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Students of Beaufort Delta blow past expectations in Canadian Achievement tests

Record number of students meet or exceed national average in academic studies
Students in the Beaufort Delta are blowing past expectations, with a record number of grade eight students scoring above the national average on Canadian Achievement tests. Progress in academics is being seen across the district, which Beaufort Delta District Education Council is attributing to a district-wide effort to improve literacy and numeracy. Eric Bowling/NNSL photo

Beaufort Delta students in Grades 4 to 9 had significantly higher scores on the annual Canadian Achievement Tests (CAT 4s) this year.

Since 2013 students across the Beaufort Delta have participated in the independently graded tests, but Beaufort Delta District Education Council superintendent Devin Roberts said this year the students made a breakthrough, smashing several records in their wake.

“For the last three years in particular, we created a BDDEC strategic plan,” he said. “We wanted to focus on the growth of the students. So we’re looking at individual kids and how they’re progressing on their reading, writing or mathematics.

“Our kids should be performing at a national standard. This is a way to measure it. The kids write the CAT tests here in the Beaufort Delta, but we send the tests out to the testing centre to be marked. So it’s a third-party showing us how our kids are doing in relation to the rest of the country.”

Leading the pack were the Grade 8 students, who scored 87 per cent in reading, 84 per cent in vocabulary, 82 per cent in spelling and 81 per cent in mathematics — matching or exceeding the national average. In grade nine, 77 per cent of the students across the Beaufort Delta scored at least the national average in spelling and in Grade five, 78 per cent met or overcame the average in spelling, and 82 per cent in reading.

Aside from a great way to cap off an otherwise trying year of Covid-19 precautions, Roberts added the strong academic showing bodes well for the students going forward, as they establish a strong foundation for the next level of education.

Students not just blew past expectations on the CAT 4s, they also are approaching national averages in Stanine 4 ratings. Stanine is a score from 1 to 9, with 4 being the average. In grade four, 66 per cent of students are approaching the national average in vocabulary, 69 per cent in spelling and 72 per cent in mathematics. Fifth graders are now 76 per cent approaching the national average in their writing conventions, 70 per cent approaching the norm in vocabulary and 70 per cent in mathematics. In grade six, 67 per cent are approaching the national average in reading, 69 per cent in spelling and 59 per cent in math.

Grade 7 students in the Delta are now 70 per cent approaching the national average in computation, estimation and spelling. They are now 68 per cent in math. Eighth graders scored 68 per cent in writing conventions and 70 per cent in computation and estimation against the average and grade nine students scored 65 per cent in reading, 62 per cent in computation and estimation and 63 per cent in mathematics.

Roberts said BDDEC was still crunching a lot of the numbers, but so far the improvement amounts to a 40 to 50 per cent jump in students reaching the national average for numeracy and literacy.

Children are scored on the material they learned the previous year, so these numbers demonstrate what they were able to retain over the summer break. Teachers too have been working on their knowledge base to help better educate their students.

“If I do all the talking, I do most of the learning,” said Roberts. “We do a lot of work around memory retention with our staff. It’s a gradual release of responsibility. The idea is your shifting the focus from the teacher giving the instruction, but then supporting the instruction where the kids are active in their learning.

“We want to build kids up to independence,” he said. “It’s also important to ask the right types of questions, so instead of just giving a kid an answer we worked with staff with how you prompt a student to think independently.”

Roberts attributed the improvements to a district wide effort, which included school improvement plans, classroom teachers shifting their practice to better reflect research-based best practices and focusing on data driven instruction. A long term literacy plan was implemented, allowing students to access coaching to improve their literacy and numeracy. Additional support from Jordan’s Principle to bring in instructional coaches helped improve outcomes for Indigenous students and particularly efforts to Indigenize education and orient lesson topics towards subjects culturally relevant to students helped students blow past expectations.

“We’re seeing success across the district, not just one or two schools. No one person or one initiative has supported our students’ success in isolation,” said Roberts. “This is truly a system wide success and shall be celebrated as such.

“We know we have lots of work to do in education, but we’re really excited about where things are heading right now.”

Next, said Roberts, is building on the students success. He said he was in talks with the various District Education Councils, as well as the Gwich’in Tribal Council and Inuvialuit Regional Corporation to establish a five-year plan to keep the momentum going. Historically, BDDEC established its targets year-to-year, but Roberts said having a plan in place for students coming in at first grade to carry them through their education was the key to sustained success.

He said this year could represent a “spike” in scores, so the focus would be on how to sustain the momentum next year.

Regardless, having taken their game to the next level, he said the students weren’t looking back.

“Usually in data, when you see an initial spike, you may never get that initial spike again,” said Roberts. “But the important thing is now that we’ve spiked, we’ve set a standard we want to maintain.

“From here on in, in this district, we will always be measuring ourselves against the national average. We’re not longer trying to chase it.”

About the Author: Eric Bowling

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