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Chinook School Division response plan addressing pandemic impact on student learning

Posted on 5 January 2022 by Matthew Liebenberg

The Chinook School Division’s learning response plan for literacy and math is making a difference to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student learning.

Superintendent of Learning Bob Vavra provided details about the implementation of the plan during the presentation of the reading, writing and math status report at a regular Chinook School Division board meeting, Dec. 13. He also spoke afterwards to the Prairie Post about the plan.

“We’ve had a few hiccups with COVID, bringing those numbers down, but we’ve put in learning response plans in every school and we’ve put in additional supports and it really showed,” he said “Our literacy and math results are starting to climb back almost to pre-COVID level.”

The Chinook learning response plan for 2021-22 is an interim plan that was developed to provide support until the learning goals of a new 10-year provincial education plan have been received. It gives effect to a goal set by the Chinook board to increase student literacy and numeracy levels through the implementation of literacy intervention plans for grades K-5 and numeracy intervention plans for grades K-9.

This is the second phase of the Chinook plan, which was already initiated during the previous school year. The intention is to implement measures in support of literacy and math improvements, as well as measures to achieve critical outcomes and overcome barriers.

“It fits in with what we’ve always believed about literacy and math and teaching and learning,” he said. “It’s meeting the kids where they’re at. So we find out what their math level is, what their reading level is, and then we give them instruction at their level to move them to the next level. That’s worked for us for the past 12 years and it will work for us moving forward.”

The plan provides targeted support to address learning needs in schools, including the provision of resources and professional development activities for staff. Details were provided to schools at the start of the current school year and the goal was to have plans in place by the end of October.

“Some schools hit the ground running, because they knew what their results were from the spring,” he said. “Some wanted to assess their kids, and do the Fountas and Pinnell assessments and the literacy assessments this fall. They’ve got them done now, and so now they’re moving ahead with their plans.”

The professional development activities for staff started with literacy sessions on opening day. There have been additional sessions in literacy and math to support school plans, mentorship days to support new teachers in literacy and math, walk-through processes for literacy and math for principals to observe teachers, as well as literacy and math sessions for administrators at cluster meetings.

There will be ongoing webinars and professional development sessions for educational assistants and teachers during the school year.

“We’re getting really good at using webinars to support professional development or training needs as we need it on demand, and that’s gone over really well,” he said.

Vavra presented the reading results for grades 1-3 and 6 for November 2021, which indicated overall 63 per cent of students were meeting or exceeding expectations. This was an increase of 10 per cent over the overall reading results for November 2020, when only 53 per cent of students were meeting or exceeding expectations.

“That’s really good,” he said. “To make that kind of a difference while COVID is still going on is a testament to the division and the schools and everybody that’s part of that learning response plan.”

The reading results for Grade 1 were similar in November 2021 compared to a year ago, but there were significant improvements in reading levels for the other grade levels.

The results indicate that 64 per cent of Grade 1 students were meeting or exceeding expectations in November 2021 compared to 65 per cent in November 2020.

The reading results for students on the other grade levels meeting or exceeding expectations from November 2020 to November 2021 are as follows: Grade 2 increased from 43 per cent to 53 per cent, Grade 3 improved from 49 per cent to 59 per cent, and Grade 6 improved from 72 per cent to 82 per cent.

There was also a significant improvement in reading results for Grade 2 and 3 French Immersion students. The overall results for these two grade levels increased from 23 per cent in 2020 to 49 per cent in 2021.

“That’s huge growth,” he noted. “It’s still not where we want it to be, but it’s way higher than it was last year. It’s a 26 per cent increase.”

The learning response plan for 2021-22 includes coaching and intervention support for math in grades 3-6. Coordinators and coaches will use school data to create and implement targeted literacy and math interventions and support measures.

“Chinook’s coaching model, which we’ve had in place for years, is really supportive of that teaching and learning process,” he said. “The coaches go out, they work with teachers in their classrooms, they model for them, and then they observe the teachers. It’s a really collaborative, supportive process and it ensures that there’s quality teaching going on.”

The learning response plan also includes a component to identify critical outcomes of teaching in subject areas and to provide support to teachers to ensure key course concepts are retained.

“We just want to make sure there are improvement plans in place for all teachers,” he explained. “If teachers don’t teach literacy or math, which tends to be at the higher levels in middle years and high school, we had a process in place where they looked at critical outcomes within whatever curriculum they’re teaching to see if there are things they can do to improve the teaching and to improve student learning in those areas.”

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