Home > Assessment & Evaluation, Community Engagement, Mathematics > Responsibility or Accountability?

Responsibility or Accountability?

“Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics, I assure you that mine are greater.”     Albert Einstein

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The chart pictured above is a simplified representation of our school’s most recent results from the provincial EQAO assessments our grade 3 and 6 students wrote late last school year. To view the detailed report for Park Avenue PS just click on our 2013 EQAO Report.

The information conveyed from these assessments is used for a myriad of purposes, depending upon the stake and stance of the user. Parents use the school and individual student reports to get a sense of how their child is performing against the established curriculum benchmarks. School and district staff use these results to provide information on student strengths and needs in the areas of reading, writing and math to inform program and professional learning needs. The Ministry of Education uses the results to gather information on the performance of students across the province- to determine program needs and priorities- but also to demonstrate accountability of the system to parents and taxpayers.  And members of the media and other pundits use the results to support and advance opinions and theories on our public education system as a whole.

For us, as a school community of parents, educators and students, these results have given us some things to think about and talk about. It’s not my place, at this time, to spin the numbers. I invite those of you who are interested to read through the report, reflect upon what this information means to you and join us in the conversation about our next steps. The other reason I won’t spin the numbers is because the charts don’t represent numbers, to me they are real kids- the students who spend their days with us at Park Avenue Public School.  At the core, I look to these assessments as one way that our kids can tell us how they are doing; what they are doing well and where they may be struggling.

So, in looking at our assessment results, this year and over time, the trend that we have seen in the area of mathematics is a concern. In spite of what media reports or popular sentiment may be, mathematics is more than just ‘memorizing stuff’ and ‘drilling the basics’. Math is a complex and specific language that is used to describe our both our physical and abstract realities, realities that are based upon patterns and relationships using numbers. However, like any language it can be learned, with direct instruction from adults who know the language and know how to teach it.

There is only one way for our students to receive classroom instruction like this; professional learning for our teachers. No packaged program, no quick fix, no short cuts.  Richard Elmore reminds us that ‘real accountability’ is not found on standardized assessments or tests. Real accountability is the relationship that exists between students, teachers and the classroom tasks that students do each day. Our staff are committed to work together and learn together about how to design and teach tasks that will enable them to provide our students with this instruction in mathematics; from Kindergarten to grade 8.

And it is my responsibility to lead this learning.

  1. September 29, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    Hi Brian, as someone who loves to look at data to consider what we can do better, I took a look at the EQAO report for your school. I really only looked at the Junior scores because I was curious about the fact that only 29% of your Junior students achieved benchmark in Math. I think it is criminal that the EQAO reports are made public. It is so important to look at the perceptual data and the contextual data as well as the outcome data. I noticed that while you had only 51 Grade Six students, they were represented in 6 different classes and 45% of your students were identified as having special learning needs. That is a very significant piece of information that the public may not be aware of when they look at your overall scores. Given your contextual data, your scores in Junior Reading and Writing are to be commended. One question I have is any clue as to why your scores in Math have been declining? Looking at the scores in my board, I can’t help but notice that as we become more proficient at supporting our students with special needs using Assistive Technology, the gap between them and their peers is disappearing in Reading and Writing. But we haven’t figured out yet how to support this population in Math. Can Assistive Technology support them in learning Math the way it does in Reading and Writing? Or do we need to explore other strategies? When looking at your perceptual data, it was interesting to note that although your students perform better in Reading and Writing, they prefer Math – would love to know why that is, and I would be definitely asking the students what it is about Math that they like.
    Thank you for sharing your data. There is so much more we need to learn about how children learn. I hope you will share what your staff is doing in the area of Math throughout the year so that we can share in your learning. I believe our issues in Math start in Grade One and we won’t make progress until we come together in cross-divisional teams to look at student work to determine what our students know and can do and what misconceptions they have. I think Formative Assessment (Assessment as/for Learning) is where we need to put our energies in Math. We’ve got to stop “covering curriculum” and start teaching our students where they are.

    • October 1, 2013 at 7:21 pm

      Hi Lorriane

      Thanks so much for your considerate response. As I try to outline in the original post the EQAO assessment results are just one source of information and we always make sure we ground our conversations about this data in the context of our school community and our students.

      I agree with your point about the early years and mathematics- my experience and the research support the idea that any meaningful improvement in mathematics learning needs to focus on K-8 instruction- which is why our school-based professional learning will focus on building coherent classroom practice across all grades in our school.

      I will be happy to continue documenting and sharing this learning and hope that we can continue to connect and learn together!

      Brian

  1. October 18, 2013 at 4:54 pm

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