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Literacy results for grade three students remained mostly static. (CBC)

P.E.I. students are starting to perform better on assessments of their math and literacy skills, but they are still below the national average.

Parents of students who were in grades three, six and nine last year received the individual results this week. The testing was done last spring as part of the yearly provincewide assessment of how Island school kids are doing in the key areas of mathematics and literacy.

Provincial assessment results in literacy

% meeting expectations
20112012
Grade 3Reading8587
Transactional writing7167
Personal creative writing7979
Grade 6

Reading

6678
 Transactional writing6677
 Personal creative writing7279

Students in grades three and six were tested in three areas of literacy: reading, personal expressive writing, and transactional writing, where the writer tries to tell readers how to do something, or convince them of something.

Grade three students improved slightly better in reading and slipped a bit in transactional writing. Grade six students improved in all three areas, with the percentage meeting expectations reaching into the high seventies.

Grade nine students were tested for math skills, and scored an average of just 66 per cent. Education Minister Alan McIsaac recognized there is room for improvement in the math scores.

"We know the math is not up where we want it to be at the present time in grade nine and we will continue on in that area," said McIsaac.

"We have put in place professional development for the grade nine teachers specifically within the last year, and we have seen improvement there, so we will continue on with that."

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Education Minister Alan McIsaac recognizes the need for improvement in the math skills of grade nine students. (CBC)

As for the improvement in literacy scores, the minister credits new classroom resources and the hiring of more literacy coaches over the past five years. He points to early childhood education programs that boost literacy skills even before children enter the classroom.

One principal, who did not want his name used, told CBC News he questions the usefulness of the statistics coming out of the testing. He notes Prince Edward Island continues to rate significantly below average nationwide for academic achievement. He wonders whether Prince Edward Island is setting the bar too low.

His concern is shared by parents like Georgina Vardy. She said her grade three son sailed through the testing, but she can't help suspect the good result came too easily.

"Is it possible that the assessment itself, the level may not actually be that high," said Vardy.

"Maybe we are doing very well on a mediocre scale."

McIsaac said the insights gained from the yearly assessments will help P.E.I.'s national ranking.

"We're trying to improve that, and we put interventions in place to improve it on a regular basis," he said.

Parents with questions about the results are encouraged to contact their school.