Secondary school literacy results declining, but elementary-level reading increasing
August 29, 2018
The Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) has published provincial-level results from its assessments administered in 2017—2018.
Large-scale provincial assessments at key stages of a student’s education measure math and literacy achievement in relation to expectations outlined in The Ontario Curriculum. EQAO data can be used alongside information from schools and boards to analyze trends in Ontario students’ learning and to explore what actions can be taken to support improvements in student achievement.
In elementary schools, the percentage of Grade 3 and Grade 6 students meeting the provincial math standard has decreased over the last five years.
- Of the 132 656 enrolled Grade 3 students assessed in 2018, 61% met the provincial math standard (a decrease from 67% in 2014).
- Of the 132 766 enrolled Grade 6 students assessed in 2018, 49% met the provincial math standard (a decrease from 54% in 2014).
- Results from EQAO’s Student Questionnaire suggest that while only 56% of Grade 3 students and 52% of Grade 6 students believe they are good at math, 78% are motivated to do their best when they do math activities in class. High motivation levels signal a positive mindset that can facilitate future achievement.
In secondary schools, the percentage of Grade 9 students enrolled in the academic course who met the provincial standard in math has remained high, while fewer than half of the students enrolled in the applied course met the provincial standard.
- Of the 96 996 students enrolled in the Grade 9 academic course in 2018, 84% met the provincial math standard (a figure that has remained relatively stable since 2014).
- Yet of the 33 451 students enrolled in the Grade 9 applied course in 2018, only 45% met the provincial math standard (a decrease from 47% in 2014).
Achievement in reading among elementary-school students has improved over the past five years. Of the 125 213 enrolled Grade 3 students in 2018, 75% met the provincial reading standard (an increase from 70% in 2014), and of the 132 766 enrolled Grade 6 students in 2018, 82% met the provincial reading standard (an increase from 79% in 2014).
Reading achievement is also stronger among students with special education needs. Of the 23 296 students with special education needs enrolled in Grade 3 in 2018, 46% met the provincial reading standard (an increase from 40% in 2014). And of the 28 757 students with special education needs enrolled in Grade 6 in 2018, 54% met the provincial reading standard (an increase from 47% in 2014).
Over time, EQAO data have shown that writing achievement in Grade 3 is lower than in Grade 6. The relative consistency in this pattern may suggest that the junior grades are particularly important to the refinement and maturation of writing skills. This year, 72% of Grade 3 students met the provincial writing standard (a decrease from 78% in 2014), while 80% of Grade 6 students met the provincial writing standard (an increase from 78% in 2014).
Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT)
In secondary schools, the percentage of first-time eligible Grade 10 students successfully completing the OSSLT has decreased since 2014. While this decrease has been less pronounced for students enrolled in the academic English course than for students enrolled in the applied course, the overall decline in literacy achievement is of concern.
- Of the 122 721 students who wrote the OSSLT for the first time in 2018, 79% were successful (a decrease from 83% in 2014). Of the 22 700 participating students enrolled in the applied course and writing the test for the first time, 39% were successful (a decrease from 50% in 2014), while of the 95 709 participating students enrolled in the academic course and writing the test for the first time, 90% were successful (a decrease from 94% in 2014).
- Of the 19 593 students who wrote the OSSLT and who had not met the provincial reading standard in Grade 6, 36% were successful. Of the 20 378 students who wrote the OSSLT and who had not met the provincial writing standard in Grade 6, 44% were successful. These trends have persisted over time, suggesting that students who do not meet the provincial standards in early grades are at a greater risk of not having the literacy skills required in secondary school and beyond.
- Students who did not meet either the provincial reading or the provincial writing standard in Grade 6 are more likely to be successful on the OSSLT if they are enrolled in Grade 10 academic courses, as opposed to applied courses. EQAO’s historical data suggest a similar pattern in Grade 9 math. The achievement gap persists among students enrolled in academic and applied courses, and it is important to explore why this gap is occurring).
“Math and literacy are the foundation for the knowledge and skills that students will use in their careers and in society and EQAO’s assessments in these areas helped to identify several trends. In particular, the continued decline in elementary-level math scores suggests that Ontario’s Renewed Math Strategy is not having the intended impact. Parents, educators and policy-makers across Ontario will be looking at EQAO data, alongside other information, to understand what changes need to be made to support our students and foster accountability in our publicly funded education system.”—Dave Cooke, Chair, EQAO
“This year’s results reflect positive trends in elementary reading and in secondary academic courses. There’s also some encouraging news with respect to achievement in reading among elementary students with special education needs. Even so, we need to question how to strengthen math achievement in Grade 6, as it continues to be a challenge. Furthermore, EQAO has been highlighting the decline in OSSLT achievement and the broadening gap between secondary-level students in the applied and academic courses for several years. This trend is cause for concern and should be further examined.”—Norah Marsh, Chief Executive Officer, EQAO
- Highlights of Provincial Mathematics Results, 2017–2018
- Highlights of Provincial Literacy Results, 2017–2018
This announcement pertains only to highlights of EQAO’s assessment results at the provincial level. School- and board-level results are not available at this time; these will be released on September 19, 2018.
EQAO highlights five-year analyses to show student achievement trends over time.
Students are deemed to be successful on an EQAO assessment, and to meet the provincial standard, if they achieve Level 3 (i.e., the equivalent of 70%) or above. Students at Levels 1 or 2 demonstrate some understanding of the curriculum expectations, but they do not meet the provincial standard.