CBE 2016/17 Achievement Results

Calgary Board of Education released student Achievement results this week. I'm going to start today with comments on Provincial Achievement Tests (PATs). 

You can read CBE Administration's News Release here; the Backgrounder is here; and the full presentation provided to the press here

Alternatively, here is my simplified explanation and questions (same data):

Grade 6

Meeting the Acceptable Standard

CBE did better than other jurisdictions on all the Grade 6 tests.

Meeting the Standard of Excellence

CBE did better than other jurisdictions on all the Grade 6 tests.

Nearly 30% of CBE students met the Standard of Excellence in Science and nearly 1 in 4 did so in Social Studies.

NOT meeting the Acceptable Standard

So we are at least as high, or not as low, as the rest of the province. However, the provincial results are not very good.

More than 1 in 4 (26.3%) CBE Grade 6 students failed Math. CBE also had failure rates over 20% in Social Studies and Science.

The presentation provided by CBE Administration described CBE results as strong.

In my opinion, most members of the public won’t agree that failure rates of over a quarter of students in math, and over 20% in other subjects, represent “strong” results.

In addition, given that the English Language Arts results are dramatically better than the other tests, the Board of Trustees should ask what percent of students had reader or scribe for Reading/Writing portions?


Grade 9

Meeting the Acceptable Standard

CBE did as well as, or better than other jurisdictions in Grade 9 French Language Arts, Science and Social Studies.

However, the only subject in which more than 80% of CBE students met the Acceptable standard in Grade 9 was French Language Arts. Anecdotal evidence suggests that less capable students are being counselled out of French Immersion.  This would result in a two tier system. It is worth investigating further.

Meeting the Standard of Excellence

CBE did better than other jurisdictions on all the Grade 9 tests, except English Language Arts.

More than 20% of CBE students met the Standard of Excellence in Science and Social Studies.

NOT meeting Acceptable Standard

More than 20% of Grade 9 students failed English Language Arts and Science (nearly 1/4). Almost 1/3 failed Social Studies and more than 1/3 failed Math.  


These results beg two big questions:

1. What is it about our instructional methods that result in failure rates greater than 20% while at the same time yielding Excellence in more than 20% (sometimes nearly 30%)?

2. Are we doing what is necessary to make sure every student is functionally literate? Is literacy strategy designed to move more students into Standard of Excellence? Or more to meet Acceptable Standard (without accommodation). What proportion of resources going to each? How were resourcing decisions made? Do they match Board values?


There has been an increasing emphasis and reliance upon teaching methods where the ‘teacher acts as facilitator’ (versus ‘sage on the stage’). Sometimes teachers use an inquiry approach or discovery methods, problem based learning, and such. Too often these de-emphasize direct instruction even though some students need direct instruction. In these instances the methods are not well supported scientifically (empirically).

It has been frustrating to many parents and to many teachers that there has been this heavy emphasis across CBE. There are lots of teachers who know that a broader repertoire of teaching techniques is required. Lots of parents know that phonics is often required and kids need to practice and memorize some things (NOT all!). Given what is known (from a cognitive science perspective) about how students learn, and given scientifically supported methods, the Board should be asking itself if this emphasis on “inquiry” has advantaged some students at the expense of the more vulnerable? See the purple outlined results in the accountability pillar summary on page 10 of the presentation for further illustration of this point.




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