Board vows to improve math results

Heather Latter

The 2012-13 Education Quality and Accountability Office results, released last week, identified that school boards across the province need to focus more on mathematics—and the local ones are no exception.
“With every year, we see that we celebrate our strengths and certainly our strengths have been in our literacy achievement over time,” said Heather Campbell, director of education for the Rainy River District School Board.
“And we recognize and look to find ways to work on areas of growth, such as math,” she added.
“And that certainly is a focus for the Rainy River District School Board, but also boards across the province because math seems to be at a bit of a plateau,” Campbell noted.
While local students scored below the provincial average in most instances when it came to reading, writing, and mathematics—it was evident that mathematics results across the province were the lowest of the three.
In order to improve math results, Campbell said the board is working with schools to support teacher professional development.
“We really are looking at the best practices in math and making sure that those are expanded across the district,” she stressed.
Campbell noted that over the past few years, the board’s professional development has increased the number of teachers involved in the math initiative each year.
“And [we’ll] certainly look at building a network of teachers to support one another, and looking at problem-solving, contextualizing math learning so students can see how it has relevance both in the classroom and in the real world,” she added.
In addition, the board will place an emphasis on communication in mathematics.
“Because not every student learns the same way or solves problems the same way, and it’s really good for them to articulate how you arrived at that answer,” Campbell explained.
“It not only reinforces what you did, but it also helps others to see that there are other ways to solve a problem,” she reasoned.
Still, the assessments—written by students in Grades 3 and 6—provided some positive outcomes.
Despite the low math scores, Campbell cited some successes over time.
“We track our groups of students over time and what we really want to see is maintained, but more importantly increased, number of students achieving Level 3 and 4 and we have certainly seen that this year,” she remarked.
“When we look at our group of Grade 6s, we saw that they significantly improved in reading and writing from their Grade 3 assessment, so that’s a good news story,” Campbell enthused, though conceding they still really need to work on mathematics.
“For our literacy, I really attribute it to that we focus on a balanced literacy program,” she noted.
“We look at dedicated blocks of time for literacy,” she explained. “We really work to have literacy across the curriculum, which is really key to transfer those reading skills when you are doing social studies or math.
“Literacy skills are foundational,” Campbell added. “You are always honing those, enhancing those skills.”
She indicated the “Reading Recovery” program also supports local students who are struggling with their literacy skills and ensures they have a stronger foundation to go forward.
In 2012-13, 179 Grade 3 students with the Rainy River District School Board wrote the primary assessments while 128 students with the Northwest Catholic District School Board took part.
Combining the results for Levels 3 and 4 in reading indicates the public board had 55 percent of Grade 3 students achieving at or above the provincial level of achievement.
The Catholic board had 64 percent of students at that level.
The provincial average was 68 percent.
In writing, the public board saw 59 percent of its Grade 3 students achieving at or above the provincial level while the Catholic board had 70 percent—both below the provincial average of 77 percent.
And in mathematics, the public board saw just 51 percent of its Grade 3 students achieving at or above the provincial level while the Catholic board had 58 percent.
Again, both scores were below the provincial average of 67 percent.
For the junior assessments, 190 Grade 6 students with the public board completed the EQAO tests while 125 participated from the Catholic board.
The results indicated the public board has 68 percent of its Grade 6 students in reading achieving at or above the provincial level of achievement.
The Catholic board had a percentage of 74 students at that level.
The provincial average was 77 percent.
In writing, the public board saw 68 percent of its Grade 6 students achieving at or above the provincial level while the Catholic board had 63 percent—below the provincial average of 76 percent.
And in mathematics, the public board saw just 48 percent of its Grade 6 students achieving at or above the provincial level while the Catholic board had 62 percent.
With the provincial average at 57 percent, the Catholic board was above it in this area only.
“I always feel that there’s more work to be done,” Campbell said. “And I recognize that this is just one assessment, and we do compare it to our in-house assessments and we use this as one of the many measures to see how we’re doing.
“But we do always want to see all our students be success,” she stressed.
“There’s always room for improvement.”
EQAO results for secondary schools were expected to be released today.
Editor’s note: Specific results for area schools are posted on the Times’ website at http://fftimes.com/node/262645