Students’ falling test scores mirror provincial trend
Hamilton’s Catholic board is proposing to set up a task force of experts to study why students in grades 3 and 6 are struggling more than ever to meet the Ontario standard on provincial math tests.
Chair Pat Daly said he hopes trustees will approve the creation of the special panel of retired teachers and administrators with math expertise at this Tuesday’s board meeting.
Only 54 per cent of the board’s Grade 6 students met the math standard in the latest tests, compared 60 per cent the previous year – both well below the Ontario goal of 75 per cent.
This year’s scores are still better than a tHamilton’s public board, where only 48 per cent of Grade 6 students met the standard for the second year in a row, but below the provincial average success rate of 57 per cent of students.
The results at both boards mirror an Ontario-wide trend that has been a declining number of grade 3s and 6s meet the math standard over the past five years.
Daly said he hopes the task force will find out whether the problem lies with the curriculum or the standardized test itself, and make recommendations the board would share with the province.
He said it’s apparent there is “a real disconnect with the math” because students are doing far better on the standardized reading and writing tests.
“Other boards are experiencing the same thing, so it’s clear that it’s not simply our system,” Daly said.
“For sure, the teachers are doing a great job. We know that, and as well we know that the board has invested considerable resources into supporting the teachers, specifically the last couple of years in math,” he said.
“With all that being done, it just seems to us that there’s something else that’s contributing and we need to get to the bottom of it.”
Math results for the Catholic board at the Grade 3 level were less off the mark, with 67 per cent of students meeting the standard in the latest tests – matching the provincial average.
But both results were down from five years ago, when 76 per cent of the board’s Grade 3s met the standard and an average of 70 per cent did so province-wide.
At Hamilton’s public board, 59 per cent of Grade 3s met the math standard, down from 61 per cent five years ago.
In a news release, education director John Malloy acknowledged the public board is also “experiencing challenges in math” and said it is responding with a comprehensive strategy.
This includes web-based math games that try to make the subject fun by having students, for example, compete against monsters.
Teachers have also been given a diagnostic tool that allows them to analyze students’ responses to questions to identify individual gaps in understanding.
The public board’s results consistently lag behind the Catholic board’s and the provincial average, but have shown steady improvements in reading and writing in Grade 3 and Grade 6 over the past five years.
Sixty-four per cent of Grade 3s met the reading standard on the latest tests, up from 56 per cent five years ago, while 73 per cent met the standard in writing, compared to just 61 per cent in 2008-09.
Among Grade 6s, 70 per cent met the reading standard and 69 per cent did so for writing, compared to 60 and 62 per cent, respectively, five years ago.
At the Catholic board, Grade 3 literacy test results remained relatively steady, with 69 per cent meeting the reading standard and 79 doing so for writing. The provincial average was 68 and 77 per cent, respectively.
In Grade 6, 76 per cent met the reading standard and 81 per cent did so for writing, compared to 71 per cent in both categories five years ago. Province-wide, an average of 77 per cent of students met the reading standard this year and 76 per cent did so for writing.