By Heidi Bevington–Over the last five years, islands students have shown big improvement in basic reading, writing and math, according to the latest basic skills tests done by the Ministry of Education and made public Tuesday (Sept 21).
A year ago, Grade 4 students scored very well on the Foundation Skills Assessment, and with some ups and downs; on this year’s test, Grade 4s continued the trend. The 2004 students dipped slightly in writing and math compared to 2003, but scored higher on reading comprehension.
2004’s Grade 7 students also held their own compared to 2003, scoring lower on reading comprehension and math, but scoring higher in writing.
The Ministry of Education began province wide basic skills testing in 2000, testing students in Grades 4, 7 and 10. This year results are only available for Grades 4 and 7 because Grade 10s were not tested.
Overall, 2004’s students in both grades scored about the same as students the previous year, but compared to students tested five years ago, the improvement is dramatic.
The lowest scores this year were higher than 2000’s highest scores. That year, district-wide, 65-percent of Grade 4 s met or exceeded provincial expectations for reading-the highest scores that year. This year, 74-percent of Grade 7s met or exceeded expectations for reading and math-the district’s lowest scores.
In the last couple of years, School District #50 has been emphasising basic skill development, with emphasis on improving success for aboriginal students, and the strategy seems to be paying off.
In 2004, aboriginal Grade 4s did better than aboriginal students elsewhere in the province in all three areas. Aboriginals in Grade 7 scored higher than those elsewhere in the province in reading, but slightly lower in writing and math.
“We are trying to look at (the results) over a more substantial period of time,” Mike Woods, Superintendent of Schools said, adding “we are showing some steady progress in a number of areas, so that’s reasonably positive.”
With some ups and downs, islands schools are holding their own against schools elsewhere in the province.
Province wide, 80-percent of Grade 4s met or exceeded expectations for reading. In this district, 81 percent of students met or exceeded expectations. Port Clements had the strongest results with 100-percent and Tahayghen ranked lowest with 75-percent.
80-percent of Grade 7s in the province met or exceeded expectations. On the islands, 74-percent of students met or exceeded expectations. AL Mathers ranked highest with 90-percent and Tahaygehen lowest at 73-percent.
Early intervention in Grades 1 and 2 is key to student success. “If you can get them reading in Grade 1 and 2 that’s half the battle,” said Angus Wilson, principal of GM Dawson, formerly vice-principal of Sk’aadgaa Naay. However, big differences in ability may not show between students until the higher grades as students who are struggling fall further and further behind each year. In some districts in the United States, said Mr. Wilson, students who aren’t reading by Grade 3 are given intense reading instruction to help them catch up with their peers.
Educators throughout the islands will be examining the latest test results in coming weeks to deterine where improvements need to be made.
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