On­tario an­nounces $55M to boost math skills

Stan­dard­ized test scores for prov­ince’s English el­e­men­tary stu­dents de­cline, while re­sults at fran­co­phone schools rise

The Hamilton Spectator - - Front Page - AL­LI­SON JONES

The num­ber of el­e­men­tary stu­dents in On­tario who are meet­ing the pro­vin­cial stan­dard in math has steadily de­clined over the past decade in the English public sys­tem — in stark con­trast to higher scores in French schools.

The Education Qual­ity and Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice, which ad­min­is­ters the stan­dard­ized tests, said re­search has shown that for stu­dents in those grades, their ba­sic math skills are stronger than their abil­ity to ap­ply those skills to a prob­lem.

Education Min­is­ter Stephen Lecce said the government is de­vel­op­ing a new “back to ba­sics” math pro­gram to be im­ple­mented in Septem­ber 2020.

He an­nounced Wed­nes­day that while the new math cur­ricu­lum would not be in place for this aca­demic year, the first $55 mil­lion of a four-year, $200-mil­lion math strat­egy would flow this year.

Lecce blamed de­clin­ing math scores on the for­mer Lib­eral government’s cur­ricu­lum, which fo­cuses on prob­lem-solv­ing that grounds math in its ap­pli­ca­tion. “There is ab­so­lute cau­sa­tion,” he said. “Con­cur­rent to the in­tro­duc­tion of that ap­proach, we saw math num­bers de­cline. So one would have to ac­cept the premise that there’s a re­la­tion­ship be­tween the

two. What else is the rea­son os­ten­si­bly for such a de­cline?”

Fewer than half of Grade 6 stu­dents in the English-lan­guage sys­tem — 48 per cent — met the pro­vin­cial math stan­dard, the equiv­a­lent of a B grade, dur­ing the last school year, down from 61 per cent in 2009.

For Grade 3 stu­dents, 58 per cent met the stan­dard. In the 2009-10 school year, at least 70 per cent achieved the stan­dard.

The EQAO also said the Grade 9 re­sults are rel­a­tively con­sis­tent, but there is a per­sis­tent gap be­tween stu­dents in the ap­plied and aca­demic cour­ses — 44 per cent and 84 per cent of them, re­spec­tively, met the stan­dard.

In the French sys­tem, 82 per cent of Grade 6 stu­dents met the stan­dard. The num­ber has bounced be­tween 80 and 85 per cent since 2010-11. For Grade 3 stu­dents, 74 per cent met the stan­dard, up from 70 per cent in 2010-11, but down from a re­cent high of 81 per cent in 2014-15.

Lecce said he is cu­ri­ous to know why the scores are higher in French schools.

“They are do­ing some­thing right, and it’s not about con­demn­ing one and pro­mot­ing another; it’s just about rec­og­niz­ing best prac­tices, where we can lean on other boards and other sec­tors for a per­spec­tive on how we can be bet­ter.”

Cameron Montgomery, the chair of the EQAO, said it de­mands fur­ther study.

“There are a lot of hy­pothe­ses in terms of what the fran­co­phones are do­ing dif­fer­ently from an­glo­phones, and un­for­tu­nately this is a huge un­known,” he said.

“I think ... a se­ri­ous re­search team needs to be put to­gether to re­ally un­der­stand what fran­co­phones are do­ing suc­cess­fully for their kids, for their chil­dren in our fran­co­phone schools to be suc­ceed­ing. It’s a clear pat­tern. It’s al­most like they have a se­ries of best prac­tices that are neb­u­lous that re­ally need to be shared with the whole ed­u­ca­tional com­mu­nity.”

Lit­er­acy re­sults were also fairly con­sis­tent over the past sev­eral years, ex­cept for a de­cline in the num­ber of English Grade 3 stu­dents who met the pro­vin­cial writ­ing stan­dard.

This past year, 69 per cent of Grade 3 stu­dents met that stan­dard, down from a re­cent high of 74 per cent in 2015-16. In the other lit­er­acy test, 74 per cent of Grade 3 stu­dents met the pro­vin­cial read­ing stan­dard.

For Grade 6 stu­dents, 81 per cent met the read­ing stan­dard and 82 per cent met the writ­ing stan­dard.

But there is also a large gap be­tween ap­plied and aca­demic cour­ses, with 41 per cent of stu­dents in the Grade 10 ap­plied course meet­ing the lit­er­acy stan­dard, com­pared with 91 per cent in the aca­demic course.

The New Democrats called for an end to EQAO tests, say­ing money should in­stead be spent in the class­room.

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