November 25, 2002

The following statement was issued today by Judy Foote, Minister of Education. It was also read in the House of Assembly:

I am pleased to inform the House of Assembly that the Department of Education has received national and international recognition for its efforts to improve the achievement levels of the students of Newfoundland and Labrador.

What has caught the attention of the Council of Ministers in Education, Canada, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is this provinceís Criterion Referenced Tests.

In 1995, the Department of Education began to assess primary language arts performance using a form of provincial assessment called Criterion Referenced Tests - or CRTs.

When our primary children were first tested in 1995, our students had shown some improvement over earlier achievement levels but there was significant work to do. We recognized this work had to begin in the primary grades. Furthermore, we felt that we needed to expand the program and began using these assessment tests on students in Grade 6 and Grade 9 - for both language arts and math. And because of our focus on literacy and our efforts to ensure students get a good start in their school years, we are now testing Grade 3 students every year.

I was pleased to join the Premier last month to report on the tremendous achievement levels we have experienced with the most recent results of the CRTs for our primary students in language arts.

The results illustrate significant learning gains by our primary children and show that many more students are well prepared to enter elementary school. For example:

  • Approximately 90 per cent of the Grade 3 students across the province are writing at an acceptable level when they leave primary school;
  • More students are writing at a level that exceeds what is required when they go to Grade 4;
  • Over one-third of our students are entering elementary school with exemplary writing skills; and,
  • 80 per cent of the students are able to read and understand stories, books and other reading materials at the required level for Grade 4 entry.

We have made such significant improvements in the reading and writing skills of our primary students because we take these results and discuss them with school boards, school principals and teachers on the district and school levels and, most importantly, to the student level.

We provide meaningful feedback to our schools and teachers to identify the strengths and weaknesses of our students which helps them improve achievement levels.

The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada has chosen this province as the national representative in an international study being conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development - an international organization of 30 member countries which helps governments with the economic and social challenges of a globalized economy.

The study, What Works in Innovation in Education, is looking at best practices in enhanced learning through assessment.

I am pleased to inform this House that Marian Fushell, the education departmentís director of testing, certification and evaluation, has been named Canadaís national expert on this project.

Ms. Fushell recently attended an OECD national experts meeting in France where our case study on the Criterion Referenced Tests was presented.

I am pleased that our departmentís expertise in testing and assessment has been recognized at this level. We are continuously looking at ways to improve our studentsí performance and to be recognized at the international level for the work we are doing is a testament to our staff, and the teachers and students throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. The success of our CRT program demonstrates that we have the expertise to take an international lead on many common issues in education.

2002 11 25                                        2:00 p.m. 

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