Recently released PISA results from 2022 show that Saskatchewan ranks amongst the lowest in the country, in core areas such as reading, math, and science.
This standardized testing is completed by students in Grade 10, between 15-16 years old.
Saskatchewan's average score for math was 468, which was tied for last with New Brunswick. Quebec had the highest average at 514.
In reading the province's average score was 484 making it the third lowest in the country. New Brunswick was the lowest-scoring province at 469 points while Alberta was the province that scored highest in the subject with an average score of 525.
In science, the average score was 494 in Saskatchewan. Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & Labrador, and Manitoba all scored similarly. Alberta had the highest scores across the country with an average mark of 534 points.
Chelsey Balaski, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, said results from PISA indicate Saskatchewan students continue to be globally competitive. Saskatchewan students performed above the international average in reading and science, and similar to the international average in mathematics.
Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation President Samantha Becotte said teachers have voiced concerns about standardized testing and its accuracy within the province.
“It’s not necessarily based on Saskatchewan curriculum, so it can be difficult to get an accurate reflection of where students are,” said Becotte.
Becotte said the province's recent education spending is also a factor.
“The underfunding of education that we’ve seen in Saskatchewan back from when we were funded first in the country for per-student funding in 2012-2013," said Becotte.
She said budgets aren't keeping up with enrollment increases or inflation.
“We have fewer teachers; we have higher class sizes, and we have fewer EAs,” said Becotte. "Without support to address those complexities and adequately support students, it’s really not surprising to see these numbers drop.”
Becotte said that a key indicator of whether a student will graduate on time, is whether or not they have hit the Grade 3 reading level on time.
Balaski pointed to Provincial Education Plan's inclusion of the new provincial assessment program as one way the ministry is working on improving student outcomes.
"We will be working with school divisions in the coming months to advance work on this program," said Balaski.
Many students are enrolling in schools in the province where English is an additional language, or they are just learning to read and write in English. At the same time, Becotte explained that the number of English-as-an-additional-language teachers is declining.
“It's a support that continues to be cut in, in many divisions across our province. So, it is an additional challenge,” said Becotte.
There are a few routes that the education system could take to make changes to the curriculum to address these areas of concern.
Some solutions include, one-on-one or group reading interventions, or additional adults could be provided in a classroom if a class size is above a certain amount. In many rural areas, multi-graded classrooms are the norm. Teachers could be managing anywhere from two to six different curriculums at the same time, said Becotte.
“Meeting the individual needs of students across those six curriculums is an impossible task,” said Becotte. “It’s really becoming an impossible situation to meet the needs of all the students in their classroom as classes continue to grow, and as other professional supports and schools continue to diminish.”
"The Government of Saskatchewan remains committed to improving student achievement, including reading and math and graduation rates," said Balaski.
The STF and the Government Trustee Bargaining Committee reached an impasse in negotiations regarding class size and complexity. There will be a one-day general strike on Tuesday.