The agency that measures how Ontario students are doing in reading, writing and arithmetic is calling for “aggressive efforts” to turn around low scores in math.

The Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) said the results from its latest provincial assessments, released on Wednesday, show elementary school students continue to do well in literacy tests, while Grade 6 math performance has dropped again. Grade 3 students did the same as last year in math.

The EQAO said the problem is Grade 6 students can often perform math functions, but aren’t good at problem solving.

“To paint a quick picture, Grade 6 students know how to multiply (for example) but struggle to know when multiplication is needed to solve a problem.” EQAO CEO Bruce Rodrigues said in a statement.

“This has been a consistent pattern with our students.”

In high schools, the EQAO found students have been doing better in math for the past five years and show a high level of literacy.

However, in both the applied English and applied math courses, which are meant for students with “different strengths, interests, needs and learning styles,” results are poor.

“Student achievement in these courses continues to lag,” Rodrigues said.

“It’s worth reviewing the intent of these courses and how they might better support student achievement.”

The Ontario government said it has put resources in place — including math tutoring and summer workshops for teachers and principals — to reach its target of having more students measure up.

“Ontario is committed to having 75 per cent of Ontario’s Grade 3 and 6 students meet the high provincial standards in EQAO assessments,” Education Minister Liz Sandals said.

“While there is certainly room for improvement in math, we will strive to ensure both teachers and students have what they need to achieve success.”

HIGHLIGHTS FROM EQAO RESULTS

ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS

Reading and Writing

  • 70 per cent of Grade 3 students and 79 per cent of Grade 6 students are now meeting the provincial reading standard, an increase of eight percentage points and seven percentage points, respectively, over the past five years.
  • 78 per cent of students in both Grade 3 and Grade 6 have met the expected level in writing. This represents an eight-percentage-point increase over the past five years for students in both grades.

Math

  • 67 per cent of Grade 3 students met the standard in 2014 compared to 71 per cent in 2010, indicating a four-percentage-point decrease.
  • 54 per cent of Grade 6 students met the standard in 2014 compared to 61 per cent in 2010. This is a seven-percentage-point decrease from 2010.

SECONDARY SCHOOLS

Grade 9 Assessment of Mathematics

  • The math success rate has steadily been improving in both academic and applied courses.
  • 85 per cent of students enrolled in the academic math course met the provincial standard this year, a three-percentage-point increase over the past five years.
  • 47 per cent of students enrolled in the applied math course met the provincial standard this year, a seven-percentage-point increase over the past five years.
  • The success rate of students in the applied math course has remained persistently low, with more than half (53 per cent) of the enrolled students in this course not meeting the provincial standard.
  • A significant number of students who did not meet the standard in the Grade 9 applied math course (90 per cent) also had not met the provincial math standards when they were in Grade 6.

Grade 10 — Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT)

  • 83 per cent of participating students were successful on the OSSLT on their first try.
  • In the applied English course, the OSSLT success rate of students has decreased by 10 percentage points in the past five years, from 60 per cent in 2010 to 50 per cent in 2014.
  • 75 per cent of students in the applied English course who were unsuccessful on the OSSLT had also not met the Grade 6 provincial reading standard.

Click here to see how individual schools scored in the EQAO Provincial Assessments.