P.E.I. excluded 14.3 per cent of 15-year-olds eligible to take the international test. This was double the national exclusion rate of 6.9 per cent of students who took the PISA exam, and almost triple the maximum exclusion rate of five per cent allowed by the quality standards set out by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
It’s something the Council of Ministers of Education Canada (CMEC) has flagged as a concern.
“Steps will be required in future PISA cycles to address the issue of high exclusion rates for schools and students in some provinces,” the CMEC report stated.
P.E.I.’s Education Minister Doug Currie is currently serving as chair of the CMEC.
He says he is nothing but proud of P.E.I. students’ performance in the 2015 PISA test and was unconcerned about the province’s high exclusion rate.
“We have to be extremely pleased with our results,” he said.
P.E.I. made significant gains in the PISA results since the last test was administered in 2012.
Island students showed the biggest improvements in science in the country and recorded the largest and only significant improvement in reading in Canada.
This also marked the first time P.E.I. was allowed to use a sample of students, whereas in previous years, all 15-year-olds in P.E.I. had to take the exam.
This time a random sample of 475 students were chosen by Statistics Canada.
But before Stats Can made those selections, students who fell within three categories of possible exemptions were excluded from being chosen for the test.
The exemptions were for: students with physical disabilities, students with an intellectual disability or students with limited language skills.
The majority – 11.7 per cent - of P.E.I.’s 14.3 per cent of exempted students were classified as having an intellectual disability. This statistic is more than double the national rate of students excluded for intellectual disabilities of 4.9 per cent.
Opposition education critic Steven Myers says he believes P.E.I. “left students on the bench” in order to improve P.E.I.’s PISA scores.
“To this government it’s all about trying to skew the numbers,” Myers says.
Prince Edward Island students scored last in the country in the last round of testing in 2012, and the province was repeatedly highlighted for coming in below the OECD average in all three areas of testing at that time.
Myers also says he’s heard from teachers and administrators within the school system they have been “teaching to the test,” in order to improve P.E.I.’s results.
Currie did not have any direct answers as to why P.E.I.’s exclusion and intellectual disability rates were so much higher than the rest of the country, saying his department will be analyzing the data.
But he did stress P.E.I. has a “highly inclusive public school system.”
“With respect to our PISA results, I think that we as a province need to be extremely proud, this was not a census sample approach this was a random (selection)… and to imply that school educators were handpicking students to participate, that’s a pretty strong statement to educators in the province.”