Teacher suspended for helping students on EQAO test – The London Free Press

Oversight of provincewide standardized testing is under the microscope as the school year gets ready to begin after a London teacher pleaded guilty to professional misconduct for helping students answer correctly.

Danuta Debich was slapped with a three-month suspension earlier this year by the Ontario College of Teachers stemming from her actions during a Grade 3 math test from the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) taken on May 26, 2016.

The agreed statement of facts in the college’s decision, which did not disclose the name of the school where the infractions occurred, said Debich pointed to an answer and gave a student a thumbs up when he asked if it was right or wrong. The decision also said Debich allowed students have a snack break and allowed one to use a dictionary, contrary to EQAO testing standards.

When some students finished the test, Debich reviewed the booklets and prompted some by asking “are you sure that’s right?” and “is that your best answer?”

The school board investigated, interviewing a third of the students in Debich’s class, the disciplinary decision said. All the students interviewed said she had provided some assistance during the test.

The EQAO test results were withheld from the school and parents were told their students’ scores should be viewed with caution. Debich was suspended 15 days without pay by the Thames Valley District school board, which employed her.

The college gave her a three-month suspension from teaching and required her to pass a course on professional ethics. Debich is now in good standing with the regulator but is not currently in the classroom, the Thames Valley board confirmed.

The professional regulator has handed down at least nine decisions involving EQAO testing irregularities in the last five years.

Situations like this are rare, EQAO said, but are a chance to reaffirm the agency’s commitment to sound data collection.

“It’s important for our data to be accurate and the agency takes any allegation of interference with its assessment program very seriously,” EQAO chief assessment officer Steven Reid said in a statement.

Over and above training and strict rules for teachers, EQAO also employs other quality-assurance measures including closely monitoring randomly selected schools, analyzing data to identify patterns of collusion and systematic follow-ups on public concerns, Reid said in an email.

“In case of a potential irregularity, EQAO works directly with school board staff to investigate the matter,” he said. “In confirmed cases of irregularities, it is within school boards’ scope to take the appropriate disciplinary action.”

It’s not the first time Thames Valley has had to contend with EQAO infractions in its schools.

At the now-closed Huron Heights French immersion public school, Grade 3 math test scores from June 2010 were withheld after the principal allowed teachers to see the test before it was administered. Principal Francine Rheault was permanently removed from her position at the school after an investigation.

For the board, both cases were an opportunity to assess what happened and maintain the integrity of the provincewide assessment, an official said

“Every step is taken to ensure the fair and consistent administration of the EQAO assessments in order to maintain the validity of student responses,” Thames Valley superintendent Sheila Builder said in a statement.

“TVDSB does not tolerate professional misconduct and the board investigates all reports concerning the administration of EQAO tests.”