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Provincial Achievement Test Results: A Detailed Discussion

November 14, 2014

Recently our district published our PAT and Diploma Exam results in the Western Catholic Reporter and the Edmonton Examiner.  Because the numbers published in these ads do not show the nuances of our results, I thought it might be of interest to the public if I published them here.  Please note that since our province is phasing out the PAT exams in favour of Student Learning Assessments (SLATs), there is no discussion of Grade 3 results since Grade 3 students in our district did not write the PAT exams in the 2013/2014 school year. The results given are for the Acceptable Standard which means students scored above 50% and Standard of Excellence which means scores above 80%.

The results are published according to different groupings such as:

  • just the students who showed up for the exam (called a partial cohort)
  • the results from students who showed up combined with those who did not (these latter would have received a 0)
  • students who wrote the exams in English
  • students who wrote the exams in French
  • all students who wrote the exams in English and French
  • the results according to each grade (3, 6, 9 and 12/diploma)
  • the results according to year so that we can see whether students are improving or not from one year to the next

This year ECSD students had a high participation rate in the exams compared to the province across all subjects (English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies).  For example, in subjects written in English, here are the average participation rates compared to the province: ECSD Grade 6:  94.78% versus Province:  89.73%; ECSD Grade 9:  93.48% versus Province:  88.53%; ECSD Grade 9 Knowledge and Employability:  93.9% versus Province 84.10%. So how does our district compare to the province?  For ease of comparison, I will show the results for only those students who wrote the exams (partial cohort) and results for exams written in French and English (aggregate results).  It goes without saying that if our district had a higher participation rate than the province, then our students would have received fewer zeros so if we want to compare “apples with apples” then let’s compare results for just those who actually wrote the exam. Beginning with Grade 9 students, you will see that these students are awesome!  These numbers show that the ECSD Grade 9 students’ results were consistently higher than the province for both standards except Standard of Excellence in Mathematics.  Congratulations to all teachers and staff who were instrumental in providing these results for our district. These numbers are very encouraging!

ECSD % Provincial %
English Language Arts Acceptable Standard 89.5 86.4
Standard of Excellence 21.2 17
Mathematics Acceptable Standard 77.2 74.4
Standard of Excellence 17.7 19.1
Science Acceptable Standard 85.2 81.5
Standard of Excellence 28.2 24.7
Social Studies Acceptable Standard 78.1 73.6
Standard of Excellence 25.1 23.0

The Grade 9 Knowledge and Employability results however are mixed.  What is the Knowledge and Employability program?  According to Alberta Education “The Knowledge and Employability courses are designed for students who meet the criteria and learn best through experiences that integrate essential and employability skills in occupational contexts. The courses provide students opportunities to enter into employment or continue their education”.  This program applies to students in grades 8 – 12.  The following are the results for this group of students (the exams are only written in English and reflect the results of only those who wrote the exams).

ECSD % Provincial %
English Language Arts Acceptable Standard 86.0 78.4
Standard of Excellence 7 4.4
Mathematics Acceptable Standard 69.0 73.6
Standard of Excellence 12.1 16.9
Science Acceptable Standard 71.9 75.5
Standard of Excellence 8.8 17.6
Social Studies Acceptable Standard 71.2 73.3
Standard of Excellence 8.5 12.7

The 2013-2014 results show that our district surpassed the province in one subject only – English Language Arts. Looking at the results going back 5 years to the 2009/2010 school year, our K and E students were above the provincial acceptable standard 14 times throughout the past 5 years and only below it 4 times.  On the other hand, in the Standard of Excellence category, the results were below the provincial average 15 times across the 4 subjects and only above 4 times (we tied with the province one time). Is there cause for concern?  I would prefer to see that our K and E students were at least at provincial average in both standards.  I would suggest that these students may need additional resources since this year our scores were lower than the province in 3 out of 4 subject areas and in both standards.  I also believe this because our scores on the Standard of Excellence have been consistently lower than the provincial average over the last 5 years.

 

Here are the Grade 6 results (again only those who wrote the exam and in English and French):

Grade 6 ECSD % Province %
English Language Arts Acceptable 90.7 90.6
Excellence 19.7 19.5
French Language Arts Acceptable 95.4 90.1
Excellence 15.9 15.9
Mathematics Acceptable 82.1 81.1
Excellence 15.4 17.0
Science Acceptable 84.0 84.2
Excellence 24.2 27.6
Social Studies Acceptable 79.0 78.7
Excellence 16.5 18.6

These results show that our Grade 6 students score around the provincial average — either slightly above in some cases or slightly below.

 

The results for our Grade 12 Diploma students are as follows.  The results presented are the average diploma marks which combine the results from the Acceptable Standard as well as the Standard of Excellence.  The results below also reflect the full cohort (those who wrote the exams and those who did not and received zero) as well as the exams written in English and French:

ECSD %

Provincial %

Above/Below Provincial Average

English Language Arts 30-1

65.0

64.1

above

English Language Arts 30-2

66.8

65.9

above

Social Studies 30-1

64.2

64.5

below

Social Studies 30-2

62.8

64.3

below

French Language Arts 30-1

65.8

68.2

below

Mathematics 30-1

61.1

63.9

below

Mathematics 30-2

60.2

60.1

above

Science 30

68.1

67.5

above

Biology 30

68.0

68.9

below

Chemistry 30

66.1

68.2

below

Physics 30

67.8

68.8

below

So out of 11 possible subjects, ECSD grade 12 students’ diploma marks were above the provincial average in 4/11 subjects and below the provincial average in 7/11 subjects.  As you can see by the numbers, the differences are very slight in comparison to the province showing that our students are on par with the  province.

In regards to the PAT results for our students in French Immersion, again I will not comment on Grade 3 French results because the PATs are being phased out beginning with this grade.  The grade 9 French marks were mostly all above the provincial average as mentioned was the case for the combined results of English and French.  The good news story this year was the improvement in our French Grade 6 marks.  For a number of years, our Grade 6 French PAT results lagged behind the province but this year great gains can be seen:

ECSD %

Provincial %

French Language Arts Acceptable Standard

95.4

90.1

Standard of Excellence

15.9

15.9

Mathematics Acceptable Standard

86.6

85.3

Standard of Excellence

15.5

16.9

Science Acceptable Standard

87.4

84.1

Standard of Excellence

18.1

19.7

Social Studies Acceptable Standard

84.0

75.1

Standard of Excellence

13.0

11.1

Comparing the results from 2012/2013 school year, the percentage of Grade 6 French Immersion students increased in all subject areas for both the Acceptable Standard and the Standard of Excellence.  In the case of French Language Arts and Social Studies, these increases were over 10%.  In Science and Mathematics, these increases were over 8% so these results are very good news.

In summary, I hope that  this more in depth analysis gives a good understanding of where our district stands in comparison to the province for grades 6, 9 and 12.  I reiterate, that except for the Grade 12 results, the numbers I have mentioned in my analysis are for those students who actually wrote the exams.  Because of our higher participation rate, our marks would of course be higher due to fewer zeros being given for non attendance. By removing the attendance factor, I believe a true picture of our students can be seen and therefore we learn where we must direct additional resources.

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