P.E.I. students score last in international assessment testing

Teresa Wright
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Opposition tourism critic James Aylward has the public accounts committee to call both the current and former deputy ministers of tourism, David MacKenzie and Melissa MacEachern, to testify on the auditor’s findings.

Canadian results published of Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)

Prince Edward Island students scored last in the country and the province was repeatedly highlighted in the recent PISA results for coming in below the OECD average in all three areas of testing.

“Prince Edward Island was the only province whose score was below the OECD average,” according to the Canadian results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report – an international standardized test of 15-year-olds that takes place every three years.

In all three testing areas of math, reading and science, P.E.I. students came in last in the country and below the average for OECD countries.

Opposition education critic James Aylward said the results are highly concerning and should raise serious alarms with government that more needs to be done for the children of P.E.I.

“We know we have bright kids here on P.E.I., I don’t think they’re being challenged, we don’t have a curriculum that is setting them up to really move forward,” Aylward said.

He pointed to recent cuts to teaching positions and a shortage of school psychologists as additional reasons he believes students are struggling.

Premier Robert Ghiz said he realizes P.E.I.’s results are poor, but listed a number of investments his government has made in early childhood development programs, in bringing kindergarten into the school system and in literacy and numeracy coaches in elementary schools.

He said these investments will help improve future assessment results.

“The investments we’re making I believe will pay benefits in the future,” he said.

“Unfortunately we will not see the fruition for another 10 years most likely."

When asked what would be done in the interim to help the 15-year-olds tested last year for by PISA, Ghiz said he believes targeting the problem areas identified by the PISA results and more professional development (PD) days for teachers is the way to go.

“In all the research we’ve done, the more opportunity you give to the teachers to train and to learn, the better the results are going to be,” Ghiz said.

“I don’t want to discourage parents or students out there, we’re not that far off. But there are investments we can make to improve things in the future.”

Aylward said he hopes this means Island children will not be left with even less classroom time.

He believes government should look at what the provinces that scored well have done to achieve their results and try to emulate this in P.E.I.’s school system.

NDP PEI Leader Mike said he is alarmed by P.E.I.'s scores.

"These poor results prove we need to increase our investment and focus our resources on the kids in the classrooms", Redmond said in a news release issued Tuesday.

"This bad situation is only going to get worse with the cuts to teacher positions that the government is currently implementing.”

The PISA results show P.E.I. students have been steadily declining in math scores for the last six years.

Fewer than one in 10 P.E.I. students were high performing in math and had the highest proportion of low-achievers in this subject in the country.

For both reading and science, Island students again were the only ones in Canada to score below the OECD average.

The report highlighted that P.E.I.’s reading performance decreased since the year 2000 from a score of 517 in that year to 490 in 2012.

The PISA scores are based on testing of 1,288 15-year-olds in P.E.I. last year.



Organizations: PISA, OECD

Geographic location: 10 P.E.I., Prince Edward Island, Canada

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Recent comments

  • don
    December 08, 2013 - 07:35

    well really we all failed the kids. the government for taking money from our schools. the school boards, the teachers not giving home work,not wanting to help during dinner or after school, and last the parents not having time to help due to working to keep the family together or drunk,high or trying to keep up to the jones. either way we have failed.

  • John W.A. Curtis
    December 07, 2013 - 17:39

    Students are allowed to graduate with a General Education and not have to study, this is the reason for low tests score

  • T'ree + t'ree + t'ree = Forest
    December 07, 2013 - 15:20

    Don't let it get to ya. Islanders are a different breed. Embrace the differences and thrive regardless of what the tests say. More art, more writing and more music. Laugh out loud and celebrate!

  • Garth Staples
    December 06, 2013 - 12:40

    In 2006 appearing before the commission I stated schooling on PEI was cheating our students. Now 7 yrs later I can honestly our system is in a crisis mode. The facts are facing us yet the Minister, the Dept, the Union refuse to admit failure and enter into serious change. Failure of course was withdrawn from the PEI system many years ago when the more liberal social progression idea took hold. Don't look for officialdom for change. Parents and others must put on their best and hardest boots. Former Special Education teacher.

  • Matt Cameron
    December 05, 2013 - 14:38

    It's very funny (in a sad way) to read half completed, barely thought out and 90% off topic responses to this article. Poor products of years of terrible PEI education trying to put forward solutions to the present crisis. Hilarious! The worst contributors are those who think money is the problem. The US spends more money per student than any other country on Earth but are 34th overall. The answer is within our own country. Most of the people who posted responses probably didn't even bother going to the OECD site and spending an hour or 2 reading the full results. Then, maybe, you could put forward a well thought out reply.

  • Fed up
    December 04, 2013 - 22:25

    This is unbelievable....sitting on their.....cutting people's pensions....and GIVING THEMSELVES A RAISE! What next?

  • Is the problem is where the sun don't shine?
    December 04, 2013 - 15:53

    With the exception of a few posts here, it's pretty easy to formulate an hypothesis as to why our children are scoring poorly in standardized tests. We're hand picking our School Board of Trustee members and leaning on a fairly elite Provincial Home and School Association. The low scores don't result from that demographic. Perhaps it's time to listen more carefully to the needs of a wider range of parents and care providers of the children who are actually included in the testing protocols. Maybe food and shelter are a tad more relevant than the "prescribed curriculum"?

  • Questions
    December 04, 2013 - 14:54

    Why would students be motivated if they cannot fail? Why are children pushed from grade to grade even if they do not meet grade requirements? Getting exempted because they showed up for most of the classes is a joke. The majority of all children should be able to read, write, and do simple arithmetic in grade 2. It astounds me that students are graduating GRADE 12 and read at a grade 8 or less level. Maybe a core curriculum that starts in grade one (right across the Island) and then built upon year by year. Each year the new teacher knows what the child has learned and what he/she is expected to learn before the end of the year.

    • Because
      December 05, 2013 - 21:43

      Failing a student would harm their self esteem, and would be bullying.

  • parent
    December 04, 2013 - 14:48

    Would love to see school by school breakdown. Additionally, do you include results for private schools on the Island? It would be interesting to compare results. Also, if you are going to increase PD days, who evaluates the topics as to whether they are relevant and applicable?

  • Snowy
    December 04, 2013 - 14:18

    Very disappointing, especially considering all the so-called preceding remedies to correct the situation and to improve student learning. How can we know the new remedies will work? It sounds like such lame excuses to say that we will see improvement in the upcoming years. Quite pathetic!! You never know, history has a funny way to repeat itself. I wonder what we will say in 3 more years. Young leathers likely have similar inborn intelligence and talents, whether it is a large gene pool in Montreal or a small gene pool in small towns, certainly hope so.

  • Dumb Dumb
    December 04, 2013 - 13:56

    I think some ownership should be placed on the parents here too. Mediocrity and "good enough" is what this province is all about.

  • Dumb Dumb
    December 04, 2013 - 13:49

    I think some ownership should be placed on the parents here too. Mediocrity and "good enough" is what this province is all about.

  • Storm Day
    December 04, 2013 - 12:31

    Curriculum.They threw the baby out with the bath water.Heaven for bid students all have the same workbook for reading and writing comprehension, or do drills for math.Teachers work with what they are given and told to use.Students' needs are higher than ever before behaviour wise, and otherwise.You have kids in your class that are regular,placed,modified,on IEPS, and now learning plans.Teachers are trying to keep up with paper work for the powers that be...and that is just for starters.

  • Francois Labelle
    December 04, 2013 - 11:58

    Rather curious why the Guardian did not point out Quebec`s outstanding success story, outscoring Canada Provinces by a great margin and ranking 7th on the world (when Provincial scores are put in the world ranking), just below Japan and above Switzerland. This is a Canadian success story, why not mentioning it!?? PEI could emulate whatever is there to emulate, certainly just a matter of tweaking this or that, the education system is very similar, they are obviously doing something right.

  • Matt Cameron
    December 04, 2013 - 11:25

    There's no reason to reinvent the wheel. Simply copy what Alberta and Quebec are doing.

  • Dave
    December 04, 2013 - 10:43

    First, you have the lowest paid teachers in the country. Second, all jobs are handed out due to patronage, not ability. Because of the preceding, your best teachers leave while your weaker ones are hired to patronage positions. Not rocket science to figure this one out.

    • Simone
      December 04, 2013 - 13:18

      Dave, at one time patronage positions were common. Not the case anymore. When did this change occur, you ask. When the boards merged into one English School Board , the powers that be made principals accountable for who was hired. The most qualified now, gets the job. As it should be!

  • Frustrated Parent
    December 04, 2013 - 09:45

    When I heard the report that we tested last, I wasn't surprised at all. We have children in three elementry grades. First of all our child in grade three can't do math. The "new way" of teaching with a thought process. What's wrong with a piece of scrap paper and pencil to figure it out. How can they use a thought process without knowing where it comes from by trial and error on paper. When a retired teacher of 40 years can't figure out how a high school student came up with an answer there's something wrong. The new way of teaching obviously sucks! Last place...go back to how it used to be...teach by logical means and then their thought process will look after itself as they mature. And send homework home!!!! Don't say..it's online!...not everybody has access to high speed or a computer. And once again...paper an pencil always worked before. It's not the teachers...it's the curriculum they are given...and it's obviously flawed.

    • Dear Frustrated Parent
      December 04, 2013 - 15:40

      Let's just remember that the "old way" of teaching without a thought process was to beat and then expel students who wouldn't or couldn't learn. Once out of the system (45% by grade 9) the testing results were pretty darn good.

    • Because
      December 05, 2013 - 21:45

      Letting them graduate with the fallacy that they have anything close to an education is a good thing?

  • Interesting....
    December 04, 2013 - 09:30

    I find it interesting that the people doing the most criticism here have a significant number of spelling and grammar mistakes in their posts....which also lack anything more than opinion. If you're going to make suggestions or criticize decisions made, cite your source.

  • Ron
    December 04, 2013 - 09:20

    You folks have kept putting the Ghiz Gang in, so know one is to blame but you.

  • peier
    December 04, 2013 - 09:09

    Maybe its time kids spent the whole week in school.......with allthe time off they get, ie conventions, PD days, etc We will have very qualified teachers, but kids are suffering....worked all my life in private industry and my PD time was just that....mine! It was my responsibility to look after my own development.....and I didn't have the summer off, a week in the spring, two weeks at Christmas, etc etc.

  • Sharon Neil
    December 04, 2013 - 09:08

    We owe our children a better education than they are getting. And we are going to need a well-educated population in the future. We must do whatever needs to be done, sooner rather than later.

  • GetReal
    December 04, 2013 - 09:07

    Stop coddling kids. Start pushing low academic achievers towards the trades. Stop making all kids feel like university is the logical path of their education. Stop giving kids exam exemptions for mediocre marks (I've heard 75% is the exemption score at some schools? Really?!?!? I'd consider that middle of the pack at best. Shoot for at least 90% or do away with it altogether). Start holding kids back for poor marks, don't push them ahead because it is good for them "socially". Also, teachers don't need any more PD days, the problem is that a lot of them don't take them seriously or that the workshops offered are not of any interest/relevance to the participants. most importantly, take the psychologists/sociologists/other wacky arts grads out of the feedback loop. More harm is being done by following their methods (which are mostly theoretical). Treat the kids like they are adults living a real life, they are no more (and often less) emotionally fragile than us and are at the prime age to be molded into productive members of society. Time to get real.

    • islander
      December 04, 2013 - 14:12

      Very well said Get Real...my point exactly...JUSTIN?

    • Really
      December 04, 2013 - 15:41

      What do you do for a living? Obviously people in "trades" can be illiterate and innumerate, as they have no need to actually know anything,. All students need a decent education, and not just the ones allowed out of the worker caste. But then again, I'm just a rural who is the reason PEI scored low. We aint smart enough to read Seutonius or Dante or doing any math above basic times tables.

  • Sharon Neil
    December 04, 2013 - 09:06

    We owe our children a better education than they are getting. And we are going to need a well-educated population in the future. We must do whatever needs to be done, sooner rather than later.

  • WIndows 8
    December 04, 2013 - 08:44

    The only possible solution is Windows 8. Anything out is spitting on the future of our kids.

    • Ha, right!
      December 04, 2013 - 12:59

      Best joke of all the posts!

    • Windows 8
      December 04, 2013 - 15:44

      I wish it was a joke. According to the PC party, perfectly reasonable that not running Windows 8 is causing our educational problems.

    • What level
      December 04, 2013 - 15:58

      What are we talking about? Is this basic Algebra and Trig, or is it Integral Calculus and Linear Algebra?

    • Charlottetownian
      December 04, 2013 - 16:15

      Will hiring teachers who are actually trained in math and science cost me more money? Taxes are already high. Will a math teacher with a math degree expect to get paid more?

    December 04, 2013 - 08:34

    In the bygone days of actually teaching, Teachers had to improve themselves during classes taken in the summer months, and students and parents had to take some responsibility for the kids education. Homework, projects, etc. Now all the parents do is blame everyone else for their kids graduating grade twelve and not being able to read or write. As one parent stated to me and I quote " my kids use spell check and have calculators so why waste their time" I have seen 3rd year university students that could not add 60 plus 90. It is only going to get worse and the next generation appears to be heading toward mindless zombies and could care less.

    • Bye, bye bygone daze . ..
      December 04, 2013 - 17:32

      In the bygone days, not that long ago, less than 60% of the students starting grade one reached grade twelve. If we still had the good ol' days and tested our grade ten kids we'd be in the top 10% of international testing.

  • Elaine
    December 04, 2013 - 08:15

    Perhaps we need to look at the emphasis at home on a child's education. Before blaming the teachers, the curriculum and/or the school resources, we need to examine the priority that education is placed in our PEI society, Do we walk the walk or are we simply providing lip service to this situation? Put the responsibility where it should be - the student and the family.

  • Marie
    December 04, 2013 - 07:32

    And how long has this poor quality of education been offered by the ministry and government? Must be a long time, since our university students are being insulted when they move away to work!!! Another job well done Mr. Ghiz. You are a greedy failure!!! P.S. If the teachers need even MORE days off for retraining...are they underqualified to teach the children???

  • Enough with the PD Days!
    December 04, 2013 - 07:26

    How is keeping the kids home more supposed to improve their education?!?!

  • Whys is accountability a bad word?
    December 04, 2013 - 07:10

    Too often, politics impedes rather than enables pedagogy. An example is the absence of important questions, questions neither Minister McIsaac nor education critic James Aylward have the courage to ask: 1) Of teachers presently teaching math/science, how many have degrees or even a successful major in those disciplines? This data should be easy to gather. And, it's important to gather, especially about teachers at the early levels where basic math/science attitudes and skills are nurtured. 2) With respect to mathematics/science, what academic qualifications must our math teachers have to teach the subject matter; is there a standard? 3) When did our math/science teachers receive their formal academic math training? 4) And, here's the most important question: How is the math/science proficiency of our teachers measured and reported? After all, if testing is a fair and useful way to find out what people know, why can't teachers also be tested to find out what they know? Islanders can guarantee that these questions, which demand quantitative responses, cannot and will not be answered. What Minister McIsaac will say is something like, "Our teachers are being constantly trained and upgraded . . ." which is a totally useless response because there's no way to know how much of that "workshop" training actually sticks (see question #4). The bottom line is that, factually, the math knowledge and math delivery skills of our teachers remains unknown. It's not counting that's the problem, it's accountability. Until someone has the authority and courage to identify and address that challenge, can there really be any hope for our students?

    • That simple?
      December 04, 2013 - 15:09

      Sorta like saying, hey how come my pipes still leak? Couldn't be because the plumber doesn't have the training or the skills? Except we know what a plumber needs to be a plumber.

    • Precedent Already Exists?
      December 05, 2013 - 18:55

      We already have standards and proficiency testing and standards for French Immersion teachers. So, why not mathematics and science teachers?

  • islander
    December 04, 2013 - 07:04

    This is not the fault of the Liberal or PC Gov't- what's Alyward anyway? I've seen him in the house- useless....the education system over the last 20 yrs are just keep pushing these kids along to the next grade. The kids know this and they don't care- there is no reward- they don't care cause their gonna pass anyway- when i was in school- kids failed a grade and they knew it- so they worked....our kids are treated like babies nowadays. They have no responsibility, they are given way to much...and YES, i am a parent of 2 children (15 and 9) ...my children are taught to respect the grown ups and aren't given the latest iPods etc...we're creating greedy little brats that are lazy....

    • Justin
      December 04, 2013 - 09:38

      Of course your children are the exception. They are model children , are not brats and do everything right. They will both probably be in the "Pen" before they are 20 years old.

    • Because
      December 05, 2013 - 21:52

      But if they aren't using Windows 8, you are robbing them of any future.

  • Where Knumber Won
    December 04, 2013 - 07:04

    This certainly doesn't bode well in trying to attract medical professionals to our province knowing that the educational levels for their children are the lowest in the country.

  • retired teacher
    December 04, 2013 - 06:51

    The last 8 years of Liberal "leadership" have been disastrous for education on PEI. We have dumb and dumber and dumber running our government programs.

  • Yep...
    December 04, 2013 - 06:42

    Yep, keep cutting teachers and EAs. Keep cutting money for programs, and stop all PD. Great ways to increase student achievement. The Ghiz government cares nothing about education and have proven that over and over. Eighteen kindergarten students in one class, 25 grade 1 students per class, most professional development stopped. Not hard to do the math: Zero support/funding = zero achievement.

  • Randi
    December 04, 2013 - 06:38

    When acronyms are first presented in a piece of writing they should be written out in full followed by the acronym in brackets - what is PISA and OECD? As far as I can tell these acronyms stand for Program for International Student Assessment and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Having to look this up is annoying and time consuming.

    • GetReal
      December 04, 2013 - 09:15

      That's exactly the lazy attitude that our kids are getting that is leading to the issues. I remember everytime I got into a debate over what was what with my father I either grabbed the dictionary or the encyclopaedia to prove him (or in some cases, I) wrong. That is an interest in learning and that is what kids need and the whole world is now open to them at the click of a few buttons instead of heaving a 20lb book off the shelf. It's good to self-teach rather than be spoon-fed.

  • Education
    December 04, 2013 - 05:39

    More school PD days !! Looks like we are not getting enough. Possibly every Monday and Friday Give the kids more time to roam the malls. Anyone knows the secret to smarter kids is get them out of the schools.

  • don
    December 04, 2013 - 04:24

    Ghiz you are joking ? and you are suppose to be smart lol. how in the hell bringing in early childhood development programs, in bringing kindergarten into the school system and in literacy and numeracy coaches in elementary schools. how will that help our kids in higher grades? how dumb of an idea is that? and what drunk came up with that idea i am sure having bringing in kindergarten is going to help the kids in say grade 6 or higher in math. dear God no wonder our kids are not learning with dumb ideas like that. maybe you can learn from the past as it says if you learn from the past you will fail in the future and you are ALL failing our kids. teach our kids the three "r" like you did your mother did in school and even an old senior like ronnie can tell you the three "r" . but think you are failing our kids so keep it up just think how your kids are going to learn?

    • with all due respect
      December 04, 2013 - 08:05

      With all due respect, Don, bringing kids into the school system earlier will help them when they reach the later grades. Ask any teacher what it was like prior to kindergarten being in the school system and they will tell you they could identify kids who did not have access to kindergarten programs within the first 10 minutes. Kids would show up never having held a pencil. It will also help the other children as the teachers won't have to spend time bringing these kids up to speed. Universal day care would be a great investment as well, and would save tax dollars down the road. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say.

    • Parent
      December 04, 2013 - 11:38

      1ST Year is important . PRIMARY/this is the relationship to the education of children 5years of age ./Primary in other parts of the world has been around for over 60 years .This should tell you maybe this should have been in place 60 years ago, on PEI . In order to run the education program , you must first be properly educated. Not having day care workers do their first year of education , primary is your foundation and is not in place . Yes, and respect goes a long way , teachers having this for themselves and therefor pas it along to our students , dress codes for all nothing fancy slacks , skirts, jeans proper tops and yes maybe on occasions a shirt and tie .Yes I have found out over the years dress does make the MAN OR WOMAN. Not only at the first of our lives but all of it . Yes, first educated our teachers and then maybe, they can help along with us do the same for our children . What is going to happen with the next generation , running the world ? Lets get help now , if we are not qualified to do this,find someone now that is . FORGIVE THE SPELLING IF NOT ALL CORRECT I DO HAVE AN EDUCATION BUT SOME OF YOU ARE STILL SHOWING ME THAT RUDDINESS IS STILL AROUND, IF GRAMMAR IS NOT ALWAYS THERE , I DO NOT LIVE ON THE COMPUTER AS MANY DO I BELIEVE IN THE 3 "R 'S"AND PUT IT TO PRACTICE WITH MY CHILDREN.

  • don
    December 04, 2013 - 04:13

    well the problem starts at the top government, teachers, parents, students. the schools has lost the one of the 3 most important things in schools and that is the "R's" calculators are to easy used and now the students can't do the math in there heads. and as they say less home work. so the schools are letting our kids down. why are our kids not being taught?. this is as a disgrace to all . i think ghiz needs to have a minister of education that has some real knowledge of teaching like a retired teacher,vice princeable mr greenan can do more then all of the mla's in your gang. but i guess it boils own to you ghiz and the minister what are you going to do? i know have wes donate more money to your friends that will help.

    • Sue
      December 04, 2013 - 08:32

      Canada is still ranked well,though it has declined since 2003.Changes in the way math is being taught,may be a factor and having highly qualified teachers in science and math could bring up the numbers.It has also been pointed out that while our North American school days(instructional hours)are less we were and still are able to maintain a high ranking as a country,so it' matters what and how our children learn in the time they spend at school,and not extending the school day(as I've heard some people say).PEI should continue to invest in early education,but needs to look at where we are right now which is at the bottom!

    • Sue
      December 04, 2013 - 08:34

      Canada is still ranked well,though it has declined since 2003.Changes in the way math is being taught,may be a factor and having highly qualified teachers in science and math could bring up the numbers.It has also been pointed out that while our North American school days(instructional hours)are less we were and still are able to maintain a high ranking as a country,so it' matters what and how our children learn in the time they spend at school,and not extending the school day(as I've heard some people say).PEI should continue to invest in early education,but needs to look at where we are right now which is at the bottom!