Student achievement: What should we really be measuring? (2005)

Lessons in Learning – October 13, 2005

The question of how much and how well children are learning in school is a concern for parents, students, employers, and the general public. The authors of this article look at three critical measures of success: student achievement in the core areas of language, mathematics and science; the disparity of student achievement among different socioeconomic groups; and high-school dropout rates. Based on their observations, they try to determine what those measures really mean, and whether it is possible to achieve success on all three fronts at once.

Canadian students generally have performed relatively well on standardized tests in math, science, reading, and writing. However, the authors point to the need for improvement in reading performance for boys; math performance for girls; reading and science in French minority-language settings; science performance overall; and within certain provinces and territories in most educational domains.

While students from high socioeconomic groups typically score higher on tests of academic achievement than students from lower status families, international tests seem to show that the gap is less noticeable among Canadian students. A smaller gap in educational achievement holds the promise of greater social cohesion, the authors note.

Comparing student achievement with dropout rates raises some interesting points. International testing in 2000 showed that Alberta, Quebec, and British Columbia all performed above the Canadian average in science, math, and reading. However, those provinces have shown less progress than others in reducing the high school dropout rate through the 1990s. In New Brunswick, by comparison, smaller percentages of students achieved high scores, but progress was made in reducing dropout rates to levels that are among the lowest in the country for both boys and girls.

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APA citation
Canadian Council on Learning (CCL). Student achievement: What should we really be measuring? 2005. Web. 13 Aug. 2022 <>
Canadian Council on Learning (CCL) (2005). Student achievement: What should we really be measuring?. Retrieved August 13, 2022, from
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