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MONTREAL, NOVEMBER 14, 2002- The English Montreal School Board is pleased with the results thus far in regard to the efforts made towards improving the success rates of high school math students.

Over the past year a series of measures have been implemented, particularly in relation to the Math 436 exam. In addition, the Pedagogical Services Department wishes to ensure that students are placed in the math program that best serves their needs and capacities.

English-speaking students as a group registered the highest failure for the Math 436 exam in 2001. A review of these results found a direct correlation between the scores and the school boardís policy to not limit access to the advanced math course. This record shocked parents and educators alike, but it also prompted immediate reaction at the EMSB and a committee was established to prepare a plan to reverse the situation.

The hard work bore fruit in 2001-2002 as the success rate of 71.3 percent was an increase of 16.4 percent compared to June 2001 and 2.1 percent higher than the regional results (69.2 percent) and also 0.7 percent higher than the provincial results (70.6 percent). Nearly 45 percent of the EMSBís Grade 10 students were enrolled in the advanced math course for the 2001-2002 academic year.

The higher success rate was based on three key principles and actions:

  • Schools insisted on a minimum performance of a combined average of 75 percent in Math 314 on the studentís class mark, and on the MAPCO (Math Action Plan Committee) June 314 exam as the benchmark for consideration to enrol in Math 436.

  • Teachers organized end of course reviews or tutorials to prepare students for the Ministry of Education exams.

  • The school boardís Pedagogical Services department assisted teachers and school administrators in the development of the moderation formula on student results.
  • In past years, while the francophone school boards followed the Ministry of Education guidelines on the number of students permitted to enrol in the Math 436 course, English school boards took a more liberal approach. This resulted in students taking a course for which many were not prepared for.

    The EMSB Pedagogical Services Department is now recommending that the total percentage of students registered in Math 436 be congruent with the studentsí ability in math to improve student success. More students should be encouraged to follow Math 426 as a regular course while additional discussion on moderation is needed. In-service sessions will be offered during the present 2002-2003 academic year. Schools must continue to insist on a minimum performance of a combined average of 75 percent in Math 314 on the studentís class mark and on the MAPCO June 314 Exam, to be considered as a candidate for Math 436.

    The EMSB offers three Grade 10 math courses. The standard Math 416, the advanced Math 436 and Math 426 - a course designed by the Ministry of Education to serve as an intermediary.

    In early 2002, a Math Action Plan was approved and distributed to schools for feedback. The concerns and attitudes of parents were essential for the plan to succeed. These proposals were presented to the EMSB Central Parentsí Committee on February 20, with a key emphasis placed on parents receiving more information on the various math choices available to them.

    As discussions among educators swelled, it was deemed necessary to ensure that practice exams were distributed to all EMSB high schools prior to the June math exams. Via various conferences and workshops, teachers and principals became more aware of the resources available to the schools that could aid students in their exam preparation.

    There are a number of steps being taken to ensure better results in Math 436 for 2002-2003. The curriculum for Math 436 is designed for a minimum of 150 hours and it is being recommended that the scheduling of this course abide by this ministry norm wherever possible. Fifteen of 17 high schools are providing a minimum of 150 hours of instruction Ė the minimum norm established by the Ministry of Education. Royal West Academy and Rosemount High School are not following this minimum. "An analysis of the Math 436 content should also be undertaken," says EMSB Math Consultant Tom Booth. He notes that some teachers have commented that it is too heavy and that there is not enough time to complete the course even with 150 hours.

    Seven high schools are presently applying the 75 percent per cent averages required in Math 314 as the main criteria for application to Math 436. It is recommended that this become a uniform practice and that a 50 percent cumulative mark for the MAPCO exam also be necessary. Other suggestions include having a teacher recommendation included in the process, having teachers need to strictly adhere to the course content and structure of the program instituting a common uniform mid-term exam for all Ministry tested courses from Grade 7 to Grade 11, having all schools administer a common MAPCO or Ministry uniform exams at each grade level in June, undertaking a thorough analysis of the June exams so teachers can identify topics that need targeted intervention, assisting teachers and principals in the investigation of the moderation formula for student results.

    Pedagogical Services intends to continue to organize on-going in-service courses to help all teachers make optimum use of graphing calculators, computer technology and the effect of moderation. It will also schedule regularly scheduled math meetings. "There is a need to share best practices, raise concerns and pass along ministry notices to help keep teachers informed and up-to-date," said Mr. Booth. "Establishing an e-mail chain is expected to speed up the process."

    Michael J. Cohen
    Communications and Marketing Specialist
    English Montreal School Board
    Tel: (514) 483-7200 ext. 7243
    Fax: (514) 483-7213