A senior administrator with the Tri-County Regional School Board says while he may not be pleased with the performance of some schools in last year’s early math assessments, to suggest the board doesn’t have a plan to help and support students “is ridiculous.”
And, contend board members, only focusing on schools that ranked low and ignoring those who scored high does not present a full picture of what is happening within the board since in many areas of testing schools had improved over previous years. Also, given the small size of the board, in some cases the percentages only reflect that one, two or a small handful of students were not meeting outcomes.
These comments, made at last Tuesday’s board meeting, came after the Department of Education made public the assessments on a school-by-school basis. They were also in response to an article in a provincial newspaper that singled out South Centennial and Port Maitland schools as some of the worst performing schools in the province in the Grade 3 early math assessments. The assessment said those schools only had 17 and 15 per cent of students meeting expectations.
The article also included comments from Charles Cirtwill, president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, who said the Tri-County, Annapolis and South Shore regional boards lack a specific course of action to improve student performances.
School board vice-chair Ron Hines noted it was interesting that the three boards cited as being ones parents should be concerned about are also the three boards that struggle the most with the province’s funding formula.
Bill Curry, the Tri-County board’s director of programs and students services, said he was “hugely offended” by the suggestion that this board does not have a plan in place.
The board, he says, had already stepped in to provide extra early math resources to the mentioned schools, as it would for any schools in its region.
“The thing is that in some schools the situation requires a different response, each school is unique, and that is why singling out a couple of schools is not fair,” said Curry.
At the board meeting Curry noted last week’s provincial media coverage didn’t point out that other schools within the board are achieving very good results when it comes to meeting expectations in Grade 3 early math, like a 92 per cent rate at Lockeport elementary or an 84 per cent rate at Carleton. Still, at 52 per cent of overall students meeting expectations, the board sits below the provincial average of 67 per cent.
“To put some context in the test, I am not pleased with math, it’s something we need to work on,” Curry said. “But to say we don’t have a plan is ridiculous.”
The school board maintains, as a whole, it improved in many areas, with scores in advanced math rising slightly. Although when one reads through the Nova Scotia Provincial Examinations and Assessments report released by the province, the Tri-County board sits at a 36 per cent pass rate, the lowest of all boards and well below the provincial average of 64 per cent. In the rankings for the mathematics results, the board is at 21 per cent, although the provincial average was only 26 per cent, and four boards were below the N.S. average.
The Tri-County board says in English at the Grade 12 level, assessment scores raised more than 10 per cent in both Grade 12 English course assessments (English 12 and English Communications 12, in the latter it was above the provincial average.)
In a statement released by the board, it says it is committed to improving where we need to, especially in the areas of math and literacy.
The board has math mentors in every school and literacy mentors in most. Some of these lead teachers share best practices with other teachers in their own and other schools. Schools have access to math and literacy consultants, and Curry says the board has invested heavily in PRIME, a program aimed at improving math instruction.
Every school has a school improvement plan, which is shared with all other schools and many of schools are in the accreditation process, a formal process where staff from other boards come and look at the schools and suggest ways to improve and work toward goals set by the schools.
In many assessments carried out last year, the Tri-County board was near the provincial average, although of all the English boards in many cases the Tri-County had the lowest assessment.
But there are bright spots within the assessments, with some schools achieving a perfect mark. In the elementary literacy assessments Plymouth school had 100 per cent of students meeting expectations in writing and Forest Ridge Academy in Shelburne County had 100 per cent of students meeting expectations in reading. Other schools were close to or exceeding the provincial average.
Another aspect of the assessments that Curry thinks is worthy of mention is the fact that both the Tri-County board and the province faired above the international average when it came to a reading literacy assessment, as did all of the province’s English boards.
“Internationally, if Nova Scotia were a country it would be in the top eight, if the Tri-County board were a country it would be in the top 12,” said Curry.
The province’s assessment report in full, including a school by school breakdown, can be viewed at www.ednet.ca.
The following are the percentage of students in Yarmouth County schools meeting expectations in various assessments according to the Department of Education’s 2007 provincial student assessment results.
Early elementary math assessment:
Administered to Grade 3 students in June 2007.
Nova Scotia average: 67 per cent.
Overall Tri-County board average: 52 per cent.
Percentage meeting expectations:
Drumlin Heights: 35;
Port Maitland: 15;
South Centennial: 17 ;
Yarmouth Central: 48 per cent.
Overall CSAP board average: 69 percent.
Percentage meeting expectations: Belleville: 60; West Pubnico: 42; Wedgeport: 71.
Elementary literacy assessment:
Administered to Grade 6 students in October 2007.
Nova Scotia average: reading: 86 per cent; writing: 91 per cent
Overall Tri-County board average: reading: 78 per cent; writing: 86 per cent.
Percentage meetings expectations:
Arcadia: reading: 81; writing: 90
Carleton: reading: 90; writing: 90
Drumlin Heights: reading: 67; writing: 81
Meadowfields: reading: 78; writing: 88
Plymouth: reading: 93; writing: 100
Port Maitland: reading: 66; writing 69
South Centennial: reading: 59; writing 77
Yarmouth Central: reading: 88; writing 93
Overall CSAP average: reading: 86 per cent; writing 88 per cent. Percentage of students meeting expectations:
Belleville: reading: 95; writing: 89
West Pubnico: reading: 79; writing: 90
Wedgeport: reading: 50; writing: 78
Early language literacy assessment:
Administered to Grade 3 English program students in late September 2007.
Nova Scotia average: 75 per cent reading; 80 per cent listening; 62 per cent expository; 66 per cent narrative
Overall Tri-County board average: reading: 68 per cent; listening: 75 per cent; expository: 63 per cent; narrative: 65 per cent. Percentage meeting expectations:
Arcadia: reading: 62; listening: 76; expository: 68; narrative: 71
Carleton: reading: 80; listening: 93; expository: 80; narrative: 73
Drumlin Heights: reading: 43; listening: 57; expository: 14; narrative: 57
Meadowfields: reading: 85; listening: 85; expository: 88; narrative: 75
Port Maitland: reading: 55; listening: 59; expository: 50; narrative: 59
South Centennial: reading: 60; listening: 55; expository: 55; narrative: 90
Yarmouth Central: reading: 53; listening: 71; expository: 35; narrative: 47
Junior high literacy assessment:
Administered to Grade 9 students in May 2007.
Nova Scotia average: reading: 89 per cent; writing: 90 per cent.
Overall Tri-County board average: reading: 81 per cent; writing 87 per cent. Percentage meeting expectations:
Drumlin Heights: reading: 70; writing: 76
Maple Grove: reading: 83; writing: 89
Plymouth: reading: 88, writing 88
Yarmouth Junior High: reading: 80; writing 80
Overall CSAP average: reading: 93 per cent; writing 90 per cent.
Par-en-Bas: reading: 94; writing: 94.
Physics (administered to senior high physics students)
Per cent pass N.S. average: 56.1 per cent
Tri-County board average: 45.7
Per cent pass N.S. average: 26 per cent
Tri-County board average: 21 per cent
Advanced mathematics (English)
N.S. average: 64 per cent
Tri-County average: 36 per cent
N.S. average: 79 per cent
Tri-County average: 74 per cent
N.S. average: 73 per cent
Tri-County average: 77 per cent