Manitoba Grade 8 students rank lower than all their provincial counterparts in reading, math and science.
That’s according to the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), which has released the results of its 2016 assessment of students across the country.
Through standardized testing, the Pan-Canadian Assessment Program tested roughly 27,000 students from nearly 1,500 schools across Canada, with this round of testing focused more on reading.
It found that the mean score for Manitoba students ranked last in reading, last in math and tied with Saskatchewan for last in science.
It also found that while scores for English students improved over time, the performance of French students is going in the wrong direction.
Overall, this report shows the trend is heading in the right direction for Manitoba students. Only Prince Edward Island saw a bigger improvement in reading compared to the previous round of testing in 2013.
Eighty-three per cent of English students hit Level 2 in reading, the expected level of proficiency. That’s near the national average, though a smaller portion of Manitoba students achieved Level 3 proficiency.
Only 70 per cent of French students hit the Level 2 mark, and scores dropped significantly compared to 2013 at a time when most French schools across the country are seeing improvements.
The only province that saw a bigger drop in French reading proficiency than Manitoba is Nova Scotia. That province is also the only one that boasts a bigger overall disparity between English and French reading performance than Manitoba.
Manitoba ranks just below Saskatchewan in math, and while scores did improve over previous tests, every province except Ontario also saw higher scores in 2016.
Quebec is by far the most proficient province at math, scoring well above every other region.
But while the national trend is that French students outperform their English counterparts, that’s not the case in Manitoba.
French students in Manitoba are the only ones, English or French, in any province that scored worse in 2016 than they did in 2010. Manitoba is also the only province where English students were more proficient at math than their French counterparts.
Manitoba has shown significant improvement in science, with only New Brunswick having a bigger jump in test scores since 2013.
Alberta sits in the top spot in science, followed closely by P.E.I., which — across the board — showed the biggest gains in proficiency.
While English students nationally performed at a slightly higher level in science, the gap is more pronounced in Manitoba. Again, only Nova Scotia had a bigger disparity between English and French students.
Manitoba’s Education Minister Ian Wishart sees some positive trends in this report, but admitted there’s a lot of work to be done.
“There’s no quick fixes for this. You have to start in the Early Years and follow it all the way through the education system,” Wishart said. “In all honesty, though we’re looking to improve our results all the way through the system, to get a major turnaround, it does take a period of time. We already have begun some of that and are certainly working towards doing more of that.”
As for why Manitoba’s French numbers are trending downward, Wishart expressed the need for more teachers.
“There’s been a lot of growth and it’s been a battle to find good teachers in that area. We don’t seem to graduate enough in our own system so we’re often looking out of province. That may be a factor, but we need to help them focus on particularly the maths and sciences that they are struggling with. We need to find some solutions.”
Wishart said some recommendations and action plans will be released soon.
The full report can be viewed here.
The director of Oxford Learning Winnipeg, Alexis Yildir said she’s not surprised with the findings.
“Unfortunately I’m not shocked. I think the problem is with the curriculum and not with teachers. Teachers are in the trenches everyday doing what they can, with what they’re given and the direction they’re given.”
Yildir is not only a tutor but also a parent and said she started to see cracks in the curriculum when her son was in Grade 1.
“I was amazed at how hard it was for him to do things like 6 plus 1 and unfortunately I assumed the problem was with him, but I realized much later that in fact the curriculum didn’t provide him with enough exposure to those facts for him to actually know them.”
Yildir called it a systemic problem and in her opinion the way to set students up for success include: issue textbooks sooner, spend more time on math and science and not to rely on technology such as iPads in the classrooms to solve problems.