Provincial assessments show some declines in literacy, math skills

·3 min read
Except for Grade 4 anglophone literacy and Grade 3-8 francophone math, there are few other significant changes between this year's assessments and ones completed in 2020-2021. (iStock - image credit)
Except for Grade 4 anglophone literacy and Grade 3-8 francophone math, there are few other significant changes between this year's assessments and ones completed in 2020-2021. (iStock - image credit)

Literacy and numeracy skills are declining among some young New Brunswick students.

The Department of Education has released results from provincial assessments that took place in public schools this past spring.

These evaluations are typically conducted annually to gauge students' skills in English and French reading, scientific literacy, and mathematics.

In the four anglophone school districts, assessments are usually done in Grades 4, 6, 9, 10 and 12. Francophone students are tested in Grades 2 to 4 and 6 to 8.

Assessments were delivered online for the first time this year.

Roughly 5,200 Grade 4 students in anglophone school districts participated in this year's English reading assessment. According to the province, 40.5 per cent were not successful, 53.9 per cent met expectations and 5.6 per cent showed strong achievement.

Department of Education
Department of Education

In total, 59.5 per cent of Grade 4 students were considered to be successful on their English reading assessment. This compares to a 68.6 per cent provincial success rate the year before.

Math skills saw the greatest decline in francophone schools. Three grades were assessed.

In Grade 3, provincial success rates in math dropped from 81 per cent in 2018-2019 to 63.6 per cent this year. Grade 6 students went from a 71.9 per cent success rate to 54.1 per cent, and Grade 8 success rates fell from 73.7 per cent to 53.3 per cent.

Anglophone students didn't complete a math assessment this year.

Except for Grade 4 anglophone literacy and Grade 3-8 francophone math, there are few other significant changes from assessments written in 2020-2021. There is limited data to compare, however, as several were paused during the past two years in response to COVID-19.

Department of Education
Department of Education

Education Minister Dominic Cardy was unavailable for an interview Wednesday. In a written release, he said "we are again encouraged by the results even after two years of disruptions caused by the pandemic."

Not everyone finds the numbers so reassuring.

"It could have been a whole lot worse … but parts of those results are certainly worrying and are cause for concern," said Liberal MLA and education critic Benoit Bourque. "Namely when it comes to literacy in the anglophone sector and mathematics in the francophone sector."

He said the province needs to design and implement a plan to address the academic gaps created by pandemic lockdowns.

"We're still not seeing a catch-up plan for the lost time that we've seen in the past couple of years. Those challenges need to be addressed," he said. "We have yet to see a clear plan from this department and I'm calling on the minister to bring it up as soon as possible."

Megan Mitton, Green MLA and education critic, said the results are a snapshot in time. She said the priority now is to find ways to improve them.

Jacques Poitras/CBC
Jacques Poitras/CBC

According to Mitton, this can be done by properly responding to the needs of students, teachers and other school staff.

"I think we have to listen to what educators and experts are saying. Some of what's needed was already needed before the pandemic. And so it's not a mystery."

Mitton points to overall steady data between assessments conducted this year and last, and commends the resilience of New Brunswickers.

"Given the challenges that everyone has faced, seeing some results be relatively stable is positive," she said. "It's a testament to the educators, to the students, and to their families."