April 2003: 2003 Ontario Teacher Test Fiasco

 
The Ontario Teacher Test has been a fiasco from the beginning when it was introduced by the Conservative government.  The Teacher Test was supposed to be, for the first time since early 1900s, a requirement to hold a teacher’s license in the province of Ontario.  However, the provincial government soon backed down at the last minute.  Thus, the test became a “field test” and would not count against those applying for a teacher’s license.  Stories about stress involved in studying for the test not to count remain untold.  However, the disorganization of the testing procedures remain even a year afterward. 
 
As a person who was scheduled to write the test at the University of Toronto in the Walberg Building, on Saturday, April 5th
2003, I know this to be the truth.  The whole planning behind the test’s execution is mainly where the disorganization lies.  The process of ensuring the test was to happen is absolutely hilarious.  As I said to the call person following the test, high school students could organize the execution of the test in a more organized fashion.

The hilarity started the Friday before the test as an “ice storm” rolled into the Greater Toronto Area.  Environment Canada, the main forecaster for Canada, issued the following weather bulletin: 

The weather advisory issued by Environment Canada:

Severe weather bulletin     

ISSUED BY ENVIRONMENT CANADA

AT 3:16 PM EST FRIDAY 4 APRIL 2003.

WATCHES/WARNINGS IN EFFECT FOR SOUTHERN ONTARIO...

WINTER STORM WARNING FOR:

=NEW= NORTHERN BARRIE-HURONIA-SIMCOE COUNTY

=NEW= PARRY SOUND-MUSKOKA

NORTHERN WATERLOO-WELLINGTON-DUFFERIN

NORTHERN YORK-DURHAM

GREY-BRUCE

SOUTHERN BARRIE-HURONIA-SIMCOE COUNTY.

..A WINTERY MIX OF SNOW..ICE PELLETS..AND FREEZING RAIN FOR

THIS EVENING INTO SATURDAY..

THIS IS A WARNING THAT DANGEROUS WINTER WEATHER CONDITIONS ARE

IMMINENT OR OCCURRING IN THESE REGIONS. MONITOR WEATHER

CONDITIONS..LISTEN FOR UPDATED STATEMENTS.

FREEZING RAIN WARNING FOR:

TORONTO

WINDSOR-ESSEX-CHATHAM-KENT

ELGIN

SARNIA-LAMBTON

LONDON-MIDDLESEX-OXFORD

BRANT-HALDIMAND-NORFOLK

NIAGARA

HAMILTON

SOUTHERN WATERLOO-WELLINGTON-DUFFERIN

HALTON-PEEL

SOUTHERN YORK-DURHAM

HURON-PERTH.

..MAJOR ICE STORM SHOULD RESUME TONIGHT..

THIS IS A WARNING THAT AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF FREEZING RAIN IS

IMMINENT OR OCCURRING IN THESE REGIONS. MONITOR WEATHER

CONDITIONS..LISTEN FOR UPDATED STATEMENTS.

WATCHES/WARNINGS ENDED FOR SOUTHERN ONTARIO...

WINTER STORM WATCH UPGRADED TO WINTER STORM WARNING FOR:

NORTHERN BARRIE-HURONIA-SIMCOE COUNTY

PARRY SOUND-MUSKOKA.

==DISCUSSION==

THE SLOW MOVING WINTER STORM WILL CONTINUE TO TRACK ACROSS SOUTHERN

ONTARIO TONIGHT. THE SYSTEM WILL FINALLY EXIT THE PROVINCE SATURDAY

AFTERNOON.

 

THIS STORM HAS ALREADY PRODUCED SIGNIFICANT SNOW ICE PELLETS AND

FREEZING RAIN FOR MOST DISTRICTS. THE SYSTEM IS EXPECTED TO

REINTENSIFY THIS EVENING AS THE STORM CENTRE APPROACHES.

 

FOR REGIONS FROM LAKE ERIE TO TORONTO..MORE FREEZING RAIN AND ICE

PELLETS ARE EXPECTED WITH THUNDERSTORMS POSSIBLE IN SOME LOCALITIES.

ADDITIONAL ICE ACCRETIONS OF 15 TO 30 MM ARE POSSIBLE BY THE TIME THE

STORM ENDS MIDDAY SATURDAY.

 

FOR MORE NORTHERN SECTIONS BETWEEN THE SOUTHERN TIP OF GEORGIAN BAY

TO NEAR TORONTO EXPECT MORE PRECIPITATION IN THE FORM OF ICE PELLETS

AND SNOW WITH SOME FREEZING RAIN MIXED IN. FURTHER ACCUMULATIONS

WILL BE SIGNIFICANT.

 

FURTHER NORTH STILL..SNOW HEAVY AT TIMES IS EXPECTED TO REDEVELOP

THIS EVENING. FURTHER ACCUMULATIONS OF 15 TO 30 CENTIMETRES ARE

POSSIBLE TONIGHT AND SATURDAY MORNING ALONG WITH REDUCED VISIBILITIES

IN SNOW AND BLOWING SNOW.

 

THE FREEZING PRECIPITATION AND SNOW WILL MAKE TRAVELLING DANGEROUS AT

TIMES AND MOTORISTS SHOULD EXERCISE EXTREME CAUTION.

 

PLEASE REFER TO THE LATEST PUBLIC FORECASTS FOR FURTHER DETAILS.

 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Following a check of the weather, I called the 1-866-789-4890 number in the test registration booklet for more information on if a cancellation of the test was done. The phone line was busy.  It was busy for the fifteen minutes as I continually hit the “redial” button.   Finally at 4:15 P.M., the phone finally connected to a message saying that all the operators were busy.  However, at least some cool elevator music played during the five minutes I had to wait.  Finally, good old Curtis of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) – the private company contracted to run the test – to answer my question that the Walburg building was still in operation.  I tried calling again at 9:00 P.M. before heading off to bed, but had to hit the “redial” button for half an hour in order to speak to good old Curtis again!  Curtis said that other sites in the Toronto and Hamilton areas had been cancelled, but the University of Toronto’s Walburg building was still in business.  I asked him how a test could be considered “standardized” if not everyone wrote it at the same time.  Curtis, who was obviously reading his script, said that a different test would be done for the centers that had been cancelled.  I asked how this could be a standardized test if the questions changed.  He acted like he did not know the answer, probably because he didn’t have a scripted a answer for this, and told me to call back on Wednesday!

 I also asked what time the centre opened in the morning so I could check to see if the University of Toronto testing site was still open.  Curtis replied that the first attendants started their shift at 6:30 A.M.  I asked Curtis how this could be since the Ministry of Education’s website says the hotline is open twenty-four hours a day to answer questions.  Curtis said his supervisor would look into this claim. I also asked what I was to do because I had to get up at 5:45 A.M. in order to drive to Toronto in order to ensure I would make the test on time to start.  Curtis said I was out of luck.  Obviously Curtis is not paid to think to hard since all he has to do is read scripts to answer questions.  

The hilarity did not stop with the busy phone hotline on the Friday night.  I got up Saturday morning at 5:45 A.M. to get ready to leave with my Dad at 6:15 A.M.  (I swear my Dad will drive in anything!) from Aurora.  I arrived at the Wallburg building at 8:00 A.M.,  after having a coffee at Tim Horton’s (Thank God for them!).  There was not a sign present on which way to go to get to the room in a huge University of Toronto building I had never set foot in before. I guessed from the room number, 342, that the test room was on the third floor.  But, how could I get there?  I wandered around the first floor until I ran into another person just as lost as I was and then found a set of stairs up to the third floor.  Next, the two of us sequenced the number down until we found the test room.   However, if you could find the correct test room in the building with the room number on your ticket, you still did not pass the teacher's test.  Trust me I checked!   

It was now about 8:05 A.M. and I waited until 8:15 A.M. until the testing proctors came to remove everyone in the room in order to set up the test.  I thought this was totally hilarious!  The test, according to the ticket we had been sent, was supposed to start at 8:30 A.M. and these three guys had to check all the identification of about fifty people and hand out the test.  Not until 8:25 A.M did one of the guys in the room let everyone in. 

WARNING!: People should be sitting down for this, because this will knock your socks off!

Before letting everyone into the room, the room supervisor asked if we were all writing the FRENCH TEACHER TEST!  Half of us did a double take and asked if he was serious!  About half the group told him no.  He quickly went back in the room and sent one of his underlings for assistance. They admitted later that this was the second year this has happened.  I guess one thing the New Jersey firm contracted to administer the test had forgot to think of was that all Canadians are NOT BILINGUAL! 

The English Group was asked to sit in the hallway until the test proctors figured out what to do.  We Anglos sat there till 9:15 A.M. before we were herded up stairs to another hallway.  I wonder if this was because we were a "little" noisy outside the French Test Room? I doubt it since we were slightly perturbed at the situation we were put in. 

Our group was joined by another group that was having the similar problem of finding English Teacher Tests.  Our combined group ended up in the Sanford Fleming Building of the University of Toronto (attached somehow to the Walburg Building because we did not go outside).    Along the way we started a lengthy petition that included all of our e-mail addresses, names and phone numbers which was to be photocopied and sent to both the test centre and the Minister of Education, Elizabeth Witmer.

Finally at 9:45 A.M., I sat down to write the test.  This was after the “idiot”,  looking at identification,  questioned who I was despite handing him a University of Ottawa student card.  I am a consecutive student in the education at York, but the Student Card from the University of Ottawa does not expire until the September a year after you graduate if you are in a four year program. I pointed out to him that in the registration booklet that University Library cards were acceptable.  He grumbled something and I replied to him that perhaps he should call my house and wake up my mother who, obviously knows who I am.  The “idiot” , begrudgingly, let me go to sit in my seat for a while so he could get on harassing the others waiting behind me. 

At 10:15 A.M., after hearing the same “idiot” read the instructions, cracking the seal of the test with the "eraser end of the pencil" as instructed, and filling out the extensive paperwork (e.g. name, social insurance number, test #, answer sheet number, Ontario College of Teachers Registration number, mother’s maiden name, your next door neighbors phone number, etc.) we started.  However, the process leading up the writing of test had me a little nerve racked.  It took me about an hour of shaky writing to finally calm down about what I had just gone through in order to just write the test. 

All in all, a fun and frustrating couple of days was had by all. 

 
Links 

Educational Testing Service (ETS) – www.ets.org 

Environment Canada – Weather Office – www.weatheroffice.ec.gc.ca 

Ministry of Education for the Province of Ontario – www.edu.gov.on.ca 

University of Ottawa – www.uottawa.ca 

University of Toronto – www.utoronto.ca 

York University – www.yorku.ca

York University – Faculty of Education -- www.edu.yorku.ca
 
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