Literacy has long been considered a backbone of education in Ontario schools and developing that sector of learning is paying off according to this year’s EQAO assessment of reading writing and mathematics for Grades 3, 6 and 9. Though a decade-long effort to boost literacy is bearing fruit, the report shows a continued lag in students’ mathematics scores.
Though area results are consistent with provincial averages, Waterloo Region District School Board assistant superintendent Elaine Ranney is optimistic.
“That heavier focus is just the beginning. Two years ago only four schools were making mathematics an area of focus. Last year there were 33. This year there are over 55. Now we’re just beginning to shift that focus because we’ve seen so many gains in literacy,” she said of a renewed effort by schools to improve student performance in math.
It’s a similar story at the Catholic board.
“We recognize generally that numeracy is the area we need to re-dedicate our focus this year. We like where we’re going in literacy … we’re recognizing that Grade 3 and 6 math not only in Waterloo Catholic but across the province is a challenge,” said WCDSB director of education Larry Clifford.
The results for schools in Waterloo Region are fairly consistent with provincial statistics, Ranney said, yet there are still a few variations in the results.
Waterloo Catholic District School Board results have shown a better run in Grade 3, beating the WRDSB by several percentage points in both literacy and mathematics, while Grade 6 results remain well matched in the school boards, both just below the provincial standard.
In Grade 9 mathematics, the Catholic board academic math students are six per cent behind the WRDSB and provincial averages. But with 78 per cent of Catholic students still achieving the provincial standard, EQAO statistics show that a province-wide gap lies in Grade 9 applied mathematics, where the provincial average of students achieving at or above the standard is only 44 per cent, a figure consistent with results from local boards.
With literacy going strong across the board however educators hope that with proper resources mathematics results will turn around in the future as they did with literacy.
“It’s been an interesting for us to back up from literacy and swing over and focus on numeracy,” Clifford explained.
“I’m hoping to see improvements when we get scores next year,” he said adding that analyzing the trend data over the years will give educators the true impact of change in mathematics programs.
With more than half of WRDSB schools now making math a primary focus, more resources are continuing to be funneled into math programs yet results, as they did with literacy programs will take time, Ranney said.
“One of the ways is … a collaborative learning and mathematics initiative, where teachers co-plan co-teach and co-assess students together in the classroom then de-construct that together in the classroom so that they can see how students are doing and what they need in order to improve,” she explained.
Tactics to improve individual student performance are also becoming realized. Math intervention programs are being designed by both school boards in Waterloo Region to identify struggling students and give them a chance to catch up with their classmates through the use of various resources.
Thought school boards have been fueling the new efforts for a couple of years; the work is just beginning according to Ranney.