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Reflections on Results

“A good decision is based on knowledge and not just on numbers.”  - Plato
 A few weeks ago, the Provincial Achievement Test (PAT) results for the province were publicly released.  They were largely positive for the CBE, but some headlines declared we are failing math.  There was discussion of cut scores and a there was a subtext that public education is in crisis.  At first glance, our Provincial Achievement Test results suggest a crisis, as well.  This entry is meant to provide our stakeholders more information to understand the context of our results.  More importantly, this is a celebration of the work we did last year.
As a school principal, I have several reports available to me with many, many graphs and charts available to analyze and utilize in order to improve student academic success.  I am also mandated to report specific information on our School Results Report (the full copy of it can be found on the Our School link on our website.   
We are required to report our PAT results based on the % of all grade 9 students enrolled, regardless of whether students were excused from writing due to being incapable of response or being absent during tests.  In other words, students who either do not write or cannot write the tests count as a zero in our results.  The PAT data for all gr 9 students without the context is negative:
·         English LA 9 Acceptable rate declined 9% to 77%; Excellence rate declined 9% to 24%
·         Math 9 Acceptable rate declined 16% to 62%; Excellence rate declined 13% to 20%
·         Science 9 Acceptable rate declined 9% to 80%; Excellence rate declined 8% to 33%
·         Social Studies 9 Acceptable rate declined 14% to 67%; Excellence rate declined 3% to 27%
There are several primary factors influencing these results, none of which are reflected in the official data.   Our community has become more diverse in terms of individual needs:
·         25% of our students are identified with a special educational need (academic, cognitive, social and/or emotional) and increasing over time.  Many are successfully supported; many struggle.
·         2018 cohort had several students in grade 10 incapable (due to emotional or cognitive difficulties) of completing tests.  The 2017 cohort had 2.
·         2018 cohort of students had numerous individuals with significant needs that were not formally identified.  Several became non-attenders, despite supports. 
The confluence of these factors meant the percentage of students who did not write the tests increased from an average of 4 students (3% of grade 9s enrolled) per test in 2017 to an average of 12 students (10% of grade 9s enrolled) per test in 2018.  In effect, this means our ratings are immediately 7% lower due to non-writers. 
                We are evaluated based on all students, but our results based on the gr 9 students who actually wrote the tests are much more aligned with expectations:
·         English LA 9 Acceptable rate declined 2% to 88% (2% above provincial average)
·         English LA 9 Excellence rate increased 2% to 28% (11% above provincial average)
·         Math 9 Acceptable rate declined 13% to 70% (3% above provincial average)
·         Math 9 Excellence rate declined 13% to 22% (5% above provincial average)
·         Science 9 Acceptable rate declined 2% to 88% (3% above provincial average)
·         Science 9 Excellence rate declined 8% to 36% (6% above provincial average)
·         Social Studies 9 Acceptable rate declined 10% to 75% (1% above provincial average)
·         Social Studies 9 Excellence rate declined 2% to 30% (6% above provincial average)
With the exception of Math (which needs further context below), our acceptability results show we are statistically maintaining our high standards, despite increased needs.  Teachers in each program area have dissected the itemized results and have identified several areas to target.  These can be seen in the School DevelopmentPlan 2018-19 ​document posted online.  
                Regarding Math 9, further context is required.  In 2018, Alberta Education made changes to the test format and to the cut scoring.  Both were detrimental to standardized results:
1.       The test format change was the introduction of a Part A, which tested mental math skills.  The difficulty with that format is those students had not had mental math skills as a focused skill of their program of studies; therefore, they had limited exposure to mental math skill building.  This is now an intentional part of the program of studies that teachers include in most math tasks.   John Ware students did not perform as well on Part A as they did on Part B (the more familiar multiple choice questions that allowed calculator use).  Compared to provincial results, we did much better on Part A than the provincial average, however.    
·         Part A Mental Math acceptable rate 66% (16% higher than provincial average)
·         Part B Multiple Choice acceptable rate 73% (2 percent higher than provincial average)
2.       The cut score change is a complex practice I will attempt to explain clearly and concisely.  Each year, Alberta Education identifies the acceptable and excellence scores once they see the province-wide results.  They adjust the scores to be standardized from year to year.  Put simply, the average of the averages should be standard over time – this average has fluctuated between 2014 and 2017 from 72% to 75%.  This year, they lowered the cut score to 66%.  In effect, compared to last year’s results, the entire province is 9% lower.  If the cut score had been maintained, our results would have been similar to previous years’ results. 
Regardless of interpretation, we know the challenge ahead of us.  Our teachers are dedicated to implementing higher impact strategies to support our students in all areas of learning.
PAT results are important, but they are one snapshot in time that does not reflect all the work we do on behalf of students.  What is missed in this data is how far individual students grow in their learning each year, how rich the learning experiences of students is, how many memorable field trip experiences they had, and how many school culture activities they enjoyed.
We will use the data to do better on this measure.  We will also continue to develop a rich learning experiences to develop strong character, personal development, and promote positive citizenship.
Thank you for your interest and support,

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John Ware School

10020 19 St SW Calgary, AB, T2V 1R2
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Mr David Ball
Assistant Principal
Mr Mathew Powter
Area Director
Mr Jeff Hutton
Julie Hrdlicka

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