National Canadian media was awash recently with stories about the latest standardized test results from Ontario’s Education Quality and Accountability Office that relate to ‘Grade 6 Math’, in particular. Administered in May/June of the past school year, there is parental and professional dismay and disappointment over the fact that 50% of those taking the test failed to meet Ontario’s ‘math standard’ for that grade level (the ‘provincial standard’ is equivalent to a ‘B’ grade, in terms of the usual course grading scale).
This really is not news. The U.N. Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (O.E.C.D.) historically has noted that in Canada between 2003 and 2012, 8 out of 10 provinces recorded “statistically significant decreases” in results seen from testing designed to measure compliance with accepted standards. Only Quebec held steady, and Saskatchewan lost the least ground.
Over the last 4 years, there has been gradual slippage, too, from 57% who made the ‘math grade’ in 2013.
It has reached the point where the Wynne government in early September hurriedly pledged a revamp of the Ontario Curriculum, with focus on Math. But implementation will inevitably take time.
An outspoken academic, University of Winnipeg Professor Anna Stokke, has summed up the shortcomings of public education, as follows:
“(The teaching process) has been based on discovery-based learning
as opposed to mastering basic math skills. A successful math student should both understand the meaning of mathematical procedures and be able to perform them quickly and efficiently – without the use of a calculator.”
How classroom teachers will meet the challenge is not yet known. Math tutors associated with Book Smart Tutors across Canada have recognized the curriculum and its application’s shortcomings for quite some time, and with every student, care is taken to assess aptitude, address gaps and deficiencies, and to overcome them, with proven improvement and performance. If it means resort to the ‘fundamentals’, there’s no hesitation to go there as the necessary foundation for successful problem-solving in the upper grades.
(Robert MacFarlane is a graduate of Princeton University, and besides being a long time tutor with Book Smart Tutors, he contributes regularly to its ‘blog spot’.)