Student attendance a problem, says school superintendent

Student attendance has been fingered as a possible issue in poor international standardized test results for P.E.I. students.

Student attendance has been fingered as a possible issue in poor international standardized test results for P.E.I. students.

P.E.I. student results on PISA are unacceptable, says English Language School Board superintendent Cynthia Fleet. (CBC)

In results from the Programme for International Student Assessment released last week, P.E.I. came last in the country in reading, science, and math for the second time in a row.

The tests, written by 15-year-olds all over the world last year, showed Island students performing below the OECD average.

English Language School Board superintendent Cynthia Fleet said the results are unacceptable.

"I don't mind being number 10, if the gap is very close.  But we're going to mind being number 10 if the gap is very wide," said Fleet.

"Right now, the gap is wide."

Fleet said there is no issue with the Island's curriculum. She also rejects suggestions from the provincial opposition parties and the teachers' federation that a lack of resources is to blame.

Fleet is concerned, however, about student attendance.

"We have some schools that have more than 12 per cent absenteeism," she said.

"There are parents who've raised concerns about the fact that new learning does not occur because there are a great number of students out of the classroom."

In light of the testing results, said Fleet, the board and schools need to take a harder look at how many Island students are consistently in school and focused on the curriculum.

"It would be interesting if a number of our schools got involved in a pilot project around monitoring their time on task in a school," she said.

Students at the junior high school level need better preparation for high school, says Fleet. (CBC)

Fleet said the board plans to try and tackle student achievement issues through its new strategic plan, which is due out in February.

Fleet supports what government has done so far to improve student outcomes - bringing in literacy coaches and match intervention programs at the elementary and intermediate levels - but she said there are still too many high school students in particular, not living up to their potential.

Between 30 and 40 per cent don't graduate with an academic diploma.

"We have too many students who are enrolling in general programs," she said.

The test results of intermediate students, said Fleet, show that more work needs to be done at that level to make sure those students are well prepared for senior high school.

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