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PAT results positive for Horizon

Posted on November 5, 2015 by Vauxhall Advance

Nikki Jamieson
Vauxhall Advance

Horizon School Division students are performing above average when compared to students across the province.

The Provincial Achievement Test results have come in for the 2014/15 school year, and were reviewed during the Oct. 20 Horizon School Board meeting, revealing that students in the Horizon School Division were doing alright in the classroom, with a higher percentage passing the exam, versus the percentage of all students in the province.

The Provincial marks are the sum marks of all the school divisions in Alberta.
Each school division’s PATs are compared to the provincial PATs marks, and that is the result that gets published.

This result is the cohort, which is used to compare how different groups of students are doing compared to the provincial average. The cohort result means that the public results are the sum average of the number of students who write the exams marks, and students who do not write the exam are automatically given a mark of zero.

While this does tend to drag down the provincial average, since a higher percentage of students in the province may not write in the PATs, the cohort marks is considered the best way to judge how students across the province are doing in the classrooms.

In addition to this years PATs marks being reviewed, the board also looked at results from the past five years, to get a better picture of how the HSD is doing compared to the province.

“We want to look at how we’re doing, compared to the province, and then we want to take a step back and look at our trends over a five year, multi-year range,” said Amber Darroch, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction for the HSB. “A big rider on all of this, is that we know there are always anomalies from year to year; there’s different groups of student, there are teacher variables, there are things that change.”

In the 2014/15 school year, Grade 6 students wrote PATs and 88 percent passed language arts, 76 percent in math, 83.3 percent in science and 74 percent in social studies. Judging on a cohort level, a higher percentage of students passed each subject then the province average, and higher percent, 27.1 and 19.4 percent, achieved a grade of 80 percent or more in science and social studies respectfully, then the provincial average did.

Grade 9 students also wrote PATs, and 84.5 percent passed language arts, 70.9 percent passed math, 75.5 percent in science and 66.4 percent in social studies, and, with exception of language arts, a greater percent passed then in the province, and more scored higher, 22.8 percent of students, in math as well.

However, in both the Grade 6 and 9 PATs, the provincial percentage of students that achieve excellent tend to be higher then the Horizon division.

“That’s something we always want to strengthen. We want to enrich and engage our higher achieving students, and we want to see, always, our acceptable standard as high as possible.”

In the past five years, Grade 6 PATs in all subjects have seen a dip in the 2012/13, below the provincial results, before rising in 2013/14 and surpassing them in the last school year.

Grade 9 PATs results in language arts have been lower then the province for the past five years, have continually traded places in social studies with the province, have typically done better in science except for in 13/14 and the division has done better in math for the past two years.

Grade 3 students did not write a PAT, as they were in the first year of a pilot Student Learning Assessment, which they are also in the middle of writing this year.

Trends show that the HSD excells at science, and in past years, the HSB has focused on literacy in their schools. This year, despite having strong marks in math, they want to switch more of a focus to numeracy, or comprehending mathematic concepts.

“Provincially, people are looking at math and asking, “What are we doing with Math Instruction in Alberta schools?” The results; we’re in the 70s here, instead of the 80s or 90s. So in the last year or so our students have not done as well. I have also heard from schools when they wrote these tests, grade 6 or 9, say “Wow these were tough,” said Darroch. “Alberta Education has really punctuated, and we communicated with the teachers; it’s part of the program of studies, to have mastery and basic fact recall. We are teaching that in our schools, and for some reason, there’s a sense that we stopped teaching that. We did not.”

To boost the divisions’s math marks, schools will be focusing on two thing; ensuring that students have a clear understanding of operational math – or knowing how to get a correct answer – and having a deeper understanding of math – or being able to explain how they got their answer.

“What’s interesting is, is the fact our results slowing down or lowering, are used as evidences to support our kids need more memorizing,” said Wilco Tymensen, superintendent for HSB. “When you look at which questions on the exams, they do poorly on, it’s not the memorizing ones, it’s the higher order thinking. It’s the complex problems, which means it’s not that they haven’t memorized facts, it’s that they can’t use those facts to solve complex problems.”

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