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Education Toronto schools scoring higher in reading and writing, but falter in math

Data from Ontario’s Education Quality and Accountability Office showed that 59 per cent of students of Grade 6 at the Toronto District School Board met provincial standards in math, five percentage points higher than the provincial average.

FERNANDO MORALES/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Students in Toronto fare better than the provincial average in reading and writing but are sharing in a provincewide slump of math scores.

School-by-school results released Wednesday morning by Ontario's Education Quality and Accountability Office revealed that Toronto's public and Catholic boards have seen reading and writing scores climb over the past five years compared with the provincial average, while math scores have stagnated, or declined.

Results for individual schools can be found here.

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Take the quiz: Here are a few of the 2014 math questions given to 6th graders

The data showed that 59 per cent of students of Grade 6 at the Toronto District School Board met provincial standards in math, five percentage points higher than the provincial average. But that was a decline from five years prior, when 63 per cent of students met expectations. Similar results were seen for math at the Toronto Catholic District School Board.

Math has emerged as a challenge for Canadian educators as international standardized test scores have been steadily falling in every province except Quebec. Parents have been appealing to the ministries of education to take a back-to-basics approach to teaching math, emphasizing repetition and drills over problem solving. Alberta has been the only province to bend to pressure from parents for curriculum changes, with the government announcing that it would require students to memorize their multiplication tables and recall other basic math starting this fall.

Angela Gauthier, director of education at the Toronto Catholic board, acknowledged the weaker-than-expected math results, and said that more research needs to be done as to why students are not faring as well.

"Given that the same patterns have been evidenced across the province, we will continue to work closely with the Ministry of Education and other school boards on strategies to improve student success in this area," she said in a release.

The school-by-school results released by the EQAO come a few weeks after the agency released provincial results, which showed math results tumbling and Education Minister Liz Sandals calling it "a problem." The government have blamed teacher training, and has made $2-million available for teachers wanting to take specialty math courses. More than 1,900 elementary teachers took advantage of that initiative and upgraded their math qualifications over the summer.

Student literacy, however, scores have been more promising. Reading and writing skills at the primary level have climbed steadily over the past five years. About 80 per cent of Grade 3 students at the Toronto District School Board have met expectations in writing, an increase of 10 percentage points over five years.

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The EQAO results also provided a first glimpse into how students enrolled in Ontario's full-day kindergarten program fared. The first cohort of kindergarten students, who had one year of the program, were in Grade 3 in the last academic year. Results from schools in the Toronto District School Board and Peel District School Board that had the program showed mixed results. Some schools fared well, others did not. A better picture will emerge in next year's EQAO scores, because a large cohort of students will have entered Grade 3 with two complete years in the full-day kindergarten program.

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