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Achievement test scores dismal
Students across the territory falling far behind in math and English

Kirsten Fenn
Northern News Services
Updated: Monday, March 20, 2017

Students in communities across the territory are falling desperately behind in math and English, according to the latest Alberta Achievement Test (AAT) scores from the NWT.

NNSL photo/graphic

Rita Mueller: ECE assistant deputy minister hopes for renewal - NNSL file photo

Just 10.6 per cent of Grade 6 students in the communities met an acceptable math standard during the 2015-16 academic year, according to AAT results calculated as a percentage of total enrolment.

In Grade 9, there's less than a one per cent improvement. A mere 11.2 per cent of those students met the benchmark for math.

"Are these the kinds of levels we would like to see? No," said Rita Mueller, assistant deputy minister in the Department of Education, Culture and Employment.

Grade 6 and 9 students across the NWT write the standardized Alberta Achievement Test at the end of each academic year.

It's one way the education department gets a snapshot of student success in the two subjects on an annual basis.

Achievement scores are significantly higher in regional centres (Fort Smith, Hay River and Inuvik) and Yellowknife.

Nearly 53 per cent of Grade 6 students and about 40 per cent of Grade 9 students in regional centres met the mark for math.

Those numbers jump to 54.3 per cent and 51.8 per cent respectively in Yellowknife, although the scores still pale in comparison to Alberta's.

About 72 per cent of Grade 6 Alberta students met an acceptable standard in math last year, when calculated as a percentage of total enrolment.

For Grade 9 Alberta students, that rate is 67.8 per cent.

The outlook for NWT students was slightly better in English.

About 16 per cent of Grade 6 students in smaller NWT communities scored an acceptable grade on the English test, according to the results calculated as a percentage of total enrolment.

That's compared to 62.2 per cent for Grade 6 students in regional centres and 70.3 per cent in Yellowknife.

In Grade 9, 15.2 per cent of students in the communities scored at the acceptable level for English, while 54.9 per cent of Grade 9 students in regional centres and 64.1 per cent of Grade 9s in Yellowknife did so.

Again, Alberta students outshone NWT students in the English category, with about 83 per cent of Grade 6 students and 77 per cent of Grade 9 students meeting the standard when numbers are calculated as a percentage of total enrolment.

On average, school attendance was lower in small communities last year than in regional centres and Yellowknife.

Low achievement rates have encouraged the education department to undergo an education renewal.

It involves the introduction of junior kindergarten across the territory next year, a 10-year framework to improve early childhood development and pilot programs to better engage students, Mueller said.

"We don't want to continue seeing results like this, not only in our AATs ... but we want to see, overall, all of our students being able to achieve higher results," she said.

But change can take time.

"We might not see the positive differences immediately," said Mueller. "But we're hoping ... we should have major, different results in the next 10 years in the territory."

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