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Grade 8 math scores climb across Canada except Ontario: report

A new report has found Grade 8 students' math scores improved in all provinces except Ontario between 2010 and 2016.
A new report has found Grade 8 students' math scores improved in all provinces except Ontario between 2010 and 2016. Steven Errico

TORONTO РStudents in every province except Ontario improved their performance in math between 2010 and 2016, according to a report released Monday that examined the results of tests administered to eighth graders over the six-year period.

The Pan-Canadian Assessment Program report, which looked at tests taken by 27,000 students, found that Ontario students’ performance in math remained stagnant, while Quebec, which had the highest scores in the country, saw its results climb “significantly.”

“All provinces show a positive change in achievement in mathematics, except in Ontario where the results have remained stable,” the report said.

READ MORE: Confidence in math has become a major problem for girls in school

The finding comes just over a month before an election in Ontario in which education has already become a talking point.

Just half of Grade 6 students met Ontario’s standards for math in provincially administered standardized tests for the 2016-2017 academic year, down seven percentage points from 2013.

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Ontario Education Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris defended the Liberal government’s track record on math, noting that in spite of the plateau in Monday’s report, the province’s scores still ranked second when compared to others in Canada.

“Our publicly-funded education system was exceeded only by one province with regards to mathematics, and has maintained a stable performance from the previous results,” she said.

The minister also noted that the report looked at tests that took place before a $60-million investment in math programming, which was announced in 2016 and puts an average of 60 minutes per day of “protected math learning time” in the curriculum for Grades 1 through 8.

Each school now has three “math lead teachers” and more than 3,000 educators have signed up for math-focused “professional learning virtual sessions,” Naidoo-Harris said.

READ MORE: Durham students are reinventing the way they learn math

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath has said she’ll abolish standardized tests if elected. A spokeswoman for Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford said a Tory government would get the education system “back to basics”and teach students “the fundamentals.”

Monday’s report from the Pan-Canadian Assessment Program compared the results of tests administered in 2016 to those from two previous reports in 2013 and 2010.

Results were converted onto a scale of 1,000. The majority of students in Canada score between 400 and 600, the report said. The results were also weighted by population size.

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Ontario’s mean score was 508 in 2010, and 507 in 2016, a difference the report said is not significant. That was slightly below the country-wide average of 511.

“We should be improving, and we’re not. Every other province has improved,” said Mary Reid, a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

Reid noted that there’s much room for progress, saying there are a number of lessons Ontario can take from Quebec’s superior scores. Quebec has specialized teachers in math and science starting in Grade 7, she said.

“Here in Ontario, you could be a Grade 8 teacher and never taken a math course in university,” she noted.

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Reid also said Monday’s report should be looked at alongside other studies evaluating various regions’ math performances.

In the Programme for International Student Assessment, Ontario’s math scores slipped between 2000 and 2015, and in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, the scores stagnated between 2003 and 2015.