IDENTITY, EQUITY, AND PERFORMANCE: MATHEMATICS AND READING LITERACY IN NOVA SCOTIA PUBLIC SCHOOLS Executive Summary This report presents an analysis of the reading and mathematics performances of Nova Scotian public school students who identified themselves as African Nova Scotian, First Nations (primarily Mi’kmaq), Acadian, or of other European ancestry. The analysis combined information from the 2006-2007 Student Self-Identification Survey (administered to students served by Chignecto-Central Regional School Board, Strait Regional School Board, and Tri-County Regional School Board) with the performance data from the 11 provincial assessments administered by the Department of Education between 2003 and 2008. The main findings are: Sizable gaps characterize the performances of learners of different cultural heritage. On all assessments, learners of a European heritage obtained the highest average scores, were most likely to be in the top 25 percent of achievers, and least likely to find themselves in the bottom 25 percent. African Nova Scotian learners typically fared worst on the provincial assessments, followed by First Nations and then Acadian learners. The performance gaps in mathematics are of approximately the same magnitude as those found for reading. Further, the relative performances of African Nova Scotian, First Nations, Acadian, and learners of European descent are the same in mathematics as in reading, with the exception that First Nations and African Nova Scotian learners are approximately equal in their mathematics performance. The cultural identity performance gaps are manifest in grade 3—the earliest assessments available for this report. These gaps persist through the grade 9 assessment. However, there is no evidence to indicate that the performance gaps associated with cultural identity either increase or decrease over the school years. Trends in performance gaps associated with cultural identities are not the same for students of different cultural self-identities. Specifically, the performance gaps for Mi’kmaq and Acadian learners have been declining somewhat in recent years. In contrast, no secular trend was found for African Canadians. There are two additional indicators that African Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaq learners experience school difficulties: a) they are especially likely to be below grade for their age, and b) a higher proportion of them require test adaptations. Between the transition from elementary to high school, the rate of growth in reading performance is significantly higher for students of European descent than it is for those of other cultural identities. Acadian, African Nova Scotian, and Mi’kmaq learners appear to have the most limited reading performance gains.
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