Meeting Notes - June 18, 2019

On June 18, the trustees passed a balanced budget presented by administration and considered several motions from trustees.

I was pleased to support a motion from Trustee Cipkar, that the GECDSB create an Active Transportation Task Force, which passed. This idea is not unique and in many ways will play a supporting role in the initiatives of other institutions and organizations. Moreover, it was timely considering that the City of Windsor is considering their master plan for transportation. It also dove-tails nicely with initiatives from local community organizations like BikeWindsor who are devoted to making our city safer and better prepared for residents to get to and from their destinations. This includes using more active means such as biking and walking. The motion follows easily from the great work already being done by other organizations and as a school board, I am excited that we will have our own plan. I am looking forward to seeing what the task force reports back, and during the debate, culture change and education throughout the board were suggestions that came forward. 
There were also three motions about EQAO that came forward from Trustee Hatfield which were all defeated on the basis of a lack of evidence and their impacts on scientific integrity. I, too, voted against them and I would like to thank Dr. Julie Fraser, a local research and organizational consultant, for presenting an evidence-based argument about the importance of EQAO in our system as well as research and data integrity. Her presentation was balanced and fair noting that teacher evaluations are very important and that EQAO is another important independent tool.
The first motion was that the GECDSB send a letter to EQAO and the Minister of Education asking for an EQAO exemption policy that permits parents to request exemption from schools. This motion was defeated based on the concern that this would increase the exemption rate and potentially impact the validity of the results, in particular if they happen to be concentrated by school, grade, or demographic. However, the defeat of the motion does not take away parents' rights or change the fact that parents always have the ability and authority to make decisions they believe are best for their children.
The second motion was that GECDSB send a letter to the Minister of Education requesting that grade 3 testing be eliminated. The argument seemed to centre on the idea that the results are misused by parents when they are looking to enrol their children in schools. While I don't necessarily dispute that EQAO results are sometimes used in ways that they were not intended to be used (e.g., the Fraser Institute ranking of schools) that does not mean we should just put an end to it. In fact, it is statements like these that contribute to misunderstanding of the test. Furthermore, EQAO already does have a plan to modernize and update the test which includes consideration for what is most appropriate with regard to age of testing, so I am not sure what this letter, which takes an extreme position, would accomplish.
The third and final motion was that the GECDSB undertake an EQAO task force to study the impact of EQAO on grade 3 and 6 students. This motion was also defeated. First, research like this is already being conducted every year by EQAO as well as independent researchers. Second, the Minister of Education under the previous government commissioned an independent review with stakeholder feedback across the province just last year. Trustee Halberstadt and I, as well as then-Trustee Kim McKinley, all attended as did many parents, teachers, and community members. I am not sure what a study done specifically by our board would show differently. Third, and I can speak with some expertise in this, EQAO has a sound scientific process which includes field testing questions (psychometric analysis), collecting some data on student study habits and attitudes toward school, and teachers in fact help develop the questions and score the test. During debate it was acknowledged that the test may cause some stress, but that this stress is no different from the stress that some students experience with other tests and assignments. That does not just make it okay, however, it points to the need for education, additional support for students, and a culture change, not eliminating the test. Finally, I am not sure what the rationale was for excluding grade 9 and 10 students who also have EQAO testing. There wasn't any rationale presented by the mover in this regard.
In all, there was an excellent debate which functioned to show that trustees have a strong support for the importance of EQAO and evidence-based reasoning. The discussion on both sides was compassionate toward students and teachers, but the arguments presented in support of these motions were not supported by the majority of trustees.
Have a wonderful summer, everyone! I am looking forward to attending several graduations this month. See you in September!
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Jessica Sartori