Radio-Canada / CBC: Reportage d’Amélie Gosselin sur les Examens Normalisés
Reportage d’Amélie Gosselin sur les Examens Normalisés – Radio-Canada / CBC


Real Accountability or an Illusion of Success?:
A Call to Review Standardized Testing in Canada

OTTAWA, ON The Action Canada Task Force on Standardized Testing has just released a report analyzing the place of standardized testing as an accountability measure in Canadian K-12 education systems, using Ontario as a case study focus. “A review of standardized testing in this province and others is not only timely – it’s urgently needed,” says Sébastien Després, a 2012-2013 Action Canada Fellow and co-author of the report. Després explains that when standardized testing was established in Ontario two decades ago, the Royal Commission which recommended the creation of the province’s Education Quality and Assessment Office (EQAO) and the adoption of standardized testing in the province had also recommended that a five-year review be undertaken. Almost twenty years later, this review has yet to be done. Després concludes, “As things stand, the current testing system may or may not be facilitating the achievement of the education system’s range of objectives. A review of this accountability measure should be a top priority.”

Teaching is often said to be “the second most private act in which adults engage” (Dufour 1991) since it tends to take place behind closed doors, away from the view of many stakeholders. In its essence, however, teaching is a public and political act, and is fundamental to the continuing development of a citizenry that drives Canada’s global competitiveness and social and economic prosperity. Recognizing the importance of education, many jurisdictions have turned to standardized testing as a means of ensuring accountability for results. In some circles, this measure has become controversial, as stakeholders – and the public as a whole – are polarized as to whether standardized testing is an appropriate way of evaluating students and the overall quality and effectiveness of education systems in light of their objectives and curricula.

Sébastien Després, a lecturer in Anthropology and Geography at Memorial University of Newfoundland, explains that standardized testing regimes are time-consuming enterprises that can have an important impact on the classroom experience. “We know that not all students are motivated by marks and academic achievement. We also know that when these things are prioritized over others, instruction can become boring, and kids become disengaged.” The report also explores how standardized testing can impact teaching as a profession, and echoes earlier studies that show how an over-emphasis on test scores can diminish teachers’ role in determining the content and methods of instruction, casting teachers as efficiency experts who carry out instruction determined by someone else.

Standardized testing can also shift attention away from the presentation of the full breadth of a given province’s prescribed curriculum, to a narrowed focus on what they measure: literacy and numeracy. This is recognized by the EQAO, who in a recent report highlighted that “What gets measured gets attention.” Task Force member Marie-Josée Parent arranged for specially-commissioned artwork by Montreal artist Josée Pedneault and a short animated film featuring drawings from Winnipeg artist Ben Clarkson to accompany the report, a nod to the adverse effect that standardized testing regimes can have on the teaching of the arts, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and a list of other skills and competencies prescribed by provincial curricula. “Recognizing that the means by which we strive to make our education systems transparent necessarily have an impact on these systems is a good first step in a bold direction,” says Després, “and we are hopeful that this recognition will go a long way in occasioning a change in priorities from a focus on test scores to a focus on the ultimate purposes of education.”

To view the report, visit:
Task Force Twitter feed:
Task Force Facebook page:


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Media Contact:

Sébastien Després
Action Canada Fellow (2012/13)
Department of Anthropology, Memorial University of Newfoundland


VIDEO: The CBC interviews Sébastien Després: A Call for a Review of Standardized Testing

VIDEO: Les examens normalisés et le programme d’Action Canada – Une Interview avec Marie-Josée Parent

This project has been undertaken pursuant to an Action Canada fellowship. Action Canada Foundation (, doing business as Action Canada, is a registered charity funded in part by the Government of Canada with a mandate to build leadership for Canada’s future. The views, opinions, positions and/or strategies expressed on this site, our Twitter Feed, and our Facebook Page are those of the authors alone (Sébastien Després and/or Marie-Josée Parent), and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, positions or strategies of Action Canada, Action Canada Foundation, the Action Canada Task Force on Standardized Testing, or the Government of Canada. Action Canada, Action Canada Foundation, and the Government of Canada make no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, reliability, non-infringement or currency of any information on these sites, and will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information, or any losses, costs, injuries or damages arising from its display, use or publication.
Le présent projet a été entrepris dans le cadre du Programme d’Action Canada. La Fondation Action Canada (, faisant affaires sous le nom d’Action Canada, est un organisme de bienfaisance enregistré, financé en partie par le gouvernement du Canada, qui a pour mission de renforcer le leadership pour l’avenir du Canada. Les points de vue, opinions, positions et/ou stratégies exposés sur ce site, notre page Facebook, ou notre RSS Twitter sont ceux des auteurs (Sébastien Després et/ou Marie-Josée Parent) et ne reflètent pas nécessairement les points de vue, opinions positions ou stratégies d’Action Canada, de la Fondation Action Canada, du Groupe de travail sur les examens standardisés, ou du gouvernement du Canada. Action Canada, la Fondation Action Canada et le gouvernement du Canada ne garantissent en rien l’exactitude, l’exhaustivité, la fiabilité, la non violation de droits ou l’actualité des informations contenues sur ces sites et ne pourront être tenus responsables d’éventuelles erreurs ou omissions dans cette information, ni des pertes, dépenses, blessures ou dommages qui pourraient résulter de leur affichage, leur utilisation ou leur publication.