Ontario Grade 4 Students' Reading Abilities Among the Best in the World: Elementary-school students shine among Canadian provinces and internationally

    TORONTO, Nov. 28 /CNW/ - Ontario's Grade 4 students have distinguished
themselves on the global stage by being among the highest-achieving
participants on an international assessment of reading skills.
    Today the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) released
Ontario highlights from the 2006 Progress in International Reading Literacy
Study (PIRLS), which show that Ontario students performed among the best in
the world in overall reading achievement. The International Association for
the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), who conducted the study,
released a full international report today, while EQAO, who coordinated the
province's participation on behalf of the Government of Ontario, released
details of the province's results.
    Out of the 45 countries and provinces participating in the international
study - Canada was represented by five provinces, each reported on as distinct
jurisdictions: Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec and Nova Scotia -
only the Russian Federation and Hong Kong performed at a higher level than
Ontario in overall reading achievement. Eight jurisdictions were in the same
performance range as Ontario, and 35 had results that were significantly lower
than those of the province. Of Ontario's students, 16% reached the top
achievement benchmark in the study, compared to the 7% or fewer who reached
this level in the majority of participating countries.
    "The excellent results obtained by Ontario students in international
tests such as PIRLS are another strong indicator of the outstanding education
students in our province are receiving," said the Chair of EQAO's Board of
Directors, Charles Pascal. "This is a tribute to The Ontario Curriculum's high
standards, the remarkable work of our teachers and education community, and
the attention parents and children are paying to a quality education. It's
further confirmation that Ontario students are acquiring the tools needed to
participate in a global community and economy."
    PIRLS looks at other aspects of students' reading literacy in addition to
overall reading achievement, including processes of comprehension and purposes
for reading - specifically reading for informational purposes and reading for
literary purposes. The 2006 results show that Ontario students have made
significant improvements in reading for informational purposes since the last
administration of the study, in 2001. Reading for informational purposes has
been an increasingly important focus in the Ontario school system for the past
few years, and the PIRLS improvement supports the upward trend that has been
witnessed in recent province-wide tests administered by EQAO.
    "Ontario's participation in periodic national and international
assessments such as PIRLS is a valuable indication of how our students'
achievement measures up on the world stage," said EQAO Chief Executive
Officer, Marguerite Jackson. "The findings from this study are in line with
the results of EQAO's annual provincial assessments, which are taken by all
students in key grades. It is further evidence of the genuine improvements
Ontario students have made in their learning."
    PIRLS 2006 also collected information on reading behaviours and
attitudes. Students, parents, teachers and school principals were asked to
complete questionnaires on reading habits. Their answers helped PIRLS describe
how reading is taught and learned at home and in school. PIRLS developed an
Early Home Literacy Activities (EHLA) index based on the responses to
statements about the following activities among students: "read books," "tell
stories," "sing songs," "play with alphabet toys," "play word games" and "read
aloud signs and labels" prior to students' entry into primary school; 71% of
Ontario students were in the high-EHLA category. The average achievement of
these students was significantly higher than that of students who were in the
medium- or low-EHLA categories.
    Highlights of the provincial results, a complete PIRLS 2006 Ontario
Report, including a breakdown between English- and French-language schools,
and the IEA's full PIRLS 2006 International Report are available at

    Aussi disponible en français


    Ontario Results - Overall Reading Achievement

    Statistically Higher Than Ontario

    -   Russian Federation, Hong Kong

    Statistically the Same as Ontario

    -   Ontario
    -   Alberta, Bulgaria, British Columbia, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg,
        Singapore, Sweden

    Statistically Lower Than Ontario

    -   Austria, Belgium (Flemish), Belgium (French), Chinese Taipei,
        Denmark, England, France, Georgia, Germany, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran,
        Israel, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Morocco,
        Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Nova Scotia, Poland, Qatar, Quebec,
        Romania, Scotland, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain,
        Trinidad and Tobago, United States

    The average scores of Ontario's English-language students were
statistically the same as those for the province as a whole. The average
scores of Ontario's French-language students were statistically lower than
those for the province as a whole but showed significant improvement since
2001 - greater improvement than that among English-language students.
    In PIRLS, the achievement scores are based on samples of students;
therefore, they are only estimates of the actual achievement an entire
population of students would have demonstrated had they all taken the
assessment. Because an estimate is rarely exact, it is common practice to
provide a range of scores within which the actual achievement results might
fall. This range of scores is called a confidence interval and represents the
high- and low-end points between which the actual achievement results should
fall 95% of the time.
    The above chart factors in the confidence interval, and therefore
differences between jurisdictions are probably "real" and not due to chance.
    Ontario's high standing is particularly notable given that 38% of
participating students sometimes speak a language other than the language of
the test at home. This is the largest such percentage in Canada and well above
the international average of 29%.

    About PIRLS

    -   PIRLS is a world-wide assessment undertaken every five years and
        sponsored by the International Association for the Evaluation of
        Educational Achievement. The first PIRLS administration was in 2001.
    -   The purpose of the study is to assess the reading skills of Grade 4
        students from around the world, determine the contexts that influence
        reading development, understand how young children learn to read, and
        assess and understand the differences among education systems in
        order to improve reading teaching and learning methods throughout the
    -   In 2006, 45 countries and provinces participated in PIRLS. In Canada,
        the provinces of Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec and Nova
        Scotia participated as five distinct jurisdictions.
    -   For each participating Canadian province, Statistics Canada randomly
        selected Grade 4 classes in both English- and French-language schools
        to take part in the study.
    -   In Ontario, 107 English-language schools from 42 boards and 73
        French-language schools from 11 boards participated, for a combined
        total of 3988 Ontario students.
    -   Achievement results for students in each jurisdiction are presented
        in two ways:
           -  the percentage of students meeting international achievement
           -  the average scale score of students in the jurisdiction
    -   PIRLS 2006 also focuses on reading behaviours and attitudes. Students
        were asked to complete a questionnaire on their reading habits.
        Parents, teachers and school principals were also asked to complete
        questionnaires. The responses to these questionnaires helped describe
        how reading is taught and learned.

    PIRLS and Ontario's Province-Wide EQAO Assessments

    PIRLS                                 Primary and Junior Division EQAO

    Grade 4 students                      Grade 3 students and Grade 6

    Sample of students randomly           All Grade 3 and Grade 6 students in
    selected by Statistics Canada         publicly funded Ontario schools

    Participating students                All students are scored on the same
    completed one of twelve possible      test questions
    test booklets

    Assesses only reading                 Assesses reading, writing and

    Assesses reading for informational    Assesses reading for informational
    and literary purposes                 and literary purposes

    Test questions assess ability to      Based on The Ontario Curriculum,
    -  focus on and retrieve              test questions assess three reading
       explicitly stated information      skills:
       and ideas;                         -  understanding explicitly stated
    -  make straightforward inferences;      information and ideas;
    -  interpret and integrate ideas      -  understanding implicitly stated
       and information and                   information and ideas (making
    -  examine and evaluate content,         inferences) and
       language and textual elements.     -  making connections between
                                             information and ideas obtained
                                             through reading and personal
                                             knowledge and experience.

    Has four international benchmarks     Has four achievement levels with
    with similar but not identical        similar but not identical criteria
    criteria to EQAO assessments          to PIRLS assessments

    About EQAO

    The Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) acts as a catalyst
for increasing the success of Ontario students by measuring their achievement
in reading, writing and mathematics against a common curriculum benchmark. As
an independent provincial agency, EQAO plays a pivotal role by conducting
province-wide tests at key points in every student's primary, junior and
secondary education and reporting the results. The objective and reliable
facts obtained add to the current knowledge about student learning and are an
important tool for improvement at the individual, school and provincial

For further information:

For further information: and to arrange interviews, please contact Phil
Serruya, Manager of Communications and Public Affairs, (416) 325-2230,

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