Falling PISA Grades Should Worry Provincial Educators: C.D. Howe Institute

TORONTO, June 11, 2014 /CNW/ - Canadian provinces should be concerned about slipping high-school students' scores – in reading, science and mathematics – as assessed by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), according a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute. In "Warning Signs for Canadian Educators: The Bad News in Canada's PISA Results," author John Richards addresses some concerning trends in provincial PISA results, in particular declining PISA math scores over the past decade in most provinces. Quebec is the only province that maintained stable mathematics scores, and in 2012 its students outperformed those in all other provinces.

"Tests in core competencies, such as PISA, are solid predictors of future economic growth – more so than 'input measures' such as years of schooling," claims Richards. "While Canada's overall performance is still well above the OECD average, over the last decade Canada experienced statistically significant declines in two of the three subject areas, science and mathematics."

Richards states that signs for concern appear when one drills down into Canada's PISA scores during the last decade:

  • Every province experienced a statistically significant decline in at least one subject.
  • Two provinces (PEI and Manitoba) experienced statistically significant declines in all three subjects.
  • Three provinces (Newfoundland, Quebec and Alberta) experienced statistically significant declines in two subjects.
  • Five provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan and BC) experienced statistically significant declines in one subject.
  • Three provincial declines were in excess of 30 points (mathematics in Manitoba and Alberta, reading in Manitoba).

Richards emphasizes one piece of encouraging news from the PISA scores. "Rarely mentioned in the 2012 results is the relative ability of Canadian schools to overcome the education disadvantage of students from families with low socio-economic status." He adds that "Canada ranked fifth among OECD countries in terms of minimizing the negative impact of low socio-economic status on mathematics scores."

Part II of Richards' report, to be published subsequently, will analyze six education policies discussed in the PISA background research – three that seem to "work," one that may be working in the case of Quebec, and two that seem "not to work."

The C. D. Howe Institute is an independent not-for-profit research institute whose mission is to raise living standards by fostering economically sound public policies. It is Canada's trusted source of essential policy intelligence, distinguished by research that is nonpartisan, evidence-based and subject to definitive expert review. It is considered by many to be Canada's most influential think tank.

For the report go to: http://www.cdhowe.org/warning-signs-for-canadian-educators-the-bad-news-in-c

SOURCE: C.D. Howe Institute

For further information: For more information contact: John Richards, Professor, School of Public Policy, Simon Fraser University; or Colin Busby, Senior Policy Analyst, C.D. Howe Institute 416-865-1904; E-Mail: amcbrien@cdhowe.org


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