As classes resume, educators look to boost falling math scores
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As classes resume, educators look to boost falling math scores

Teaching staff are getting some new information on student performance just in time for the start of the school year. Elementary pupils continue to improve in literacy, but math skills are on the decline according to recent findings from the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO).

“We have five-year trending data that suggests that students aren’t doing as well in 2013 as they were in 2009,” said EQAO chief executive officer Bruce Rodrigues.

The organization is now looking at how the numbers have come to shift downward. Meanwhile, local school boards are taking heed of the results.

“Math has been a challenge right across the province for several years, and this year is no exception. From what the minister of education has been saying, it appears the government is prepared to invest more heavily in professional development for math teachers,” John Sewchuk, chief managing officer at the Waterloo Catholic District School Board, said this week. “I think most school boards would agree that’s a great first step. It’s a province-wide problem and not something easily solved by individual school boards working independently of each other.”

A suggested reason for the downturn in math scores is the possibility of an overabundance of elementary school teachers with qualifications in the arts rather than strong backgrounds in mathematics, Ontario Education Minister Liz Sandals commented last week.

But there are still exceptions to this and no conclusive reasons for the trend as of yet, Rodrigues said.

“Clearly there are teachers in classrooms that aren’t math-qualified that are doing really well, where the instruction has been purposeful, the curriculum has been met and students are indeed performing well. What we need to do is look into it to try and get some more information as to whether, in fact, that might be a root cause. We don’t have any correlates that suggest that at this point in time.”

The findings come on the wave of the newest performance results collected by the EQAO tests including the latest literacy and math tests from Grades 3, 6 and 9, as well as Grade 10 Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) data.

“What we are looking at is trying to go into the process of inquiry and ask the question as to what needs to happen in order for students to do better and what has happened over the last number of years that has caused this to take place,” Rodrigues said.

The boards will be disclosing their Grade 3 and 6 assessment results on September 18, at which time the results for individual school boards will be released.

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