Sarnia Christian School recently learned it had achieved “outstanding” results on its provincial tests for the 2008-2009 school year.
Seventy-five per cent of the school’s Grade 3 class met or exceeded the Ontario Ministry of Education standards in reading and writing. The provincial averages were 61 per cent and 68 per cent respectively. These results also exceeded those of the local public and separate school boards.
The Grade 3 math results were even more impressive, according to curriculum co-ordinator Mary Abma, with 83 per cent of the students meeting or exceeding ministry standards, compared to a 70-per-cent provincial average.
The school’s Grade 6 class also performed well, with 83 per cent meeting or exceeding the standards in all three areas.
The provincial average was 69 per cent for reading, 67 per cent for writing, and 63 per cent for math. The local public and separate school board results were also well below Sarnia Christian School’s averages.
While the current outcomes reveal Sarnia Christian School offers a high calibre of education, Abma notes the results of the provincial testing, referred to as EQAO (Education Quality and Accountability Office) testing, must always be considered carefully in a small school as scores attained by one struggling student can skew the results for the entire class.
“When considering the results, it is important for any school to look past the numbers for one year and to consider trends that carry on from year to year,” says Abma, noting Sarnia Christian School has experienced an improvement in its results since it began the testing.
The test results made available to the school are very detailed and provide a lot of useful information that can be used in curriculum planning and also in individualized student planning, says Abma.
For instance, Sarnia Christian School has revamped its Language Arts program as a result of former EQAO scores, and subsequent grades in that subject have improved dramatically.
“We can see how the implementation of new curricular programs has resulted in overall improvement,” she says.
The school has been participating in the provincial testing, which is for Grade 3 and Grade 6 students, since the 2001-2002 year.
Because Sarnia Christian School draws many students from outside of the traditional support community, most new parents who inquire about enrolling their children want to know how the school compares academically to other educational facilities in the area.
“Although the Christian perspective is important to them, they also want reassurance that their children will do well in whichever high school they choose to attend,” says Abma.
To make good on its commitment to providing a strong curriculum, Sarnia Christian School has chosen to participate in the provincial testing. The school is rare among Ontario Christian educational facilities in this regard.
But Abma notes that benchmarks are increasingly important measurements for parents and teachers to consider.
“We as Christian schools should not be afraid to see how we measure up academically,” she says.
“Our results need never be published, but can be helpful tools for administrators and teachers to use when trying to see how they can best meet the needs of the students in our schools.”
Abma say she believes that if Christian schools commit to participating in the EQAO, “we are sending a message to parents that we are committed to providing an excellent education that is solid both in its Christian worldview and in its academic standards.”
EQAO testing is done in Grade 3 and Grade 6 every year. Unless a student is identified in an individualized educational plan as having a learning or other disability that is severe enough to warrant exclusion from the test, each student participates in the testing.
The cost of administering the test is $55 per student, which at Sarnia Christian School is covered by the donations of a community member. Administrative time is required for examining and interpreting the results.
Abma also notes other costs may be incurred with upgrading curriculum.
“This cost is outweighed by the educational benefits that the students experience,” she says.