Changing trajectories

Over the past eight years, starting with a small program and now building to eight schools, SD83’s literacy intervention teachers are working hard to change the educational trajectory of grade one children struggling the most to learn how to read.

Jen Kelly Literacy Intervention

Jen Kelly, Literacy Helping Teacher, updated the Board on the research-based program which is taught by the district’s specially trained literacy intervention teachers (LIT).

Over the past eight years 337 students have gone through the literacy intervention program, where students work one-on-one or in small groups with the LIT teachers. Students in the program receive special instruction four to five days a week, 30 minutes a day for anywhere from 12 to 20 weeks, depending on the need.

She noted as a part of the program extensive research is kept on student learning. “There are now 236 of our most at-risk students now reading at grade level. We know that reading at grade level by grade three is one of the best predictors of success in life. We also know that this program has changed the trajectory of these students. This is our student first data . . .this is our mission.”

She said a percentage of the students are still struggling after the intense intervention, which indicates that there may be something else hindering the child’s learning. Because of the information collected during literacy intervention, children are usually able to streamlined into assessment and testing. “This is a positive outcome.”

She explained Grade 1 students typically do not have a ministry category but now 18 per cent do and this helps them access the services they need earlier.

Kelly showed a variety of graphs to the Board, each one following the cohort of children helped through the program. “Our research shows that this program sticks. As I go through the cohorts you can see, this is a program that works and is sustainable. Literacy intervention is sticking with our students.”

View graphs and presentation here

Kelly noted that although there are costs up front, the program is cost effective. “We are only seeing them once.”

She said one thing they have learned through their eight years of data is that early intervention is not “sticking” as well with Indigenous students as non-Indigenous.

To address this the district has hired an early literacy intervention specialist who will be working specifically with Indigenous students. They have also spent a lot of time looking at resources that are reflecting Indigenous themes and characters so that students will see themselves. “We are hoping this will lead to further progress.”

Kelly told trustees that the research shows the program is working, but currently there are nine schools in the district who do not have the program. “Less than half of our schools have access to this program and aren’t necessarily seeing the change that could be.”

Trustee Marty Gibbons commented that at a meeting he recently attended the challenge was put out to every board to see what can be done to improve outcomes. He suggested to the other trustees that this was definitely a way they could meet the challenge.

Other trustees also spoke in favour saying the benefit to students was apparent. It was decided to ask the Education Directions and Finance committees to investigate the expansion of the program and bring back a recommendation.

“I commend you and others on the team,” said Board Chairperson Marianne VanBuskirk to Kelly. “Accolades to all of you for helping students, for providing eight years of research, and for demonstrating and sharing your professional learning.”