Checking out the basics

Superintendent of Learning Bob Vavra presented the reading, writing and math monitoring report at a regular Chinook School Division board meeting, Sept. 9.

The latest assessment results for students in Chinook School Division indicate that learners are on track to reach or exceed the provincial goals for reading, writing and math by 2020.

Superintendent of Learning Bob Vavra presented the reading, writing and math monitoring report at a regular Chinook School Division board meeting, Sept. 9.

The Chinook School Division’s goal is that 80 per cent of students will be at or above grade level in reading, writing and math by June 2020.

“We decided to just really follow the provincial lead on their sector plan, and they created goals of 80 per cent in reading, writing and math,” Vavra said after the meeting. “They wanted students to be at or above grade level in those areas, and so we just basically are following the provincial lead in that area, and Chinook schools mirror that of the province.”

In many cases the results for students in the Chinook School Division are already meeting or exceeding provincial expectations.

“It looks that we’re on pace to be at or above our goals across the board, and that’s really exciting,” he said. “It just promotes the work that we’ve done in those areas over the past 10 years. We’ve really supported reading, writing and math in our initiatives and it shows, and in the end our students are really benefitting from that.”

He is especially pleased with the math assessment results, which indicate that 80.3 per cent of students were meeting or exceeding expectations. The results indicate that 80.2 per cent of Grade 2 students, 78.2 per cent of Grade 5 students, and 81.7 per cent of Grade 8 students were meeting or exceeding expectations.

This was the first time that Chinook School Division used the provincial assessments for math, and the outcomes were positive.

“We were very pleasantly surprised,” he said. “It was the first time collecting provincial data in math, and we did very well. We’re actually exceeding what the provincial level is right now. So we’re really excited with that.”

The Chinook School Division used the Vancouver Island Net (VIN) math assessment protocol for approximately 10 years, and it delivered positive results.

“It really helped us,” he said. “It gives us a baseline of where our students are at with math, and then we can implement professional development and strategies with our teachers to target growth in those areas, and it’s increased our math results probably 35 per cent.”

According to Vavra there are some differences between the VIN assessment and the provincial math assessment format.

“It’s more a holistic view of mathematics,” he said about the provincial assessment. “So it’s not the kind of question by question type of assessment. It’s more a holistic piece based on how the students do on outcomes within the curriculum. So it’s a little bit different, but what we found is the results from our VIN assessments and the results from the provincial rubric assessments are very close.”

The reading results indicate that overall 78.9 per cent of students were meeting or exceeding expectations on the Fountas and Pinnell reading assessment. These results varied somewhat between different grade levels. The results indicate that 80.6 per cent of Grade 1, 79.5 per cent of Grade 2, and 76.8 per cent of Grade 3 students were meeting or exceeding expectations.

The reading levels for Grade 1-3 are down two per cent compared to last year, but the school division is still on pace to reach the 2020 target, and improvement work will be targeted at the Grade 3 level.

The assessment results on the provincial writing assessment indicate that overall 79.1 per cent of students were meeting or exceeding provincial writing requirements. The writing levels in Chinook School Division were up six per cent over last year, but Grade 4 levels were noticeably lower than the other grade levels and improvement work will focus on students in that grade.

The writing results indicate that 70.3 per cent of Grade 4, 81.7 per cent of Grade 7, and 85.3 per cent of Grade 9 students were meeting or exceeding writing expectations.

The Chinook School Division will continue to use literacy and math coaches to support new teachers, to do early intervention and to target areas for improvement. The school division will also continue to offer professional development sessions and coaching in Saskatchewan Reads to new teachers from kindergarten to Grade 8.

“We have a literacy coordinator and we have a math coordinator that would work with teachers,” he said. “They would oversee literacy and math coaches as well that would go out and work right in the classrooms with the teachers and the students. We found that actually has the biggest bang for our buck. To bring teachers in and do professional development is really good, but they need to see it in practice in their schools, and that’s what the coaching does. We’ve been really happy with the results of our coaching in schools for the last 10 years.”

In recent years the school division used initiatives such as Balanced Literacy or Math Momentum to improve assessment results, but at the moment the reading, writing and math are in a maintenance phase.

“This year we have another focus,” Vavra noted. “It’s the engagement; engaging learners, and also we’re working at early learning, and so my report today was basically on the maintenance areas, both reading, writing and math, and the assessments that we collect in those areas provincially.”

The maintenance phase means there will not be an intense focus on an area to increase assessment results, but he is confident the use of math and literacy coaches will continue to make a difference.

“In a maintenance phase it is a little more of a challenge, because you don’t have the resources or personnel maybe that you would have when you have a focus on an area, but we have literacy coaches, we have a math coach, and they’ll work with teachers in targeted areas where we need to grow,” he said. “I’m very sure, positive, that we're going to improve in those areas, and we’ll reach our 2020 provincial goals.”

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