Northwestern school boards not surprised by EQAO results

The percentage of students meeting or exceeding the standard for grades 3 and 6 math and literacy in last year's Education Quality and Accountability Office testing last year is slightly below the provincial average for most regional school boards.

Both the Keewatin-Patricia and Rainy River district school boards had 39 per cent of their Grade 3 students meet the provincial math standard, compared to a provincial average of 59 per cent. For Grade 6 math, those two boards and the Kenora Catholic District School Board were all at 40 per cent or below, compared to the Ontario rate of 47 per cent.

Christy Radbourne, the director of education for the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board, said the results were not overly surprising.

“To be honest and frank, we are just slightly below the provincial average in most of our scores, but as we know, the province as a whole, and both nationally and internationally, scores have fallen in both math and literacy, with good reason,” she said, citing the pandemic as a huge disruption for everyone.

Rainy River District School Board director of education Heather Campbell said she welcomed the data because her board knew there would be an impact of switching between in person and remote learning the past two years. She said the results give her an idea of “the baseline of where we can grow from, going forward with our work within the board.”

Parents and anyone looking at the results should, “take into account that we’ve just been working through a pandemic and our students have had to adjust to a new mode of learning which is online learning. In many cases, some of the activities that you do in classroom are not easily replicated online,” she added

Campbell said she knows how hard teachers worked to teach reading and writing remotely, but some things like “fine motor skill and the work in the classroom can’t necessarily be replicated with every child at home.”

“The amount of writing, perhaps, may have been reduced in many schools as a result of learning online,” she said. “These are just some of the things that I look at and consider in light of early reading and writing developments.”

Campbell said given all the challenges that everyone has gone through, students should be commended students for doing as well as they did.

“We really need to celebrate what successes we do see. Then we need to put our heads together to support children to help them excel further in their schooling,” she said.

Both directors of education said the scores are not comparable to the ones from 2018-2019, the last time the EQAO testing was administered.

“The tests format was completely different,” Radbourne said. “It was a digital format, it also was an adaptive questioning format, which is something that means the questions change according to the user. And so these were all new experimental options, so it’s impossible to make a comparison between those two scores.”

Radbourne also said a completely new provincial math curriculum from kindergarten through Grade 8 was introduced since the last EQAO tests were administered.

The results give schools a baseline to start anew, she said.

“They certainly do indicate where our areas of need are and really help us focus and hone our numeracy strategy in particular,” said Radbourne.

Campbell said the board often looks at the students who were at Level 2, which is just below the provincial standard.

“Often those students are just about there and we have to focus some efforts to see how we can get them to Level 3 and achieve the provincial standard. It’s mistakenly thought that [students who are at level two are] failing in reading, writing, and math, but that’s not the case at all. Level 2 is C- to C+, [which is a passing grade],” she said.

Eric Shih, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source