Public board optimistic over test scores

Peggy Revell

The Rainy River District School Board is seeing some declines, but also some success stories, with the recent release of provincial testing results from the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO).
“Every year we look at our results and we identify successes to celebrate and, again, challenges to help us inform our teaching practices as to what strategies we need to use to support our students and to improve our student achievement,” Superintendent of Education Heather Campbell said of the provincial testing, which sees Grade 3 and 6 students evaluated in reading, writing, and mathematics and Grade 9 students in mathematics only.
Scores for boards and schools are based upon the percentage of students who achieve a Level 3 or 4 on the testing—which is considered “at” or “above” the provincial standard, respectively.
This year’s highlights for the local public board are their Grade 9 math assessment results—an area Campbell said they’ve seen growth in over the last five years.
“Over time for our Grade 9 math, we see an improvement of four percent in the Grade 9 applied program and five percent in the Grade 9 academic program, and we do celebrate that,” Campbell remarked, noting that EQAO data is examined in terms of five-year trends.
But while the board has seen improvements in Grade 9 testing, it also has seen a slight decline in all three areas of testing for both its Grade 3 and Grade 6 students, Campbell acknowledged.
“We’re know we have more work to do, but we have excellent teachers and support staff and administrators driving that improvement,” she stressed, pointing out the EQAO is a “quick snapshot” that’s used alongside other tools, such as report card and in-house assessments.
One area the board is celebrating is the results of their students with special needs.
“We’ve put a tremendous amount of energy into providing assistive technology for all of our students with special needs who require it,” Campbell said.
“And we’ve seen a big jump in the number of students who are at Level 2 or higher—and Level 2 is passing the test—so we see that as still significant in making a difference for our students.”
An example of this assistive technology is software such as “Dragon Naturally Speaking,” which helps students transpose their ideas onto paper, and training staff so they can support students’ special needs.
“It really makes a difference because these kids have the ability, but for whatever reason may struggle with demonstrating their intelligence and their knowledge, so this really supports in achieving at their level,” Campbell said.
The use of assistive technology is part of the board’s emphasis on improving the participation rates of students with EQAO testing.
“In the past if we suspected perhaps—and lots of boards did this—if you suspected a child might struggle with the assessment, you’d exempt them,” she explained. “But we’ve been finding that allowing the students to write, we then had a better picture of what they can and cannot do.
“And a lot of the times the kids do do well,” she noted. “They get Level 1 or Level 2, and that tells us a lot, and we need to keep doing that because it also gives them great opportunities.
“We’re definitely lowering that gap between our high and low achieving students,” Campbell added. “But we need to raise that bar still, to keep that bar still high.”
In the meantime, Campbell said the board does see that it’s gone down slightly—and that is something it’s definitely going to pay attention to.
“We’re looking at our high-yield strategies and looking at where we’ve had success within particular schools, for instance, and celebrating that and using that to work as a system to improve overall,” she noted.
For more information on the EQAO, including individual school results, visit