We would like to provide an update for our Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) secondary school communities on the literacy requirement for our Grade 12 graduating students, and for our students who are eligible for the literacy test this spring. For students graduating in 2021, the Ministry of Education has waived the literacy requirement. As such, Grade 12 students do not need to complete the literacy test or course to be eligible to graduate.

The Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) is the organization that administers the literacy test, and this school year they will be field testing the new, online Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) from the end of March 2021 until June 2021. Provincially, the field test is being made available to Grade 10 and 11 students who are learning in-person and working toward their Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD). As this version of the test is designed to test the new online instrument, schools and school boards may choose to, or not to, administer the test.

In the WRDSB, we have decided not to administer the OSSLT test in the 2020-2021 school year. Our rationale for making this decision is outlined below.

Prioritizing Student Learning

Making the most of in-class time

In our cohort based quadmester timetables, students have a reduced number of hours and days at school. Adding the literacy test to our fourth quadmester would create a number of challenges that would further affect and reduce the amount of class time available to learn the core curriculum. Class time would be shifted to test preparations and test administration, which would have to be administered by educators twice; once for each cohort. For students who have accommodations allowing for up to double the two hour test writing time, they would experience the loss of up to two days of in person class time.

Ensuring equity for all students

Within the parameters of the field test being piloted by EQAO this year, only students who are able to come in person to our school sites will be able to attempt the test this spring. This format disadvantages and excludes our distance learning students who are unable to come to their homeschool to take part in the test. The loss of class time associated with administering the test also disproportionately affects our English language learners and special education students.

Health and safety

While we can provide safe spaces for students writing a field test, the accommodation of distance learning students does introduce new risks, would require the preparation of new spaces in the school, and new Public Health record keeping. We have also identified the risk that students who planned to write on a school’s test date would be unable to participate in the event students were required to isolate as the result of Public Health guidance.

Student well-being

Our secondary school staff and administrators work to support all learners equitably, and ensure that all have access to available supports to help them meet their literacy requirement. Employing a trauma-informed approach, we have decided to remove the stress and pressure of course and program exams in our classrooms this school year. We know that our students and families do not need the pressure of an additional high-stakes standardized test that cannot be provided to all students under equitable conditions this school year.

Planning for the 2021-2022 School Year

Our staff will continue to plan for our students to write the test, or take the literacy course in the 2021-2022 school year. We remain committed to supporting all of our students on their chosen pathways to graduation and beyond.


Have questions about graduation or program planning for secondary students? Contact your home school guidance department for more information.