ALMAGUIN – The recently released results of provincial standardized testing for for Grades 3 and 6 students in the Near North fall below provincial results in all areas, but are trending upward in all but but two indicators, bringing them closer in line with provincial results.
Grade 3 reading and math each took a one per cent dip for the Near North District School Board.
“Over all our board went up in four of the six indicators. In Grade 3 writing and all of the indicators in Grade 6 we actually went up,” said superintendent of schools and programs Tim Graves. “We’re pretty pleased with that.”
There is a great variance in school results, some of which are suppressed to the public at some of the smaller schools in order to avoid identifying, he explained.
“When you look at the individual schools over time it just seems like some of the schools are going up drastically and others are going down drastically,” said Graves.
The results also indicate that some schools, while dropping in some of the indicators, may jumping in others.
Graves says they have looked closely at a document called the McKinsey and Company Report that speaks of educational improvement.
“What they recognized was that at every stage of the journey, whether you are talking about a very poor system in terms of number of kids educated, economics, everything what you need is a lot of central control and central innovation and scripted lessons.”
He says that once the system is moved from good to excellent, staff need to work at innovation at the local level.
In the more than a decade that the Near North School Board has been involved in EQAO assessments, it has made ongoing gains.
“We got those gains by going from good to very good as a system and some of the things we did were with a high level of central support,” he said.
Graves says what they are seeing now is the next step, into local level innovation.
He says that in the past they have looked at what they need to work on as a whole, and have been able to move many children from level two to level three.
“We have also moved a whole lot of kids from level one to level two,” he said. “We’ve practically emptied out our level one category.”
Now they need to try to move those children up another level, but what they are finding is that it requires focus on every individual student to move to the top.
“Certain kids and certain schools, for example, struggled for a number of years in mathematics,” he said.
He says they are finding that a strategy used at one school doesn’t necessarily work at another.
“As a system last year we started this and this year we are continuing on,” he said. “Instead of working from the centre and saying that as a system we need to work on this, we’re really comfortable and have a lot of faith in the principals and teachers.”
Graves says the children in the Near North District School Board are capable of getting to the Ministry goals over time, and thinks that they need to work with schools at the local level to make these improvements.
“There are two schools that tried to implement the same thing and one approach was very successful and in the other place it wasn’t successful,” he said. “I think when you’re looking at this level of kids you really need to get in and find out what these children are specifically struggling with at these schools.”