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Less than half of local Grade 6 students meeting provincial average

Cheryl Browne

By Cheryl Browne, Barrie Examiner

Reese Bolyea of West Bayfield Elementary School will join more than 125,000 other Grade 3 students this spring as he writes the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO)) test for the first time. MARK WANZEL/PHOTO

Reese Bolyea of West Bayfield Elementary School will join more than 125,000 other Grade 3 students this spring as he writes the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO)) test for the first time. MARK WANZEL/PHOTO

When it comes to math, the numbers just don’t add up.

Across Ontario, children in elementary schools are failing provincial math tests. Here in Simcoe County, it doesn’t matter whether your children attended the public or separate school boards, they probably failed the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EAQO) math test.

On 42% of Grade 6 math pupils passed in the Simcoe Muskoka District School Board (SMCDSB) and only 41% of children in the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) met the provincial average.

“When we look at the data over time, all school boards are struggling with continuous improvement in math,” said Anita Simpson, superintendent of program and innovation.

“Do we believe our students can perform better – yes.”

Last spring, the Ministry of Education introduced a Renewed Math Strategy which doled out $1.27 million to the public board to help the public school board focus its efforts on improving math scores.

It all comes down to the teachers.

Simpson said secondary math school teachers are qualified math specialists, whereas in elementary schools, teachers are generalists; they can teach every subject, she said, but added, “You know the phrase ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’? They don’t have the content expertise in math.”

To that end, the board will have Grade 7 and 8 teachers honing their math-teaching skills and Grade 9 applied math teachers will be heading back to class to beef up their teaching skills.

Because although the applied students only achieved a 41% provincial pass on math, provincial scores only added up to a 45% pass.

In the public academic stream, high school kids pulled in a 78% pass, below the provincial average of 83%.

The Catholic school board’s numbers didn’t make the grade either.

Academic students received a 74%, while applied students only achieved a 31% pass.

The $500,000 in extra math funding the SMCDSB received from the province will pay for one teacher to become a math coach at each school, said Pauline Stevenson, communications manager at the Catholic school board.

“It’s a province-wide phenomenon and we haven’t had a chance to dig down into the numbers yet,” Stevenson said of the students’ poor results.

As a board, they’re hoping the ‘I Can Math’ program they instigated last spring will show some effects on the Grade 9 applied students’ scores.

On the Grade 10 literacy test, public students achieved only a 54% pass rate while the provincial average was 49% meeting the provincial average.

In the separate school board, 79% of students passed the test, the same number of students who had passed it the previous year.

Director of education at the public board, Kathi Wallace, said the number don’t reflect the students abilities.

“Our success rates on last year’s tests do not reflect what I know our students can achieve,” said Wallace. “Our focus now is on how we best support teachers – of all grades – so, collectively we can ensure our students are prepared to demonstrate their learning on these tests.”

CBrowne@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/cherylbrowne1



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