Pemberton Secondary students improving 

Hard work, participation credited for better results on provincial assessments

Hard work by teachers and serious student participation at Pemberton Secondary resulted in some higher scores on the 2001 annual provincial assessment of basic skills by the Ministry of Education.

In 2000, the first year the Foundation Skills Assessment was administered, students scored well below average in numeracy and writing at the Grade 10 level.

"We had had very poor results so we decided that that was going to be our focus, the literacy and numeracy," said Pemberton Secondary principal Marg Pallot.

In 2000 only 11.4 per cent of Grade 10 students met expectations in writing for their grade level. In 2001 not only did the Grade 10 students improve their score to 88 per cent meeting expectations, they beat the provincial average by two per cent.

In numeracy, defined as a combination of mathematical knowledge, problem solving and communication skills, Grade 10 students increased their scores from 52 per cent in 2000 to 71 per cent in 2001. The provincial average is 77 per cent.

Fifty-nine per cent of Grade 10 students in 2001 met expectations or their grade level in reading comprehension. That’s a two per cent increase over the previous year’s testing but well below the provincial average of 75 per cent.

Only 64 per cent of Grade 7 students met expectations for the level in reading comprehension, a three per cent decline from 2000 and 12 per cent below the provincial average.

Seventy per cent of Grade 7 students met expectations in writing in 2001. No figures are available for 2000. The provincial average is 81 per cent.

Significant improvement was seen this year in numeracy by the Grade 7 students. In the most recent tests 75 per cent of Grade 7 students met expectations compared to 64 per cent in 2000.

Many factors played a role in the improved scores said Pallot.

Teachers formed committees to work on strategies to help students. Some teachers even attended "professional days" to get the latest on how to improve in these areas then returned to share it with colleagues and students.

The school also discussed the poor results with the students, said Pallot, and explained the relative importance of the test.

But more important than the test, said Pallot, was explaining to the students how important it was to be competent in reading, writing, and arithmetic on graduation.

"It is so important, and that is what we stressed to the students," she said.

"We were really excited to see such an improvement in the result."

There is some controversy over the importance of the FSA tests. Many educators feel they are not an accurate reflection of learning in schools.

The results, say some, should be seen as a "snapshot" of student achievement on a single test rather than an assessment of the province’s education system.

Overall students in B.C. performed slightly better in 2001 than they did the year before on the math and writing portion of the tests, but slightly lower in the reading portion.

West Vancouver district recorded the best scores in the three tests. New Westminster and the province’s largest school district, Surrey, had scores below the provincial average in almost all cases.

The tests are given every May to student in Grades 4, 7, and 10 and are intended to assess cumulative learning.

Pemberton Secondary has also introduced a number of other programs to help improve in these areas, said Pallot. They include reading-time every day often followed by short comprehension exercises, and measures to improve attendance at the school.

Said Pallot: "You can’t learn if you aren’t here."

Grade 7 and 10 students at Whistler Secondary almost met or exceeded expectations in all categories in 2001.

Grade 4 students at Myrtle Philip scored significantly above the provincial average in reading and numeracy, but below average in writing.

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