Funding woes affect School District 43 data collection

School District 43 continues to post high achievement rates among students but had to use last year
School District 43 continues to post high achievement rates among students but had to use last year's statistics in some measures in its most recent achievement contract.
— image credit: THINKSTOCK

The public school teachers' strike and a funding crunch have hampered School District 43's efforts to identify gaps in learning to help schools set goals for the year.

This week, the board of education approved the district's year-end report detailing progress made in student achievement. The 43-page booklet is available on the SD43 website (in the July agenda package) and shows Tri-City students continue to be among the province's top achievers.

But some of the statistics for measuring literacy and numeracy come from previous years.

They are still valid because trends haven't changed, assistant superintendent Reno Ciolfi told the board, but he acknowledged that the district didn't collect data from teachers, considered a better measure of student achievement than Foundation Skills Assessment, because SD43 couldn't afford the release time to allow teachers to spend time working in teams to develop an assessment tool that could be used for their students.

The classroom assessment based on teacher judgement has been used for about eight years to gauge student achievement, Ciolfi said, and is more thorough then FSAs, which have low participation rates and aren't given to all grades.

This may be an issue of interest mostly to teachers, who don't think very highly of FSAs, and the assessments likely won't be done next year, either, because of the district's ongoing financial issues. However, the issue shows how cost-cutting is affecting all levels of SD43 operation.

Another complication from the teachers' strike was that made it impossible to gather the latest information from kindergarten teachers at the end of the year.

Still, the district's report shows that improving literacy, numeracy, school completion rates and students' socially responsible behaviour are its top goals, with more work needing to be done to improve boys' literacy, numeracy problem-solving among all students, and to boost the achievement of aboriginal students.

The report notes that Tri-City aboriginal students are leading the province when it comes to graduation, with 89.8% finishing high school (Grades 8 to 12) within six years — 30% more than the provincial average.

Board chair Melissa Hyndes said the report, which will be forwarded to the Ministry of Education, is good news for the district. "Our results are increasingly high, if not the best in the province, even with the budget difficulties," she said.


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