Math Scores Plummeting At Ontario Elementary Schools
In 2017, Ontario elementary schools received a rude wake up call when the Educational Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) released the news that as little as 50% of students were able to meet the math standards set by the province. This is a number that has been decreasing at an alarming rate over the last decade. Third grade assessments aren’t proving to be much stronger and scores in this bracket are also staggeringly low. When asked whether students believe they are good at math, only 53-57% of them responded favourably, and this is nothing to say of whether they enjoy the subject, whether they feel confident learning new material, or whether they feel anxiety around how it’s taught.
Some people wonder whether the standardized model of testing is part of the issue. Asking multiple choice questions does not allow those assessing to see the steps and strategies students are using to find the answer to a problem, which hinders their ability to properly teach. The test might show them which facets of math students are struggling with, but not why. Furthermore, these types of assessments often fail to accommodate atypical learning styles, creating false negatives, and there is also the pressure of a testing environment to consider.
These low numbers are likely the result of two incompatibilities – a less than optimal testing style coupled with the students’ struggle to initially grasp material. What educators need is a broader, long-term, comprehensive, and individualized assessment option. This will help improve students’ scores by giving teachers clear and immediate insight as to how well children are absorbing their lessons. In today’s digital world, many educators are turning to app-based assessments that are engaging and entertaining for students. Because subscription apps allow students to be tested incrementally throughout the year, they alleviate duress, which can offer teachers more honest results as to their students’ overall performance.
Programs such as those on offer at Knowledgehook.com allow educators to log important information, including where each student is having issues, and district-wide packages allow student progress to be tracked across multiple schools. Quizzes and games that are a part of these applications also give students incentive to find solutions, but more importantly, context for practicing and improving their math skills. They are encouraged to implement math in real-life, in real-time — to achieve a goal rather than just a grade. Introducing these technologies into the classroom is also appealing to policy makers as they offer a cost-effective solution to a larger problem (the accessibility of math in the classroom). Utilizing them can allow for more positive engagement with what many students consider a difficult and discouraging subject.
Standardized testing on the provincial level may not be eradicated for the currently foreseeable future, but that does not mean individual schools and educators cannot take steps to do their own analyses. They can find more productive ways to assess student performance, using methods that provide them with more transparency over the course of a semester, and offer more than a percentage or statistic at the end. When half of the elementary school students in Ontario are failing at math, it’s important for educators and policy makers to find new avenues to support their finding success.