I administered the Grade 9 EQAO Assessment of Mathematics this semester. It’s a provincial, standardized test that students write for two hours across two days, an hour per day. Part of the test is multiple choice, and part is open response (longer, written solutions).
In the weeks before the test I practised with my kids, gave advice, and tried to make them comfortable while encouraging them to do their best. I told them to try every question, saying things like “You can’t get marks for work you don’t show!”, “You never know what you might get marks for!”, and “If you don’t know a multiple choice answer you should guess.”
One of my students left three multiple choice questions blank.
The EQAO Administration Guide expressly forbids drawing a student’s attention to an unanswered question. So I collected her work.
Afterward I asked her about it. “Why didn’t you answer those questions? You could have guessed; you might have gotten some right.”
She looked steadily at me. “I didn’t know the answers.”
I felt (and feel) terrible about it.
Not that I didn’t prepare her well for the assessment. I feel terrible because I realized that I asked my students to lie.
I asked them to guess “if necessary”, to hide their lack of knowledge, to pretend that they knew things they did not. Because I want them to get good marks, and I want our school to do well.
That is a terrible thing to ask, and for a meaningless reason.
My student didn’t just guess. She didn’t play this ridiculous game. She showed integrity.
And I’m really proud of her for that.