Putting Tests to the Test

Families often ask about the role of testing at Hudson. Aside from regular, age-appropriate summative assessments like spelling tests and math quizzes, we conduct Developmental Reading Assessments from Junior Kindergarten through Grade 4 (and up to Grade 6, as needed); students in Grades 3–8 write the Canadian Test of Basic Skills (CTBS) each fall; and Grade 7 and 8 students are required to write the University of Waterloo’s Gauss Mathematics Contest (interested Grade 6 students can also write the Grade 7 test). Students in Grade 7 and 8 complete formal end-of-year exams in Math, Science and as part of preparing for the transition to the Upper School, where they will be required to sit exams for several subjects each semester. Grade 10 students write the OSSLT as a required part of the Ontario Secondary School Diploma. Students in Grades 9–11 are invited to participate in the Pascal, Cayley and Fermat contests, as well as the Euclid in Grade 12. 

In this article with our Lower School Principal and Head of Curriculum Rose Bastien, we’re taking an in-depth look at our Gauss Contest results to explain how Hudson uses the data and discuss what the results can tell us about our JK—Grade 8 academic program.

Testing should be a reflective process wherein we focus not just on the students, but the teachers.

Principal Bastien’s Perspective on Testing

Testing should be a reflective process wherein we focus not just on the students, but the teachers. In the Lower School, we’ve selected standardized tests that offer more black-and-white data—bubble tests with right or wrong answers, rather than subjective marking as with the EQAO—to remove teacher bias and drive a reflexive praxis. In my own experience as a teacher, for example, I noticed that my students were having difficulties with measurement. It was a flag that there were specific skills I needed to address and develop as an educator, as part of an ongoing process of improvement. 

Hudson has new student intakes at several grade levels, and conducting a standardized test like CTBS each fall gives us a detailed, unbiased picture of a given cohort’s relative areas of strength and improvement to inform differentiated instruction over the course of the year. The CTBS allows teachers to zero in on the specific needs (weaknesses or strengths) in the skills/knowledge set of specific subjects. For example, a student can be a fluent reader but their comprehension of textual information might require some improvement. It also highlights strengths in group and individual students encourages our teachers to enrich a specific topic. A test like the Gauss, conducted in the spring, offers another externally-validated snapshot of a key academic area—in this case, mathematics.

Hudson and the Gauss

I’ll focus on the relationship between our Lower School program and the UWaterloo Gauss Mathematics contest, analyzing Hudson’s 2023 scores in relation to Gauss results from 2022, since 2023 data isn’t yet available. The scores across Canada and internationally do not change significantly from year to year, and therefore a comparison remains useful for the purpose of understanding how Hudson’s mathematics program currently compares across Canada and internationally. About 68,000 Grade 7 and 8 students participated in the contest in 2022.

How did we do in 2023?

The average score for Grade 7 students across Canada and internationally was 81 out of 150 possible points. Hudson’s Grade 7 average score was 100/150, 19 points above the national and international average. In fact, our Grade 6 students scored 95/150, still above the national and international Grade 7 average.

The average score for Grade 8 students across Canada and internationally was 88 out of 150 possible points. Hudson’s Grade 8 average score was 108/150, 20 points above the national and international average.

What is considered a “good” score?

Typically, any score above average is considered “good” on standardized tests; however, Hudson raises the bar and defines any mark above 106/180 as a “good” score. This is the third highest category of achievement on the Gauss.

38% of our Grade 7 students scored 106/150, compared with only 10% of Grade 7 students across Canada and internationally. 51% of our Grade 8 students scored 106/150, compared with 23% of Grade 8 students across Canada and internationally.

The top category is a score of 136/150 to 150/150 – 15% of our Grade 8 students scored this high, compared with 2% of students across Canada. Four of our Grade 8 students scored 142/150–this represents just one error on the test, and less than 1% of all Gauss writers score this high.


Why is the Gauss contest important for our Middle School program? 

The Gauss test is divided into 3 sections: Part A and Part B include 10 questions each, with 5 additional questions in Part C. The Gauss is designed to have the easiest questions first, with questions becoming progressively more challenging in Parts B and C. Let’s focus on Grade 8 results for this part of the analysis, as their overall performance is a very good indicator of readiness for high school—the key aim of our Middle Years Preparatory Program.

Part A questions in the Gauss draw on the skills/knowledge questions common to topics across all Canadian math curricula. My expectation is that our Grade 8 students score a minimum of 9/10 on Part A questions, allowing for 1 error in Part A. This reassures me that our Grade 8 students are meeting the foundational skills common in Grade 8 curricula across Canada. 97% of our Grade 8 students scored 90% or better on Part A.

Part B questions in the Gauss test require the student to make connections beyond foundational skills/knowledge of the Grade 8 Canadian math curricula; these questions are challenging. 54% of our Grade 8 students scored 70% or better on Part B.

Lastly, Part C questions in Gauss require a strong ability to creatively think of solutions; even mathematics teachers may take a moment to complete these questions. While these questions are rooted in Grade 8 curricula, they require an ability to understand the subject deeply and creatively. 25% of our Grade 8 students were able to correctly answer 60%—3 out of 5—of the questions in this section. 

What can we conclude from our results this year?

Hudson students are doing exceptionally well in math! We’re confident that our students are well-prepared for mathematics-based courses in high school: with the Saxon curriculum, skilled teachers, and hard-working students, we’re pleased to see continued success in relation to meaningful external benchmarks. Most importantly: our students report feeling confident in their math skills, and often say it’s their favourite subject!

Lower School

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