Okanagan-Skaha students make the grade

Local Grade 4 and 7 students score well above provincial average on FSA tests

  • Jul. 26, 2012 6:00 a.m.

The provincial government has released its yearly foundational skills assessment scores, and while the provincial average has seen little to no increase, the Okanagan-Skaha School District’s scores are up all across the board.

The FSA is an annual assessment of how well Grade 4 and 7 students are doing in the areas of reading, writing and numeracy.

On a provincial scale, the number of Grade 4 students meeting or exceeding expectations were as follows: 70 per cent for reading skills; 72 per cent for writing skills; and 68 per cent for numeracy skills.

These scores are consistent with last year’s scores, staying within one per cent.

Provincially, the Grade 7 group scored lower, with only 64 per cent meeting or exceeding expectations in reading, 71 per cent in writing and 60 per cent in numeracy.

These scores were down between one and two per cent from last year’s numbers.

However, the Okanagan-Skaha School District’s numbers were both above the provincial average and saw greater increases in scores.

The local Grade 4 students that met or exceeded expectations for reading was 84 per cent, writing was 89 per cent and 80 per cent for numeracy.

This shows a two to four per cent increase from previous years.

The Grade 7 scores indicated the highest levels of improvement, with the percentage of students meeting or exceeding expectations in reading up 13 points to 80 per cent, in writing up seven points to 87 per cent, and in numeracy up 10 points to 66 per cent.

Wendy Hyer, district superintendent, attributed the increases over the last several years not only to great teachers in the area, but to the district’s achievement contract, which asks different schools to form growth plans to help improve their students’ performance.

Over the last few years, Hyer said all of the goals have been focused on reading, numeracy and school completion.

“I think it’s been a concerted effort of our teachers looking at what’s best practice when it comes to teaching reading and numeracy, and I think we’re starting to see fruition of these efforts,” she said.

However, the district’s high scores weren’t celebrated by everyone. Leslea Pryde, president of the Okanagan-Skaha Teachers’ Union said while it was nice the numbers came out looking good this year, the FSA testing itself is flawed.

“We’re not in support of the FSAs at all, because they’re really just a data collection and a comparison, and we’re not into comparing one school or one district to another,” she said, citing the numerous factors that can affect children’s scores, such as economics, family background and personal health.

While the provincial average for students meeting or exceeding expectations sits around 68 per cent, the average of Aboriginal students hitting these same standards are much lower, with an average of roughly 48 per cent meeting or exceeding expectations

These lower numbers are reflected in the Okanagan-Skaha, which has an average of around 61.5 per cent of Aboriginal students meeting or exceeding expectations.

To address these issues, Hyer said the district signed onto an Aboriginal enhancement agreement in order to close the achievement gap between the district’s Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students.

“We’re seeing a positive trend,” said Hyer, pointing out that the graduation rate in the area is above the provincial average. As well, she said that seeing the success of these programs generally takes time to shine through, as more students become exposed to the programming each year.

One of the specific ways that Hyer said the district was working to improve Aboriginal performance was through an early learning intervention program, designed to target Aboriginal students at risk of falling behind in their education.

Once identified, these children are given one-on-one help to bring them up to speed with the rest of the children.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said the province has enacted a number of works to improve Aboriginal performance in school districts, such as agreements with school districts to set goals for Aboriginal students while including Aboriginal culture in the curriculum, making it more relevant and appointing a new superintendent of Aboriginal achievement to focus specifically on helping Aboriginal students’ learning.