Some schools opted out of national math test

But in Manitoba, it was written by all selected


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WAS the deck stacked against Manitoba kids who did poorly in a national math exam two years ago?

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This article was published 10/05/2012 (3864 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

WAS the deck stacked against Manitoba kids who did poorly in a national math exam two years ago?

Teachers and trustees want to know why Manitoba was the only province in which all randomly selected schools subsequently went on to write the test — and why and how some chosen schools in other provinces didn’t write the test.

“You just never know if there’s a quiet conversation going on” to suggest a school with below-average academic performance opt out, Manitoba Teachers’ Society president Paul Olson said this week.

Hadas Parush / Winnipeg Free Press Manitoba Teachers� Society president Paul Olson

“Schools can choose not to do it — three guesses what that will do for the average,” Olson said.

“There were questions raised in some people’s minds — on what basis were schools exempt?” said Carolyn Duhamel, executive director of the Manitoba School Boards Association.

Duhamel said Education Minister Nancy Allan should be asking questions of her provincial and territorial counterparts.

Allan could not be reached.

Manitoba Grade 8 students finished second-last in the national math test conducted in 2010 by the Council of Ministers of Education in Canada.

CMEC’s report said 32,000 Grade 8 students across Canada wrote the test, one-quarter of them in French. Schools were randomly selected, and classes within some of those schools were randomly selected.

Olson said teachers’ society staff found a chart deep within the back pages of the CMEC report that showed not all schools outside Manitoba that were randomly selected went ahead with the test.

A total of 150 anglophone schools and 15 francophone schools in Manitoba were randomly selected, and they all wrote the math test, regardless whether any of those schools suffered the impacts of poverty, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder or other factors affecting academic performance, Olson said.

Quebec had the best math score in the country, but only 86.7 per cent of the province’s francophone schools and 73.1 per cent of its anglophone schools CMEC randomly selected wrote the test.

Ontario finished second — and six anglophone and eight francophone schools randomly selected did not take the test.

Elsewhere in Canada, two to five schools opted out in each province.

Olson said anyone who understands math knows the differences among scores for most provinces and territories clustered below the top two were meaningless, because they were as tiny as 0.25 per cent and well within the test’s stated margin of error.

“People lose their minds over statistically irrelevant variations,” Olson said.

Olson said the CMEC made no provision to ensure its sample reflected economic, geographic or other diversities — it was strictly random.

The teachers’ society president said there’s a belief that weaker kids are not there on test day when provinces or states conduct system-wide standards tests because they’ll drag down the final score.

Winnipeg School Division board chair Rita Hildahl said earlier this week that some provinces “pulled out schools” from the test.

Hildahl also said the CMEC test used the Ontario and Quebec curriculum, which she said is different from the curriculum used in Western and Northern Canada.

“There may be some differences in curriculum, there may be some differences in the way math is taught,” Duhamel said.

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