Seven-year-old Marisa Alexander, a Grade 3 students at St. Pius X, works on a Terry Fox project Tuesday in class. Her school is the top-ranked in the city in reading, writing and mathematics, accordng to the recently released EQAO test results.
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Once again Lakehead Public Schools is lagging behind other Ontario school boards when it comes to proficiency in reading, writing and mathematics.
But Sherri-Lynne Pharand, the board’s superintendent of education, said it’s easy to misinterpret their lower-than-average Education Quality and Accountability Office test scores and overlook the most important indicators.
“Actually I think our results over time are what are important. Large-scale assessment is really intended to see improvement over time. And if we look at our results in reading and writing – we’ve had a strong focus on literacy over the last number of years,” Pharand said on Wednesday, hours after the scores were released.
“Over those same number of years we’ve had good improvements, so we’re pleased with our results. Like all good data it helps us to know when our students are doing well and what it is we need to focus on.”
The results suggest there is plenty of work left to be done to bring public school students in Thunder Bay on par with the rest of the province.
In only one 2011-12 category, Grade 3 reading, do LPS students surpass the provincial mark, with 67 per cent of students at or above the Ontario standard, a percentage point better than the rest of the province.
Grade 3 writing and mathematics results, at 68 per cent and 64 per cent hitting the required ability, are eight and four percentage points, respectively, behind other Ontarians.
Grade 6 students fare even worse, trailing in all three categories, 71 per cent hitting the standard in reading, 66 in writing and a woeful 43 per cent in math.
“We’re pleased with Grade 3 mathematics, but certainly we are working together with a researcher from Lakehead University and are looking together at our mathematics plan to put improvement plans in place over the course of the year,” said Pharand, acknowledging the board does place an emphasis on the test results.
“I think they help us to give a big picture toward the things we need to improve. But coupled with that, we need the day-to-day data that teachers collect about their students and what their students know and need to improve in the classroom. Teacher assessment that happens on a regular basis is really the foundation to improving learning in schools.”
At the Thunder Bay District Catholic School Board, director of education Joan Powell was all smiles after perusing the numbers her students posted.
TBCDSB students surpassed the provincial standard in all six categories, with 72 per cent of Grade 3 students beating the mark in reading, 80 per cent in writing and 71 per cent in math. The EQAO results were equally as strong in the Grade 6 classroom, where students hit 81 per cent, 79 per cent and 65 per cent respectively.
“We’re thrilled with the results. We’re really happy to see that our Grade 3 and Grade 6 students have gone up in all areas, or they’ve maintained the really high scores they had last year,” said Powell, whose board has spent in excess of $2 million to equip its elementary schools with laptops and other mobile devices.
“I think it says a lot about our staff and the dedication of our staff and the focus we’ve had on reading, writing and math. It also says a lot about our students and how hardworking they are and it says a lot about our parents and the support of our parent community.”
Both boards can claim to be above the Ontario average when it comes to certain Grade 9 math testing. Forty-eight per cent of Lakehead Public School students topped the Ontario standard in applied math. That’s four percentage points more than across the province. Seventy-seven per cent met or beat the average in academic math, seven percentage points below the provincial average.
The TBCDSB posted 55 per cent and 88 per cent respectively.
Regardless of the results, Powell said it’s no time to rest on their laurels.
“Absolutely we have room for improvement and we know that. We’ve got lots of work to do to get all our students to where we want them to be, which is at the provincial standard or higher.”
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St. Pius X was the top Catholic Board institution, with St. Margaret School finishing last. On the public board side, Nor'Wester View finished No. 1, while Algonquin Avenue Public School was lowest on the list.