Standardized tests in reading, writing and math should be cancelled this spring because students have had enough stress dealing with switching from in-person to online learning during the past two years of the pandemic, says NDP education critic, Marit Stiles.

Stiles, the MPP for Davenport and a former Toronto public school board trustee, noted that Ontario students learned online more than students in any other in the country, because of COVID-19, and “it’s had a devastating impact on student mental health and too many students have fallen behind.

“Now principals and teachers are sounding the alarm that the resources needed in our schools are simply not there,” Stiles said.

She said that, “instead of marshalling resources to meet the challenges facing our students and education workers, (Premier Doug) Ford is rushing to bring back standardized EQAO testing. That’s millions spent on outdated standardized testing, instead of investing in the supports students need.”

The province has said EQAO testing for elementary students will resume this spring in reading, writing and math, as well as the Grade 10 literacy test.

At the legislature on Thursday, MPP Sam Oosterhoff said the government has invested in mental health supports for students and “this impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been absolutely noticed on students and staff alike, and that’s why we have made such continual investments in this area.”

Oosterhoff, the parliamentary assistant to Minister of Education Stephen Lecce, also said the Education Quality and Accountability Office, or EQAO, runs the tests and it is moving them all online.

“We did this so that we can measure progress and make data-driven decisions,” he said.

Stiles, however, said she “can’t believe how completely disengaged from reality this government is. Expecting an eight-year-old to type 150 words independently … that’s not modernizing; that’s adding stress. That’s completely disengaged from reality.”

And, she added, the test and their results “certainly won’t be useful after two years of significant disruption.”

In a letter to Lecce, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario also asked that tests not run again this spring, for a third year, saying educators “have significant concerns about the well-being and mental health of students, adding EQAO-related anxiety and stress at this time is totally irresponsible.”

Educators “have concerns about young students using a digital platform which embeds an algorithm that creates a streamed assessment process,” wrote ETFO’s president, Karen Brown.

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy