BC students earn top ranking in reading

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Sheri Kinney was kicked out of the library for whispering when she was a student at Cowichan Secondary. That was years ago, and now that she is the teacher-librarian in the same location, she certainly doesn’t shush students anymore. “Libraries are very different but vital,” she said. “Walls don’t define the space.”

With 11,000 books and audio materials, the library has to appeal to a huge range of interests, skills and maturity levels for the Gr. 10-12 students, says Kinney There are shelves of graphic novels and high adventure/low vocabulary novels for less confident readers alongside the non-fiction and classics. She is constantly weeding the collection to keep it current. Instead of adding e-books (research shows they are not popular with that age group), she has audio books – in demand with students facing long bus rides. In the Internet age, teacher librarians (she teaches everything from slam poetry to research skills) are more valuable than ever, she says, aiding students in learning multiple literacies.

The collage above the library entrance, created by Kinney from catalogue book covers, reminds them al of the library’s enduring purpose: READ.

So Kinney wasn’t surprised to learn that B.C.’s Grade 10 students earned the top spot in reading in an international test of teens in 72 countries and all 10 Canadian provinces. B.C. grabbed first place in reading skills, second in science and sixth in math. an improvement over the last time testing was done in 2012, when B.C. students performed second in reading, third in science, and 10th in math. The results were announced Dec. 5.

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Cowichan Secondary teacher-librarian Sheri Kinney

Conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) assesses more than 500,000 students from 72 countries and all 10 Canadian provinces.

Creating a school system that works for all is just as important as selective excellence. The report noted that poorer students are three times more likely than wealthier students to be low performers, and immigrant students, challenged by a new language and culture, are twice as likely as non-immigrants to have lower scores.

So it is good news that Canada has posted not only high results academically, but it is also one of the most equitable countries, along with Denmark, Estonia, Hong Kong (China) and Macao (China).

“Our students are the best readers in the world and their outcomes put them at the head of the class globally,” said B.C. Minister of Education Mike Bernier. “Our new curriculum is going to help make sure that our students continue to have great outcomes and connect with the skills they need to succeed in our changing world.”

The OECD report is available here

The Canadian report is available here

Quick PISA facts

  • B.C. students achieved the highest average score in reading in PISA 2015, and no countries performed above B.C.’s range. Ten jurisdictions performed at B.C.’s range, and 71 jurisdictions performed below.
  • In science, only Singapore outperformed B.C. statistically. Ten jurisdictions, including Canada as a whole, performed in B.C.’s range, including Alberta which statistically tied with B.C.
  • In math, five jurisdictions performed above B.C. and 12 jurisdictions performed at the same level.
  • In math rankings within Canada, only Quebec finished ahead of B.C.
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