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Bad year at St. Pat's

Seniors' exams results down in math and sciences

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 21/01) - It was a give-and-take year for St. Patrick high school seniors and the final marks awarded them.

While Grade 12 Catholic students taking level-30 courses outperformed Yellowknife District No.1 seniors for 2000-2001 in English and social studies, they were much weaker in science and math.

Standard of acceptance rates in chemistry and physics were particularly low. Only 70.6 and 67.9 per cent of students taking chemistry 30 and physics 30 respectively passed -- as much as 20 per cent lower than the passing rate at Sir John Franklin high school.

The numbers were also lower than the territorial averages of 79 and 75.3 per cent, respectively. The results for chemistry 30 are in stark contrast with the year before when 94.1 per cent of seniors passed the course.

The percentage of seniors achieving a standard of excellence (80 per cent or better) was also lower when compared with both Sir John and the territorial average.

Whereas 31.3 per cent of Sir John students reached a standard of excellence in physics 30, only 3.6 per cent of St. Pat's seniors received more than 80 per cent on their final mark.

For the most part and with the exception of math 30, final marks are a 50/50 mix of accumulated grades taken throughout the school year and diploma exams written in January and June.

Diploma exams written for math 30 only represented 20 per cent of the final grade due to changes in the curriculum last year.

Level-30 courses are the classes usually associated with entrance requirements for university.

Yellowknife Catholic Schools released the final mark results at a regular public board meeting Dec. 19.

Superintendent Kern von Hagen said recent turnovers in staff members teaching math and science were likely part of the problem this year.

Class size and curriculum changes were also cited as reasons for the drop in passing rates and the number of seniors achieving a standard of excellence.

"There a lot of variables that have contributed to these changes," von Hagen said. "Class size, staff turnover ... it's been reasonably stable, but it's (math and science) an area we have to be more patient in."