CMEC reported the results of the second PCAP test, PCAP-2010 Report on the Pan-Canadian Assessment of Mathematics, Science, and Reading, on November 28, 2011.
For PCAP 2010, close to 32,000 Grade 8 students from 1,600 schools across the country were tested. Math was the major focus of the assessment. Math performance levels were developed in consultation with independent experts in education and assessment, and align broadly with internationally accepted practice. Science and reading were also assessed.
The PCAP assessment is not tied to the curriculum of a particular province or territory but is instead a fair measurement of students' abilities to use their learning skills to solve real-life situations. It measures learning outcomes; it does not attempt to assess approaches to learning.
Provinces and territories also work to ensure that the unique qualities of our country's education systems are taken into account. Factors such as linguistic differences, rural and urban school locations, and cultural influences are all considered in both the assessment itself and in related context questionnaires. In addition, the common curricular framework for each subject incorporated an agreed-upon perspective for all jurisdictions that was based upon the latest pedagogical research.
The results for the PCAP mathematics component are described in terms of four performance levels. Performance levels represent how well students are doing based on the cognitive demand and degree of difficulty of the test items. Cognitive demand is defined by the level of reasoning required by the student to correctly answer an item, from high demand to low demand; degree of difficulty is defined by a statistical determination of the collective performance of the students on the assessment.
Performance level 2 is the expected level of performance for Grade 8 students. Level 1 represents the performance of students at a level below that expected of students in their grade-level group. Levels 3 and 4 represent higher levels of performance. The defined expected levels of performance were established by a panel of assessment and education experts from across Canada and confirmed by actual student test responses.
Some of the key findings about the performance of our students include the following:
- Over 90 per cent of Canadian students in Grade 8 are achieving at or above their expected level of performance in mathematics, that is to say, at level 2 or above. Almost half are achieving above their expected level.
- In math, there was no significant difference in the performance of girls and boys at the national level. However, more boys than girls were able to demonstrate high- level math knowledge and skill proficiency.
- For Canada as a whole, girls performed better than boys in both science and reading. More variation was seen at the provincial and territorial level.
- In most provinces and territories, students attending minority-language school systems outperformed students in majority-language systems in mathematics. This was reversed, however, for reading, where students in majority-language school systems outperformed students attending minority-language systems. There was no significant difference by language in science performance.
The current nine-year cycle of PCAP began in 2007. With PCAP 2010, some analysis over time is now possible in the area of reading skills. Data for 2010 suggest that overall performance has declined somewhat from 2007, in particular in French-language school systems. As in 2007, girls in 2010 continue to outperform boys in reading.
PCAP 2010 also collected extensive contextual information from questionnaires completed by students, teachers, and principals. This information will be published in the coming months and should offer insight into some of the factors that may influence student performance.