DYS looking to make the grade

While public school board trustees were presented with last May’s standardized grade three testing results just last night, Donald Young School already is working on how to make next year’s results better.
Across the district, schools saw students’ understanding in reading and mathematics decrease from the 1996-97 test results.
DYS principal Nancy Fretter said her school did about the same as the rest of the board, which she admitted was not very well.
“There were lots of twos and a few threes,“ she said (based a scale of 1-4, with one being below 50 percent and four being above 80 percent). “There were also a fair bit of ones, and some with not enough information [on the test] to mark.”
Fretter said the standardized test asked types of questions that most grade threes up until this year had never seen before, such as one asking students to put down a single thought or idea and expand on that.
The only way for her students to start achieving higher scores on the standardized test is to start asking the same kind of questions the rest of the year, she explained.
“We’re focusing on writing skills and expressing themselves in writing,” Fretter said. “Daily oral language skills are done in the morning, where have to look at some text–several paragraphs–pull out errors and correct.
“Because on the test, they have to be able to write and self edit.”
As far as the math end of things, DYS scored low on the test because students were unable to explain how they arrived at the right answer by combining words, diagrams, and numbers–something most grade three students aren’t asked to do now.
In all of the new curriculums, Fretter said children are starting to learn things earlier than before. In grade one, for instance, they are expected to be able to write a complete sentence with all capitals, spelling, and punctuation in the right place.
Even junior and senior kindergarten classes can expect to see an increase in class content, Fretter said, with a focus on early literacy–knowing letters, letter sounds, and even some actual writing by the end of senior kindergarten.
And the testing continues. This May, the grade six standardized test will be introduced to schools, Fretter said, and by the year 2000, all grade 10 students will have to take a literacy test which they have to pass in order to graduate.
“This is not something that will go away,” she said. “This is something that will hit all of us.
“Perhaps it is too high of an expectation,” she added. “I don’t know at this point in time. I’m not sure we will have 75 percent of the kids in a three or four level.
“But hopefully in three or four or five years, we’ll see good improvement [from this year’s scores],” Fretter noted.