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Pandemic caused reading scores to drop in PSSD last year, report says

'Our staff are working really hard to meet students where they’re at and provide the necessary interventions … to progress them forward (and) work on their strengths and find their missing skills'

Reading level scores decreased from five per cent to 12 per cent in certain grades during the 2020-21 school year in Prairie South School Division, with the pandemic blamed for the decline.

Amanda Olson, superintendent of learning, presented a second student learning accountability report during the October board of education meeting. The report looked at reading, writing and arithmetic scores for English students in grades 1 to 3 and French immersion students in grades 2 and 3, with the data collected twice last year. 

“As we expected, the pandemic has had an effect on the academics side of things,” she said. “Our staff are working really hard to meet students where they’re at and provide the necessary interventions … to progress them forward (and) work on their strengths and find their missing skills.”

All the scores had three levels, or colours: red, yellow and green. Red indicated students needed serious help, yellow indicated students required additional help, and green indicated students were reading at grade level.

There was no data for 2019-20 because the pandemic shut down schools and prevented the collecting of information.

Reading

The data showed 67.9 per cent of Grade 1 students were in the green by last June. In comparison, 73.1 per cent were at grade level two years ago, 79.7 per cent were in the green three years ago, 72.2 per cent were at grade level four years ago and 71.7 per cent were in the green five years ago.

The data showed 69.9 per cent of Grade 2 students were in the green last June. In comparison, 82 per cent were at grade level two years ago, 75.2 per cent were in the green three years ago, 73.5 per cent were at grade level four years ago and 71.3 per cent were in the green five years ago.

By last June, 67.4 per cent of Grade 3 students were reading at grade level. In comparison, 78.4 per cent were in the green two years ago, 75.1 per cent were at grade level three years ago, 74.3 per cent were in the green four years ago and 75.5 per cent were in the green five years ago.

Writing

Teachers assessed the writing skills last year of students in grades 4, 7 and 9. The educators used a provincially created rubric to determine how well the students wrote.

“In writing, we didn’t see as much of a change. In fact, most of our data stayed fairly similar,” said Olson, although some students have not progressed during the pandemic. “And I think that that can attest to the different adaptations we made for students in writing.”

The data showed 62.6 per cent of Grade 4 students were writing at grade level last year, compared to 60.1 per cent in the green three years ago and 58.3 per cent at grade level four years ago.

In Grade 7, 65.9 per cent of students were at grade level by last June, compared to 65.5 per cent in the green three years ago and 66 per cent at grade level four years ago.

The data showed students in Grade 9 were at 67.3 per cent of grade level, compared to 65.1 per cent in the green three years ago and 59.1 per cent at grade level four years ago. 

Arithmetic

Province-wide math assessments occurred for the first time during the 2018-19 school year using a common rubric to test students in grades 2, 5 and 8. 

By last June, 74.3 per cent of Grade 2 students were at grade level. In comparison, 76.6 per cent were in the green three years ago. 

Data showed 66.9 per cent of Grade 5 students were in the green by last June, compared to 63.5 per cent who were at grade level three years ago.

By last June, 76.3 per cent of Grade 8 students were at grade level, compared to 71.1 per cent in the green three years ago.

The next PSSD board meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 2.