high literacy ability and Group B is of low literacy ability, then a fair test of literacy skills will pass more of Group A than Group B, and negatively impact Group B more than Group A. The issue of fairness becomes relevant only if the test measures something other than literacy and still fails more members of Group B than Group A.
One can argue that a valid test of literacy will indeed fail more special education students if they are likely to be less literate. So the problem is not the exam; the problem is that the special education students are either mainstreamed into regular classes or are currently receiving diplomas that are the same as the regular students, despite the fact that their abilities are so much lower. Is this fair to either group of students?
Baker said about 27,000 Ontario students won't graduate this year because they haven't passed the test, which was implemented in 2001.
That year, of the 129,000 students who took the test, 75 per cent passed, said an Education Ministry spokesperson. Of those who failed and took the test the next year, 48 per cent passed, meaning that about 88 per cent of the 129,000 students eventually passed.
Does this mean that 12% of all Ontario high school students are in special ed? That's a pretty big number. Removing the test would allow those in the 12% who are not in special education classes to recieve diplomas despite demonstrating a relatively low level of literacy.
Anna Germain said her 17-year-old son Matt, who has Down syndrome, deserves to graduate from his Toronto high school.
Does he really deserve to receive the exact same diploma if he hasn't mastered high-school level material? I can understand a mother's desire for her son to be rewarded for the work he has done. I just don't understand what these parents think a diploma will mean if a student doesn't have to master high-school level skills in order to recieve it.Posted by kswygert at December 12, 2003 11:30 AM