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The union representing Ontario's elementary school teachers is encouraging its members to request that their own children not participate in standardized testing.

A memo sent to public elementary school teachers this month outlines how educators can request their children in Grades 3 and 6 withdraw from the provincial test.

The move by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario is symbolic, because all students in publicly funded schools are legally required to participate in the provincial reading, writing and math assessments. There are few exemptions; special accommodations are sometimes made for students with special needs or English-as-a-second-language students.

Students in Grades 3 and 6 will take the test between May 25 and June 8, administered by the province's Education Quality and Accountability Office. The provincial testing body also conducts a Grade 9 math assessment and a high-school literacy test.

"The Federation views province-wide testing of every student in the primary and junior divisions and Grades 9 and 10 as both a misuse of student time, and an ineffective use of funds that should be redirected to support students' learning," the ETFO memo stated.

"It is ETFO's position that teachers' ongoing daily assessment is far more meaningful and efficient for students and parents."

ETFO president Sam Hammond said on Sunday that his union has advocated for random sample testing, rather than assessing all students.

"Our members know that the ongoing daily assessment that they do in their classrooms is far more meaningful and important," he said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Education Minister Liz Sandals said on Sunday that the provincial tests allow the government and school boards to improve programs, better allocate resources and pinpoint curriculum areas that need attention.

"EQAO's provincial tests provide the Ministry and our school boards with information they need to target investments where they are needed most," Nicole McInerney said in a statement.

Standardized testing has been the subject of much debate in Ontario and internationally. Teachers are particularly opposed to testing, which they argue does not promote learning and undermines their professionalism.

Supporters of standardized testing say that the assessments provide an important measure of school and school-board performance and keep the school system accountable.

Those who conduct the tests insist that they aren't intended to pit schools against one another, but the Fraser Institute has no such qualms. Every year, the conservative think tank issues report cards that use results from places such as Ontario to rank schools from best to worst.

In its memo, ETFO told its members that the test is legally mandated but they can make a request to withdraw, should they choose, and ask for alternative programming for their children during the testing period.

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