Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test

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The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test was established in 2001 by the then Conservative provincial government with the intention of alleviating the crisis of illiterate students graduating with high school diplomas. Success on the test is required in order to graduate. It is written on a pre-determined date each year, usually by tenth grade students, although some may wait until the eleventh grade.

Process

Students in their home rooms are given three hours to complete the test in a quiet environment, while students with diagnosed special needs are sometimes given as many as six hours, a full school day. The test consists of two booklets, each of them occupying approximately three pages in length. The first is the reading component, the second is the written component.

The reading component consists of news or information articles, usually political in nature followed by a multiple-choice question asking if the answer is A, B, C, or D. The written component asks for written answers as to what the article or information page is about, and what viewpoints (usually left wing) are being promoted.

All of this involves testing the student's ability to properly read, write, and de construct information in paragraphs; a key skill that some graduates in Ontario still to this day lack due to low standards in some schools, recreational drug use, text messaging AKA: Netspeak, and the pseudo-poetry found in rap music which can cloud a person's ordinary vocabulary and replace it with indecipherable Rastafarian gibberish (I gots t' go t' ma crib t' fire me up some doobies).

Effectiveness

The effectiveness of the OSSLT is debatable. The OSSLT does nothing to combat sensitive students being forced to work in disruptive, chaotic, and sometimes physically irritating work environments such as excessive classroom noise, undisciplined peers, un-airconditioned or odorous classrooms, etc. Proponents (supporters) argue that this partially personalized approach to centralized (government-mandated) testing will lead to struggling students getting the one-on-one feedback that they need in order to be successful in secondary and post-secondary education.

Incidents

The OSSLT has not been without its share of incidents. The most notable of incidents occurred in October 2001 when parts of the OSSLT were obtained and the answers posted on the Internet two days before the start of the scheduled test dates.

Other controversy stems from complaints from disgruntled parents that their teen was never informed of the OSSLT's existence and thus never had the change to practice or prepare.

Unconfirmed rumors have circulated about students using text messaging and portable media players (iPods/MP3 players) to obtain test answers, although little trustworthy evidence of this exists and this is used mostly as a justification to unfairly ban music through headphones.