Waterloo Region Record

Math scores of Ontario English elementary students decline on tests

Francophon­e schools in the province post notably higher results


TORONTO — 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 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,” Lecce said Wednesday. “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 that 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,” Montgomery said.

“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 provincial New Democrats called for an end to EQAO tests, saying money should instead be spent in the classroom, and random sampling could spot early trends.

Lecce also announced Wednesday that although the new math curriculum would not be in place for this academic year, the first $55 million of the government’s four-year, $200-million math strategy would flow this year.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada