Thursday, 14 September 2017 06:36

Chinook to continue work on reading levels and adding focus on student writing

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Student reading levels in Chinook School Division continue to increase and during the new school year there will also be a focus on improving student writing.


Curriculum coordinator Kathy Robson presented the literacy monitoring report at a regular Chinook School Division board meeting, Aug. 28.
She noted that assessments of student reading levels only represent a snapshot in time of the situation.
“We know that it's not always 100 per cent accurate, because sometimes kids have a bad day,” she said. “For the most part I think it's fairly accurate, but it's really what happens in the classroom that is important. So teachers take that information, but it's what they do every day that is going to make that difference. This is more just a glimpse to see if we're doing OK, but there's a lot more going on that's going to make the difference than one test we're doing right now.”
The school division's literacy goal is for 90 per cent of students to meet or exceed expectations in reading by June 2020. The overall assessment results from May 2017 indicate that 84 per cent of students are meeting or expectations in reading on selected assessments. This is an increase of two per cent in comparison to the 2016 results.
Robson was excited about the positive results for Grade 9 students. There was a five per cent increase in the reading scores for this grade level, with 86 per cent of students meeting or exceeding expectations compared to 81 per cent in 2016.
The school division uses the Reading Assessment District (RAD) assessment tool to evaluate Grade 9 reading levels. It uses the Fountas and Pinnell benchmark assessment system to evaluate Grade 3 and 6 reading levels, but this assessment format is only available up to Grade 8 level.
It is not possible to make comparisons between assessment results from RAD and Fountas and Pinnell, as the evaluations are done differently. RAD is a group assessment that is given to the whole class while Fountas and Pinnell is done on an individual level with each student.
This was only the second year that the Fountas and Pinnell assessment format was used for Grade 6. It indicated 81 per cent of students were meeting or exceeding expectations in reading compared to 77 per cent in 2016.
The use of Fountas and Pinnell for more than one year will now make it possible for teachers to have a better understanding of the reading levels of their students.
“With the Fountas and Pinnell you get a level,” she said. “So it tells you exactly what level your students are reading at. With the old assessment you gave all the students the same test. So the teachers in Grade 6 have a little better idea of how they are doing individually in terms of their reading. So then they’re able to plan instruction that will help those students get better.”
The results for Grade 3 students showed 84 per cent were meeting or exceeding expectations in reading in 2017, which was a four per cent decrease in comparison to the 2016 results.
“In 2016 we actually focused in on Grade 3,” she explained. “So we worked with our teachers around teaching reading in Grade 3, we worked with out kids, we poured in quite a bit of support into our Grade 3. So I would think that helped improve our results.”
She noted the 2017 group of Grade 3 students scored 80 per cent on reading levels at the end of Grade 2.
“You do get fluctuations in your group,” she said. “As long as it's not really huge. So they actually had improved in Grade 3 from going from 80 per cent to now 84 per cent in Grade 3.”
The results for French immersion students showed a three per cent increase from last year and 92 per cent were meeting or exceeding reading expectations in in 2017.
For Robson the Levelled Literacy Intervention (LLI) results for Grade 1 and 2 is another highlight from the 2017 assessments.
“In Grade 1 and 2 we have an intensive intervention for students who are just below grade level,” she said. “It's like a short-term intervention where the teacher works with a small group of students and works to bring them up to grade level by the end of Grade 2.”
The results indicated the positive impact of these interventions. Almost all students were reaching their grade-level expectations, and 97 per cent of Grade 1 and 2 learners were reading at grade level.
Early intervention makes a real difference to provide students with a solid base in Grade 1-3 and it reduces literacy problems later on.
“We believe the earlier you start, the easier it is to make an impact and the longer-lasting, because as students get older the gaps get bigger and it gets more difficult to catch them up, but the younger you start the easier it is to do that,” she said. “There’s a lot of research around the early intervention.”
During the 2017-18 school year the Chinook School Division will continue to provide professional development sessions and coaching in Saskatchewan Reads to new teachers from kindergarten to Grade 8.
Early intervention strategies for kindergarten to Grade 2 will be implemented and the Early Years Evaluation (EYE) results will be tracked. The division will continue to develop best instructional practices in grades 6-8 and Grade 9 results will be used to adjust instructional practices.
A new focus for 2017-18 will be professional development to implement high impact writing strategies in kindergarten to Grade 8. There will be focused coaching and professional development at Grade 1 and 7 levels.
“The reason we are shifting to writing is because provincially they have shifted to a focus on writing,” she said. “We have a goal this year where we're working on implementing writing instruction in our classrooms. So we'll be working with our teachers and they'll be having some professional development around that. There will be coaches going into the classrooms and helping our teachers implement some really great writing strategies in their classrooms.”
In addition the school division will implement the provincial writing assessment and collect data in grades 4, 7 and 9.
“It makes sense for us to follow that, because we will have to collect some data around how we’re doing in terms of our writing,” she said. “We also know that writing and reading are really connected and so one always helps the other. If we focus on writing, there's a good chance our reading results are going to also improve.”

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Matthew Liebenberg

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