Evaluate the performance of students on elements of the program at the end of CM2 and third: this is the aim of the CEDRE study, carried out by the ministry, with each year a focus on a different discipline. Regarding math (numbers and calculations, sizes and measurements, space and geometry), the survey revealed, at the end of primary, a stability between the two previous editions, in 2008 and 2014. But this time, it shows a real fall, since the overall score plunged 17 points to 232.
The very good fewer
Carried out on a representative sample of 6,000 children from 200 schools, CEDRE highlights a most worrying phenomenon: pupils belonging to weak or very weak groups are now in the majority (54%, against 42% in 2014). At the same time, those achieving the highest scores, the sixth tier, are now almost half as many as in 2014.
As underlined by the document of the Department of Evaluation, Foresight and Performance (Depp), “The decrease does not concern pupils belonging to the most advantaged schools”. Likewise, “It does not affect students in private sector schools”. Conversely, the degradation is strongest in priority education with a score of barely 202, down 26 points compared to the previous edition.
A “decrease in attractiveness” of math
“The assessed students entered elementary school in 2014, a year before the entry into force of new programs”, observes Stéphanie de Vanssay, national advisor to the SE-UNSA teachers’ union. “Those of 2008 and even more those of 2015 are based on an instrumental logic. They focus for example on mental arithmetic and much less on problem solving, which makes more sense and motivates students ”, she laments. This union official also wonders “If the legitimate insistence on reading has not come to the detriment of math education, especially in priority education”.
The situation at college is not much better. Thus, the decline observed is comparable to that which had occurred in the previous period. The average score had dropped from 250 in 2008 to 243 in 2014 and is now 237. “The proportion of pupils in difficulty continues to increase to reach nearly one in four pupils and pupils’ performances are more heterogeneous”, can we read in the study.
“Performance progresses as the social characteristics of schools increase”, notes Fabienne Rosenwald. Even though the drop in scores turns out to be ” stronger in favored colleges “.
The lessons of the CEDRE study do not surprise Cédric Villani in any way. The deputy for Essonne, Fields medal (1), speaks of ” background trend »After several national and international studies showing, in recent years, the poor performance of our students in maths (well below the European average in CM1 and terminal, as shown by the TIMMS comparison in 2015).
Developing teacher recruitment
“Much of the problem is recruiting and training primary school teachers, 80% of whom have literary education and some of whom have failed in mathematics. It will take many years to change this structural factor ”, anticipates Cédric Villani, who in 2018 co-authored, with Charles Torossian, a report aimed at deploying a new strategy for teaching mathematics.
Charles Torossian, Inspector General, Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Education and Training, is today responsible for implementing a “mathematics plan”, which “On an overhaul of continuing education, the recruitment of district coordinators, better coordination between primary and middle school”. It is also a question of building the learning step by step (first by manipulating objects, then by verbalizing, before moving on to abstraction). A method that is bearing fruit in Singapore, today considered one of the models to follow.