According to figures released by the provincial government, Alberta high school students performed well on the 2015-2016 diploma exams and Provincial Achievement Tests (PATs), particularly in sciences. But the marks weren’t so great when it comes to Grade 6 math.
The diploma average for science courses has improved across the province between two and four percentage points from the 2012.
The 2015-2016 diploma average for Biology 30 was 69.1 per cent , 68.4 per cent in Chemistry 30, 70.7 per cent in Physics 30, and 67.7 per cent in Science 30.
Grade 6 and 9 English Language Arts marks rose compared to the previous year, while marks in other subjects fluctuated within an expected range, except for Grade 6 mathematics which continued to trend downward, according to the province.
Almost one in five Grade 6 students in Alberta scored below the acceptable standard when it comes to math, the highest that number has been in the last five years.
Edmonton Public Schools saw 75.6 per cent of students score acceptably in Grade 6 math. However, that number has fallen over the last couple years – 77.4 per cent of students had an acceptable score in school year 2013 to 2014.
This year, almost 19 per cent, or one in five kids, fell below the standard.
The Edmonton Public School Board acknowledges students have fallen behind.
“We didn’t fall as much but we did fall a little bit and that concerns me because that tells me fewer kids are being successful in the course,” Darrel Robertson, superintendent with Edmonton Public Schools, said. “Having said that, I’m encouraged by some of the work that’s going around in the district around mathematics.”
The Edmonton Catholic School Board saw similar numbers in Grade 6 math, with 73.7 per cent of students receiving an acceptable score in the test, slightly higher than the provincial average.
But in the 2013-14 school year, that number reached 78.3 per cent and has been falling each year every since.
The school board attributes the downward trend to a couple of things, including overcrowded classrooms and an increase in the number of English as a second language students.
The school board also said it’s tough to find instructors who are specially trained in math.
“Our district can’t fill all those positions with teachers that have the degree of mathematical training that would be ideal,” Marilyn Bergstra, chair of the Edmonton Catholic School Board, said. “We have to work with our post-secondary institutions to ensure those niche needs are being met because it can have an impact.”
Education Minister David Eggen said the province is working with post-secondary institutions to improve training for new teachers and clarifying expectations around basic math skills, including adding a new section in the Grade 6 Math Provincial Achievement Test that’s designed to ensure students can solve basic number operations without using a calculator.
“We are still concerned about math results. This is why we are taking many steps to improve achievement in math,” Education Minister David Eggen said.
“We are also launching a six-year process to develop new curriculum in Alberta. Mathematics and numeracy skills will be cornerstones of that important work, as we prepare students for successful careers in a diversified economy,” Eggen added.
Calgary Board of Education said their students achieved impressive results in diploma exams, with students out performing the provincial average in 10 of 11 courses.
“We are very proud of our students and are encouraged by what is being achieved across all levels of the organization, Board of Trustees chair Joy Bowen-Eyre said.
“These results demonstrate that the resources, both human and financial, we are directing to students in the classroom are positively impacting student success.”