City pub­lic schools tout im­proved pro­vin­cial math exam scores

But stu­dents still floun­der­ing in no-cal­cu­la­tor por­tion

Edmonton Sun - - NEWS - JANET French @jantafrenc­h

Stu­dents in Ed­mon­ton Pub­lic Schools out­per­formed their class­mates across Al­berta on pro­vin­cial math ex­ams last year, new data show.

Test writ­ers en­rolled in grades 6, 9 and 12 cour­ses in the city’s largest school di­vi­sion didn’t strug­gle as much as stu­dents else­where as the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment tweaked cur­ricu­lum and changed test for­mats dur­ing the last three years.

Tr­isha Estabrooks, chair­woman of the Ed­mon­ton pub­lic school board, said there’s “lots to cel­e­brate” in the di­vi­sion-level re­sults, which were re­leased on Mon­day.

“Clearly it shows that our staff are find­ing tools and strate­gies that our stu­dents need to be suc­cess­ful in math," she said.

Provin­cially, Grade 9 stu­dents are es­pe­cially floun­der­ing in a new por­tion of the pro­vin­cial achieve­ment test that must be com­pleted with­out us­ing a cal­cu­la­tor. Last school year, 60 per cent of Al­berta Grade 9 stu­dents passed the math PAT, but al­most half of them failed the no-cal­cu­la­tor por­tion.

Ed­mon­ton pub­lic stu­dents are still scor­ing be­low their 70.3 per cent pass rate from 2016-17, be­fore the men­tal math com­po­nent was in­tro­duced, but 64.6 per cent of di­vi­sion stu­dents suc­ceeded on the exam. The pro­por­tion of Ed­mon­ton pub­lic stu­dents who achieved an “ex­cel­lent” score on the Grade 9 exam was nearly seven per­cent­age points higher than the pro­vin­cial av­er­age.

A new writ­ten-an­swer por­tion of the math diploma ex­ams may have helped stu­dents bump up their scores with par­tial marks, par­tic­u­larly for stu­dents in math 30-2.

The di­vi­sion ex­ceeded pro­vin­cial av­er­ages in 36 of 42 mea­sures tal­lied.

Where Ed­mon­ton pub­lic trailed pro­vin­cial stan­dards was in English diploma ex­ams. Estabrooks ques­tioned whether this is be­cause teach­ers are en­cour­ag­ing more stu­dents to chal­lenge the ex­ams.

“Ob­vi­ously we need to keen eye on lit­er­acy at all grade lev­els," she said.

About a quar­ter of di­vi­sion stu­dents are clas­si­fied as English lan­guage learn­ers.

Many of Ed­mon­ton Catholic Schools’ exam re­sults from last school year were close to pro­vin­cial av­er­ages, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion posted on Al­berta Ed­u­ca­tion’s web­site last week.

The stu­dents’ scores were at or above pro­vin­cial av­er­age on 21 mea­sures, and be­low av­er­age on 21 scores. Some of the vari­ances from year-toyear are tiny, and may not be sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant.

Catholic stu­dents did bet­ter than the pro­vin­cial av­er­age in Grade 6 and 9 English PATS, Grade 9 French lan­guage arts and Grade 9 science.

How­ever, the pass rates and “ex­cel­lence” re­sults in all four science diploma ex­ams were be­low pro­vin­cial av­er­ages. The di­vi­sion also fell short of meet­ing pro­vin­cial av­er­ages for ex­cel­lence on many of the ex­ams.

Tim Cu­sack, as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent of learn­ing ser­vices in­no­va­tion for Ed­mon­ton Catholic Schools, said in an email Tues­day that he and his col­leagues are still an­a­lyz­ing the num­bers. It’s more im­por­tant to look at trends over time ver­sus one year’s per­for­mance he said, point­ing to the di­vi­sion’s his­tory of good exam re­sults.

The slight drop is likely more of an ano­maly than a trend, he said.

“We con­tinue to work with teach­ers, par­ents and school lead­er­ship teams in un­der­stand­ing those ar­eas that re­quire more at­ten­tion for im­prove­ment, par­tic­u­larly at the stan­dard of ex­cel­lence,” he said.

Ja­son Schilling, pres­i­dent of the Al­berta Teach­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion, said Tues­day he doesn’t put much stock in stan­dard­ized exam re­sults, let alone small fluc­tu­a­tions from year to year.

For ex­am­ple, what ap­pears as a “poor” mark on pa­per com­pared to di­vi­sion av­er­ages could rep­re­sent a huge win for a child who gained sev­eral grade lev­els in read­ing dur­ing the year, Schilling said.

Ex­ams fail to cover all the skills cur­ricu­lum ex­pects of stu­dents, such as crit­i­cal think­ing, cre­ativ­ity and col­lab­o­ra­tion, he said.

“The work that teach­ers do day in and day out with stu­dents is re­ally a stronger in­di­ca­tion than one snap­shot in one mo­ment in time that a stan­dard­ized test will cap­ture."

Estabrooks

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