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Superintendent's Notebook - October 2017

Education is about creating opportunities for students not just while they’re in school, but long after they leave. The skills and abilities they learn at school form the foundation for whatever they choose to do next. That’s why high school completion is so essential, not just for its own sake, but because it opens doors and gives students keys for the rest of their lives.

Given that reality, I was pleased when we released our annual achievement results last week to announce Edmonton Public Schools’ high school completion rate has climbed to 80.6 per cent. I am particularly encouraged to report that over half of our First Nations, Métis and Inuit students completed high school in 2015-16, up from 43.3 percent in 2014-15. This means more of our students than ever are crossing the finish line with the tools they need to build lives that bring them dignity and fulfilment.

In terms of our results in Grades 6 and 9 Provincial Achievement Tests and Grade 12 diploma exams, we saw decreases in some areas, like mathematics for Grades 6 and 9, but increases in others like the Math 30-1 diploma exam. Our results in other subjects in Grades 6 and 9 remained stable, and in most subjects we continued to trend above the province.

Let me be clear: we have more work to do to improve these results for our kids. I want to talk specifically about our math results because I recognize there is some public discussion about how students learn math today. Our job is to build students’ knowledge each year, successfully preparing them for the expectations of the next grade. Our teachers have developed what we’ve called a Math Intervention Planning Instrument (MIPI) at all grade levels up to Grade 10, administered at the beginning of each school year. The MIPI helps inform our classroom practice, and identify areas where students need more support. Our teachers are working hard to equip each student with essential numeracy skills, including a sound understanding of the basics. Each year, our District also examines our resources, ensuring every school can provide students what they need to be successful.

Although we certainly want to improve our results, it’s important to remember the Provincial Achievement Tests and Diploma Exams are only two measures of student performance. They’re important measures, to be sure, but teachers use many methods to assess student progress over time. Our observations in the classroom, combined with data from sources, including the Provincial Achievement Tests, provide us with critical information to help support the diverse needs of our students.

Cultivating their confidence will be an important part of making sure every student has the opportunity to succeed. If we can do that, we’ll continue to see our results improve and move ever closer to the day when every student transitions to post-secondary education, the world of work or community living. In the meantime, you can be confident our teachers, in partnership with parents, are working hard to ensure the success of all children under our care. I am incredibly proud of their efforts!