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Provincial tests results for Ponoka schools need explanation

No matter how one can spin it, students in Ponoka are significantly under-performing when it comes to provincial testing.

No matter how one can spin it, students in Ponoka are significantly under-performing when it comes to provincial testing.

Last month, Alberta Education released the results from the 2014-15 Provincial Achievement Tests (PATs) completed in specific subjects by students in Grades 6 and 9, both of which showed a disturbing pattern of marks that were lower than the provincial average - in some cases dramatically lower.

To make the optics look even worse, when the Ponoka schools results were compared to the average marks from Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) as a whole, Ponoka still failed to meet those figure and again in some subjects the gap was substantial.

For Grade 9 students provincially, the results in English Language Arts showed 85.5 per cent of students who wrote the PAT reached the acceptable standard. The WCPS average was very close at 84.3 per cent, but the result at Ponoka Secondary Campus (PSC) was 67.2 per cent - which translates into 45 of the 71 students that wrote the exam. Four PSC students achieved the excellence standard.

The differences are just as stark in Math with 57.4 per cent of PSC students (31) who wrote the PAT achieving the acceptable standard, as compared to 64.6 per cent of WCPS students and 73.1 per cent provincially. Again, just four (7.4 per cent) PSC students out of 58 reached the excellence standard.

In Science, 78.9 per cent of Wolf Creek students who wrote the test made the acceptable standard compared to 82.4 per cent of students across Alberta. Yet, just 52.9 per cent of PSC students could make that standard, while four (5.7 per cent) of the 74 PSC students that took the PAT made the excellence standard.

Lastly, in Social Studies, 52.9 per cent (36) of the 78 PSC students that wrote the PAT made the acceptable standard as compared to 64 per cent of WCPS students and 73.5 per cent around the province. There were 10 (14.7 per cent) PSC students that made the excellence standard.

Meanwhile, the Grade 6 PAT results at Ponoka Elementary School (PES) also tended to trend lower than both the provincial and division-wide percentages while the marks look a bit better.

In English Language Arts, the provincial average - of those that wrote the PAT - for achieving the acceptable standard was 91.4 per cent while the WCPS result was 89.2 and the average at PES was 77.5, which translates to 55 out of 77 students - six of whom made the excellence standard.

For Math, the acceptable standard was reached by 62 per cent (44) of PES students with the WCPS average of 81.1 exceeding the provincial average of 80.7 per cent. The results in Science were 84.6 per cent of Alberta students meeting the acceptable standard with 81.5 per cent of WCPS students and 73.2 per cent (52 students) at PES reaching that mark, while the Social Studies results showing PES at 60.6 per cent (43 students) making the acceptable standard with the WCPS and provincial results at 70.6 and 77.7 per cent respectively.

Since the results were released on Oct. 8, the Ponoka News has attempted on numerous occasions to solicit comment and reaction from WCPS Superintendent Larry Jacobs or a representative. Initially, Jacobs indicated time was needed for the division and his office to go over the results before commenting. However since that time, messages and emails to Jacobs for follow up have not been answered.