The Pan-Canadian Assessment Program (PCAP) is an assessment administered to Grade 8 students in Canada every three years. The information gathered in these cyclical assessments of student achievement in reading, mathematics, and science provides all provinces and territories with a basis for examining their curriculum and provincial assessment tools. These assessments help determine whether students across Canada reach similar levels of performance at about the same time in their schooling.
The three major domains that are assessed with PCAP are mathematics, science and reading. The major assessment domain of the Pan-Canadian Assessment Program (PCAP) in 2019 will be mathematics with science and reading still being assessed but not to the extent that mathematics will be. Approximately 30,000 Grade 8/Secondary II students will participate in spring 2019
The PCAP assessments have multiple purposes.
- to inform educational policies that seek to improve approaches to learning
- to focus on reading, mathematics, and science, with the possibility of including other domains as the need arises
- to reduce the testing burden on schools through a more streamlined administrative process
- to provide useful background information through the use of complementary context questionnaires for students, teachers, and school administrators
- to enable provinces and territories to use both national and international results to validate the results of their own assessment programs, and to improve these programs
In Newfoundland and Labrador, both the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD) and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD) develop programs and allocate resources based on information collected from many data sources, including PCAP. For programs and resources to be targeted in the appropriate areas, decision makers need accurate data. With accurate data, resources and programs can help meet the needs of children in Newfoundland and Labrador.
PCAP Mathematics Results Over Time
Let's look at an example:
Let's say that in the 2019 PCAP assessment it was identified that students in Newfoundland and Labrador scored lower than the Canadian average in the area of Mathematics. NLESD and EECD may interpret that as a need to focus teachers and students on more problem solving in class. Program Staff may be reassigned to work on this perceived deficiency, other staff hired, or even curriculum revisions may be initiated. If students who wrote the last version of the PCAP assessment did not put in their best effort in writing that assessment, then the data upon which NLESD and EECD are basing their planning and decisions may not be accurate.
To avoid inaccuracies in data (like PCAP) that we use to plan policies and make decisions, we ask all students to put forward their best effort. The assessment does not "count" towards their overall evaluation in any course or grade level but it is important to NLESD and EECD that students put forward their best effort when completing the PCAP assessment.
A key objective of PCAP is to inform and support education policy decision making within Canada. A three-year cycle provides provinces with timely information that includes data and analyses to consider the impact of policy decisions and related programs. If it were more frequent it would not allow sufficient time for changes and innovations to show improvement or decline, and if it were less frequent it would mean declines in performance could not be promptly addressed.
The selection of schools and students is as inclusive as possible, so that the sample of students comes from a broad range of backgrounds and abilities. In addition the administration of PCAP is in alignment with PISA, meaning the 2019 PCAP students will also write the 2021 PISA assessment. Further to that, in 2019 PCAP will have mathematics as its major domain as will PISA 2021. This is important because we can see changes in students over time. The graphics below are an example of this comparison.
PISA in 2015
PCAP in 2013
Question to ponder: What could be the reason(s) for the difference in the 2013 PCAP and 2015 PISA results given they are the same cohort of students?
In 2016, the major domain that was assessed was in the area of Reading. What were the results for Newfoundland and Labrador? The graphics below outline the findings.
PCAP Reading Data
- Slight Decline for NL girls over time
- Stable for NL boys but lower in comparison to girls
- NL below Canadian average
PCAP Mathematics Data
- NL boys and girls are comparable
- NL below Canadian average
PCAP Science Data
- NL boys dropped below girls in 2016
- NL slightly below Canadian average
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