New Westminster schools are achieving above the provincial average on most literacy and numeracy assessments – but there’s still some work to be done.
School trustees heard that message during a report on student learning outcomes at an education committee meeting Feb. 9. That report included the results of Grade 4 and Grade 7 Foundation Skills Assessments, which measure specific literacy and numeracy skills in standardized tests given to students across B.C.
For literacy, the percentage of local Grade 4 students measured as “on track” or “extending” (meaning achieving beyond grade level expectations) was higher across the board than the B.C. average. For reading comprehension, 81% of students fell into one of those two categories, compared to 74% provincewide. For writing, the local percentage stood at 95%, compared to 85% provincewide.
At the Grade 7 level, 83% came out on track or extending in reading comprehension, compared to 76% provincewide. In writing, the local result – with 84% of students on track or extending – was slightly below the B.C. total of 88%.
“We have been consistently strong in reading comprehension and writing throughout the three-year trend, which is amazing,” said Maureen McRae-Stanger, the district’s director of instruction, learning and innovation.
For numeracy, local numbers were lower but still ahead of the B.C. results.
Among local Grade 4 students, 79% were on track or extending, versus 68% provincewide. In Grade 7, the local number was 69%, compared to 64% provincewide.
McRae-Stanger said numeracy results reflect a shift in the B.C. curriculum in 2016, when the numeracy focus shifted away from “math fluency,” or rote memorization, and towards applying math skills to solve problems across the curriculum. That shift required a change in teaching methods.
“It’s taken us some time to get accustomed to doing that and to help our students to really understand what numeracy is, and how to apply those skills in different contexts,” she said.
She noted that, despite those challenges, New Westminster is well above the provincial average for numeracy at the Grade 4 level.
“So, although we’re happy with these scores, we can always have room for improvement in the numeracy area, and that will be a focus for us moving forward,” she said.
HIGH SCHOOL TRENDS SIMILAR
For literacy, 82% per cent of New Westminster students came out as “proficient” or “extending,” compared to 74% provincewide. For numeracy, 48% of New Westminster students came out as proficient or extending – up from 42% the previous year, and higher than the B.C. total of 40%.
McRae-Stanger said the numeracy assessment data provides a limited picture because students have a chance to write the assessment three times in any of the three grades (10, 11 and 12) before graduation, and the numbers show both repeat and first-time writers.
“What it does tell us, though, is that students are having some challenges with this assessment,” she said. “For us, it means going back and looking at the actual assessment itself, breaking down the areas on the assessment where students are struggling with certain problem-solving components with it, sharing that information back with our teachers.”
She also noted that, because the assessment is not attached to a particular course and a student’s outcome isn’t relevant to post-secondary applications, some students may not take it as seriously as they could.
“Right now it’s simply like a check box, ‘It’s been done,’ and that’s why I think for a lot of students, they’re not so worried about that particular assessment,” she said.
This story is one part of a special School Snapshot report.