Math scores flat, falling among Ontario elementary students The province’s Education Quality and Accountability Office: Toronto Star News: August 30/2017.
By LIAM CASEY The Canadian Press
ALLISON JONES The Canadian Press
The province’s Education Quality and Accountability Office says only 50 per cent of Grade 6 students met the provincial standard in math.
Math test scores among public elementary school students in Ontario have not improved — in some cases they have decreased slightly — despite a $60-million “renewed math strategy” the government had hoped would help solve the problem.
The latest results of the province’s standardized tests — conducted by the Education Quality and Accountability Office — show that only half of Grade 6 students met the provincial standard in math, unchanged from the previous year. In 2013, about 57 per cent of Grade 6 students met the standard.
And among Grade 3 students, 62 per cent met the provincial standard in math, a decrease of one percentage point since last year.
Norah Marsh, CEO of the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO), said math scores remain a concern and digging deeper reveals one area the province would like to focus on.
“For the students who met the standard in Grade 3, not as many are meeting it in Grade 6,” she said. “Certainly, that’s an area of focus as far as intervention between Grades 3 and 6 so they can achieve better results.”
By Grade 9 the gap widens between the math haves and have-nots. In the math academic stream, 83 per cent of students met the provincial standard, the same score as last year, but only 44 per cent met the standard in the applied math course, a dip of one percentage point. Academic courses focus more on abstract applications of concepts, while applied courses focus on the practical.“It’s disappointing,” said Mary Reid, a math education professor with the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
“The ministry needs to work towards eliminating the streaming of Grade 9 students this early on. In the spring of Grade 8 students are making decisions about being university bound or non-university bound and they’re only 13 years old.”
Reid, Marsh and Cathy Bruce, the dean of education at Trent University, all agreed one area of focus should be what’s known as self-efficacy — a student’s belief they are good at math. A survey of students as part of the standardized testing showed that only 56 per cent of Grade 3 students and 53 per cent of Grade 6 students believe they are good at math.
“We need students to actually believe they are good in math,” Bruce said. “It’s an excellent predictor of student achievement.”
In response to math scores last year, the province announced a new math strategy. The $60-million three-year plan puts an average of 60 minutes per day of “protected math learning time” in the curriculum for Grades 1 through 8. It also designates up to three “math lead teachers” in all elementary schools and a dedicated math professional development day.
On Wednesday, Education Minister Mitzie Hunter called for patience with the program after its first year.
“We want to give it time to be able to see the impacts and the assessments on students,” Hunter told The Canadian Press. “But it will focus on math instruction and different types of ways of teaching math.”
She admitted, however, that she’d been hoping to see some improvement in the latest math scores.
Reid is calling for an overhaul of the curriculum and to make math proficiency tests mandatory for elementary school teachers, as it is for French and English.
Her research shows elementary school teachers in Ontario struggle with basic math skills that leads to “math anxiety” that affects their teaching, and, thus, the students’ learning.
Yet it’s not all doom and gloom, according to Bruce, who believes the province’s new strategy is starting to work.
“Now we’re flatlining and that’s a really good thing,” Bruce said. “I wouldn’t have expected to see a big jump all of a sudden — that’s not how it works. Math is a complex area of the curriculum and it’s complex both for teachers teaching it and students learning it.”
Meanwhile, writing levels among Grade 3 and Grade 6 students declined by one percentage point since last year to 73 per cent and 79 per cent respectively. But over five years the numbers are mixed, showing a drop in writing standards by four percentage points in Grade 3 and an increase of three percentage points in Grade 6.
The EQAO’s report, released Wednesday, said reading has improved slightly for Grade 3 students, with 74 per cent meeting the provincial standard, and remained steady for Grade 6 students, with 81 per cent meeting the provincial standard.
By Ms Elizabeth Vanderwater OCT # 171538; firstname.lastname@example.org
In an earlier post, I wrote about English Language Learners (ELLs) and how the timing of their entry into an English speaking school would impact their acquisition of the English language.
l. It takes about 1-2 years for ELLs to acquire the Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills. Examples of this type of communication include the use of survival language, everyday language, and language that students engage in to communicate with their friends and family. Namely, the language of social situations;
2. It takes, on average, 5-7 years in an English speaking environment to acquire the academic language that is used in subject areas in school, such as math, English, Science, Social Studies, Music, Art, Drama, Healthy Living and the more in-depth courses in high school and university.
For example, the following words would be considered academic language because they are not often used in every day peer to peer conversations: Krebs Cycle, Periodic Table, altimeter, differentiation, calculus, Proletariat, Democracy, Autocracy, dictatorship, mean/medium/mode, and crescendo to name a few; and
3. On average, students acquire oral communication skills first, followed by reading skills and then, finally, with writing skills.
To help support ELLs in their language acquisition a number of resources are available to students and their families.
A number of public libraries have both hardcopy and digital, online resources to help support learning English. Check with your local library for dual language books. These books contain two languages while telling a story. One language is English, while the second language is other than English. (for example: Chinese, Urdu, Spanish, Russian, German, Polish, Italian, etc.).
The online digital tool provides access to a language learning tool in over 70+ languages. This tool allows English speakers to learn a different language, while also allowing ELLs to learn English. This tool is accessed through the use of a personal library card. In Ontario, the online tool is called: Mango Languages. As of the writing of this blog, this program is licensed to the public libraries. Check with the local library to see if it is available.
This site is described as “A bilingual site for educators and families of English language learners”. While the bilingual piece is related to Spanish speakers in the USA, the concepts and principles are universal. From ELL Basics and teaching ELLs, to School supports, videos and multiple other resources (including a ‘For Families’ section), this site is a wealth of information. Perhaps somewhat heavy on the teaching side of things, this site was often a go-to one for me. Notwithstanding its teacher/school slant, there are many opportunities for families of ELLs to explore resources.
Interactive Math Related Websites
The following list of websites, and their quoted descriptions, is just a small sampling of what is available.
The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives (NLVM) is an NSF supported project that began in 1999 to develop a library of uniquely interactive, web-based virtual manipulatives or concept tutorials, mostly in the form of Java applets, for mathematics instruction (K-12 emphasis). The project includes dissemination and extensive internal and external evaluation.
ALERT: you will need Java software enabled on the computer in order to run the manipulatives
Great place to go for free online interactive games.
NOTE: be careful when clicking on some of the links because google has its advertising units that look VERY similar to the website. J You can tell the difference two ways: 1. You will see a very small triangular shaped icon in the upper right hand corner of the ad; and 2. When you mouse over an ad, you can see the URL in the tool bar – bottom left hand side.
“This multimedia resource includes interactive math activities, print activities, learning strategies, and videos that illustrate how math is used in everyday life. The resource addresses the following mathematics topics: Fractions; Integers; Percentages; Rate/Ratio/Proportion; Square Roots; Exponents; Patterns; Algebra; Linear Equations; Polynomials; Angles; Circles; Surface Area and Volume; Area and Perimeter; Triangles; Pythagoras; Trigonometry; Similarity and Congruence; Transformations; Shape Classification; Data Display and Graphs; Central Tendency and Distribution; and Probability.”
“All of the best K-5 online, interactive, educational games and simulations in one place! “ Needs flash.
“IntMath aims to interest and educate people in the joys of mathematics. It does so by providing clear examples, relating things to the "real world" and providing interactive applets that allow the user to explore mathematical concepts…”
Interactive Vocabulary Related Websites
1200 high frequency words-important to know how to spell and write
1200 high frequency words-important to know how to spell and write – by GRADE
Looks like a website that has everything you ever wanted to know about grammar.
Great resources for helping ELLs learn English.
Grammar related website with extensive resources, practice exercises, including downloadable and online.
The above references are a starting point. Watch for the next post that will include digital technology supports to help ELLs in their steps towards proficiency in English.
Let us know your thoughts, comments and views on ELL learning in Ontario Schools by replying to this blog or contact us by email. We look forward to your replies!
By Ms Elizabeth Vanderwater OCT # 171538; email@example.com
An English language learner (ELL) is defined as someone whose first language is other than English or, a variety of English not taught in Ontario schools. An ELL is in the process of learning English. An ELL can either be:
*Canadian born or,
*Newcomer to Canada
When ELLs enter the Ontario school system in Canada (from Kindergarten to Grade 12), they do so with varying degrees of English proficiency. It is important to understand their background in order to best support their learning needs. For example: if a Newcomer to Canada arrives in high school at Grade 10, with limited to no English proficiency, then one must understand that s/he is already behind in their knowledge/acquisition of the English language. These students are “chasing a moving target”. Not only are they acquiring the English language, but they also must learn the content, and the language, of their courses (e.g. Math, Science, Language, The Arts …). They already possess ‘school’ skills and strengths and proficiencies in their first language (L1), and these strengths help to support them in their learning of English.
When ELLs enroll in the early to late primary years (K-3), there is not the same ‘moving target’ that exists in junior, intermediate and senior years. The increase in the complexity of both content areas and English language builds on the primary years. To illustrate: In the primary grades, students are ‘learning to read’. But, after starting Grade 4, these student are ‘reading to learn’ similar to native speaking children.
How Long Does It Take To Acquire English Language Proficiency?
Dr. Jim Cummins, the internationally known expert on bilingual education, defined two terms to help explain how ELLs acquire language.
BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills)
These skills are the basic conversational fluencies that students acquire over a period of 1-2 years. This is acquired through speaking and listening to peers, communicating orally with others and getting to understand the everyday language.
CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency) refers to the academic English proficiency that is acquired over a period of 5-7 years. Academic language would include words that are specific to a given subject area (e.g. Math vocabulary: Pythagorean Theorem, area/perimeter, calculus; Science vocabulary: amoeba, hypothesis, eukaryote, string theory; Language vocabulary: procedural writing, synonyms, thesaurus) as well as the lexicon that you would experience across more than one subject area. For example: In the areas of Science, Language, and Math, you will find the use of the word procedure:
*Math: What procedure (method) did you use to calculate your answer?
*Science: In the experiment, remember to follow the correct procedure;
*Language: In this activity, you will be doing a procedural writing piece;
It is important to understand is that, on average, students will develop their oral communication skills before they acquire reading skills. And, reading skills, on average, develop before the writing skills. With this in mind, oral language plays a key role in learning English.
How Might I Support My Child While They Learn English (ELL)?
For young students starting Kindergarten, remember to continue to speak your native language at home. This helps your child to learn the structure of the home language which contributes to his/her success in acquiring English.
For Newcomers vocabulary building provides a strong foundation. Some ideas to help with vocabulary building include:
*use of visuals to allow the connections between the image and the word in English AND the word in L1;
*use the real thing to help with vocabulary building (e.g. spoon, fork, knife, toaster, knitted sweater)
*take the students on walking tours of the neighbourhood to develop more vocabulary;
*have your student keep a personal dictionary that includes a picture or the object, the word in L1, the word in English and the definition for that word;
*encourage your student to read a variety of printed word (library books, newspapers, articles, magazines);
*help students to look up words that are unfamiliar using many different resources: internet, dictionaries, thesauri, speak to a friend;
*make trips to different points of interest in the community. This continues to help build vocabulary.
While this list is not exhaustive, it is a start. Watch for the next post that will include a list of websites & video to helps support ELLs in their steps towards proficiency in English.
Let us know your thoughts, comments and views on ELL learning in Ontario Schools by replying to this blog or contact us by email, we look forward to your replies!