Students in public and Catholic schools across the district have reached a higher level of achievement in reading, writing, and math over previous years, according to recently-released provincial test results.
The Education Quality and Assessment Office has released test scores for literacy and math for Grade 3 and 6 students across the province—and local schools are faring well.
“We’re very happy with the results over time,” said Terry Ellwood, superintendent of education with the Rainy River District School Board.
“That’s the true indicator of results. To show true improvement, you have to show a steady increase in improvement over time,” he stressed.
Ellwood is happy that students reaching the provincial standard—Level 3 or 4—in reading, writing, and mathematics in the public system have increased for four-straight years.
What’s even more pleasing to Ellwood and the board is that in most cases, district students are equal to—or have surpassed—the provincial average.
Under the Method 1 results, 53 percent of Grade 3 students in the public system reached a Level 3 or 4 in reading—a slight decrease from 2001 but three percentage points higher than the provincial average.
For writing, 58 percent reached Level 3 or 4—an increase of three percent over the previous year as well as the provincial benchmark. Mathematics showed an even larger jump (from 55 percent in 2001 to 63 this year—five points over the provincial average).
But the more telling result, said Ellwood, is the four-year increase for local students. Reading, writing, and math results for third-graders increased by 12, 4, and 14 percentage points, respectively, since 1999—the second year the Grade 3 tests were administered.
Meanwhile, using Method 1 results, Grade 6 students at Level 3 and 4 showed less fluctuation than the Grade 3 results when compared to the previous year, and were five, four, and three percentage points below the provincial average for reading, writing, and math, respectively.
Reading decreased slightly to 50 percent from 53 percent, writing dropped one point to 49 percent, and math results decreased by four points to 51 percent.
But the long-term changes were more consistent. District Grade 6 results over the last four years increased three points in reading, four points in writing, and 12 points in mathematics.
The EQAO testing also assesses math scores for both the acedemic and applied streams of Grade 9 students. This year’s results show favourable results for
Scores for Catholic schools in the district also were very promising, said Al Cesiunas, the assistant to the director of education.
“I think, in general, all our schools performed well,” said Cesiunas. “They have shown some incremental gains in all three disciplines.”
Using Method 1 results, 43 percent of Grade 3 students in the Catholic system reached Level 3 or 4 in reading in 2002, up two percentage points over last year.
For writing, 61 percent of Grade 3 students reached Level 3 and 4—a dramatic increase of 12 percentage points over the previous year. And math results showed 61 percent of students reached the provincial standard, up from 52 percent in 2001.
Grade 6 students reaching Level 3 or 4 in reading was up to 51 percent from 40% last year, writing was up to 56 percent from 45 percent, and mathematics rose slightly to 49 percent from 46 percent.
Cesiunas stressed the test results are merely a snapshot of a five-day student assessment.
“One thing that’s important to mention is that our results are quite good as a system,” he said. “But the accolades have to go out to the principals and especially the teachers, who have shown it takes the entire staff from year to year to have positive gains for the students.”
Cesiunas also made it clear that comparing results from year to year is not very accurate since testing undergoes modifications and “there’s a new set of Grade 3s [each time].”
Both local school boards are in the process of not only comparing the EQAO results from year to year, and with the provincial results, but also tracking student progress by comparing a student’s Grade 3 results with their Grade 6 results.
“I think it’s important to eventually look at it,” Cesiunas said. “It certainly doesn’t hurt to see how students are doing from Grade 3 to Grade 6.”
“We’re starting to look at that longitudinal research,” agreed Ellwood. “This is the first year we’ve had the ability to compare that. Next year’s board action plan will have a look at that.
“You always want to do better than what you’ve done,” he remarked.
“To establish a consistent measuring tool across the province, the EQAO is the best we have,” added Ellwood. “Assessment drives curriculum.”
Ellwood said the public board has aggressively trained teachers to prepare students for the testing in an effort to boost results.
“We have very intensive training for elementary school teachers to stress curriculum and the context of how students learn,” he noted. “Our teachers have learned how to teach kids how to learn for the curriculum and for the test.
“Provincial resources have gone into training teachers for the early years, [and] I want to see training for intermediate years, too.”
Similarly, the Catholic board began two programs last year to assist in student achievement.
The first is called their “baseline evaluation,” which assesses students in Grade 3 and 6 during the second term to determine their level of achievement and give teachers an idea of which students are at Levels 3 and 4.
Cesiunas said these results then can be compared to the EQAO results to show how the two terms of study compare to five days of testing. He said the baseline results “most definitely” show more students reach Levels 3 and 4 than the test results indicate.
“It’s just another measure on how we track our student assessment over time,” he explained. “The EQAO is just a snapshot picture. We want to look at the trends over time.”
The second program begun by the Catholic board last year was the “footprints program.” Essentially, it is a long-lasting student achievement record starting in Grade 1 that indicates if a student demonstrates difficulty with one or more of the disciplines and what those difficulties are.
The record follows the student from grade to grade, ensuring that teachers know how to best help a student.
“We can see long-term trends for students having problems with aspects of each discipline,” said Cesiunas, adding that by doing so, teachers can help students improve from year to year.