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A Practical Recipe for Math Success
Students do better on the EQAO Grade 9 Assessment of Mathematics when they know the test will affect their final course mark.

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By Marguerite Jackson, Chief Executive Officer, EQAO

May 2012

In many cases, mathematics teachers can help more students do better on the Education Quality and Accountability Office’s (EQAO’s) Grade 9 Assessment of Mathematics by delivering a simple non-math message: this test counts toward your final mark.

An EQAO research study of the 2010 assessment results found that more students met or exceeded the provincial standard when they knew that the results would comprise part of their final course mark. For this reason, teachers who use the assessment as part of the year-end mark—and almost all do—are encouraged to ensure that their students are fully aware of the assessment’s weight in determining their final mark.

This finding emerged when EQAO researchers considered the responses of the more than 140 000 Grade 9 students and the 4900 Grade 9 mathematics teachers who responded to a series of items on EQAO questionnaires that probed the relationship between student achievement and a variety of student-teacher dynamics. One of the factors considered was whether the students knew that the assessment would affect their final mark.

Our researchers found that while 95% of teachers said they included the assessment in their students’ final mark, only 56% of all Grade 9 students who wrote the assessment said they were aware of its importance. Digging beyond this overall result lies an even larger difference between responses from students in applied and academic math courses.

When asked “Will your teacher count some or all parts of the Grade 9 Assessment of Mathematics as part of your class mark,” nearly two-thirds (64%) of the students enrolled in the academic course replied in the affirmative. But just 38% of the students taking applied math replied in the same way.

Key Facts
95% of teachers said they included the Grade 9 Assessment of Mathematics in their students’ final mark.
64% of the students enrolled in the academic course who wrote the assessment said they were aware it would count toward their final mark.
38% of the students enrolled in the applied course who wrote the assessment said they were aware it would count toward their final mark.

The findings may assist teachers who are using the EQAO assessment as part of students’ course marks in explaining to their students (especially those taking applied math) how the assessment will affect their final mark. Teachers may wish to supplement their verbal communication with written information for students as well as for their parents or guardians. Such communication could occur at the beginning of the school year with a reminder before the assessment is administered. Ensuring that students are aware of the role of this important assessment is one additional strategy for success.

To further illustrate the point, our research revealed that when teachers of academic math said they counted the assessment toward final grades and their students were aware of the assessment being counted, 87.5% of the students met or exceeded the provincial standard, compared to the 75.9% of students in that course who said they were not aware, even though teachers said they did count it.

As shown in Table 1, there is an even larger percentage-point gap among students taking applied math. More than one-half (51.1%) who acknowledged being aware of the assessment’s significance met or exceeded the provincial standard, while the corresponding rate for those who said they were unaware was about one-third (34.6%).

Table 1
How Student Awareness of Role of EQAO Grade 9 Assessment of Mathematics in Final Mark Affects Achievement Academic Applied
Teachers counting the assessment and students aware of it n= 48 105 n= 6 974
Percentage of students who met or exceeded the provincial standard 87.5% 51.1%
Teachers counting the assessment and students not aware of it n= 989 n= 360
Percentage of students who met or exceeded the provincial standard 75.9% 34.6%

Clearly, students did better when they knew the assessment played a role in determining their final mark.

While participation in the Grade 9 Assessment of Mathematics is mandatory, it is up to teachers, schools and school boards to decide whether the results will constitute part of the final mark. According to Ministry of Education policy, teachers may count this assessment as part of their students’ final mark. The fact that almost all schools use the EQAO assessment in determining part of their students’ final Grade 9 math mark speaks to the assessment’s quality as a relevant and curriculum-based evaluation of student learning.

Here are some of the other findings from the research study:

  • Ninety-five percent of all teachers who completed the Teacher Questionnaire reported that they included the EQAO assessment as part of their students’ final class mark.
  • The weight teachers gave the assessment varied considerably. Eighty-five percent of the teachers used the assessment for up to 10% of a student’s year-end report-card mark; few teachers gave it a weight of more than 15%.
  • Both teachers (83%) and students (71%) agreed that awareness of the assessment’s significance motivated students to take the assessment more seriously. In this study, as can be seen in Table 2, there was little difference between the percentage of students in the two mathematics courses from this standpoint. This finding further supports the value of students’ awareness of the role that the assessment plays in their final mark—it spurs most students to do better. However, the finding also raises the question of why more than one-quarter of students (i.e. those who answered ‘no’, were undecided or did not respond) who knew of the assessment’s significance were not motivated to “take the assessment more seriously.”
Table 2
How Student Awareness of Assessment’s Role Affects Motivation
“Does counting the Grade 9 Assessment of Mathematics as part of your class mark motivate you to take the assessment more seriously?” Academic Applied
Yes 72% 69%
No 13% 13%
Undecided or no response 15% 18%

This study is another example of how EQAO’s research helps the public, educators and the Ministry of Education better understand the factors that influence student achievement and education quality. In this case, the factor under the microscope was the relationship between students’ performance on the EQAO Grade 9 Assessment of Mathematics and their awareness of how the assessment influenced their final mark.

While all groups taking the EQAO Grade 9 Assessment of Mathematics have been improving in recent years, many students are still not meeting the provincial standard. In 2011, nearly one in five students (17%) in the academic stream and almost six out of 10 in the applied stream (58%) did not attain the provincial standard.

We have planned further analyses of the Grade 9 Assessment of Mathematics results, along with more study of teacher and student attitudes, in order to better understand and improve student learning. These findings will be reported publicly, in keeping with EQAO’s mandate to provide meaningful information to help stimulate continuous improvement in Ontario’s education system.

Resources

For additional information read the EQAO bulletin Counting the EQAO Grade 9 Mathematics Assessment for Course Marks Makes a Difference in Student Results.

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