Every month at the Board meeting, achievement in an area of the multi-year strategic plan (MYSP) is highlighted; last night Excellence in Teaching and Learning was highlighted, with an emphasis on literacy.
Trustees heard that prior to the OHRC’s report release, a central team of NNDSB program and special education staff worked to identify key priorities, actions and performance measures that have informed the plan to support improved literacy outcomes for all students. Key objectives include engaging staff in professional learning, initiating strategic investments in literacy resources, providing evidence-based assessment tools and implementing timely and effective literacy intervention programs.
Board Chair Erika Lougheed was excited to hear about all the initiatives that are benefitting NNDSB students. “It’s reassuring to know that staff are proactively seeking out resources designed to help educators help students,” she said. “The fact that staff are working ahead of Ministry of Education deadlines shows the commitment of this team to student achievement.”
Professional learning activities focus on instruction in five key components of reading instruction including phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. NNDSB educators attended webinars that have since been viewed more than 1,500 times. NNDSB also hosted a two-day summer learning literacy institute before the start of the current school year. Four full-time school-based literacy facilitators have been hired to facilitate professional learning related to evidence-based literacy instruction and intervention.
NNDSB has invested in pilot projects to explore and evaluate reading assessments. As a result, Acadience K-6 Reading was purchased to support evidence-based assessments in all schools and classrooms. During the fall of the 2022-2023 school year, 2,364 assessments were administered; this is in preparation for the Ministry of Education’s expectation that all students in year 2 of Kindergarten through Grade 2 will be screened for reading twice a year, beginning in 2023-2024.
The board has also made significant investments in instructional tools and resources that align with Ministry of Education priorities and OHRC recommendations. Among the resources purchased was the Heggerty Phonemic Awareness Curriculum for each classroom in K-2. The resource focuses on eight phonemic awareness skills and additional activities to develop letter and sound recognition and language
awareness. Primary classrooms have access to Flyleaf Publishing resources, including research-based instructional materials and books for beginning and struggling readers. There is also a phonics program available in all schools to be used for core instruction in the primary grades or for intervention with struggling students in any grade.
Research suggests that children who may be at risk for reading failure can learn to read if identified early and provided with systematic, explicit, and intensive instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension strategies. In addition to the resources mentioned, NNDSB has purchased technology-enabled literacy tools to support students in Grades 6-12.
Emerging readers in Grades 9 and 10 have been provided virtual tutoring support through one-on-one sessions with reading intervention coaches, and 63 teacher tutors have been hired to support before and after-school literacy and math programs. During Term 1 of this school year, more than 1,000 literacy-focused sessions were delivered to students across the board.
Board Vice-Chair Howard Wesley was complimentary of the program and special education teams’ efforts to equip staff with evidence-based tools that support the Ministry’s Plan to Catch Up. “I’m grateful to the team for its forward-thinking approaches that identify and support students who might need a little more help in the area of literacy. This report outlines to our families the work that goes on in classrooms every day to support our students,” said Vice-Chair Wesley/