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Literacy intervention sees 'astonishing' success

A 16-week Pull Out intervention program utilized by Lakeland Catholic School Division, which focuses on structured literacy techniques saw students who were considered “at risk” finish the program reading at their grade level or higher.
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LAKELAND – With students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 bouncing between in-person and online learning for the better part of the last two years, parents, teachers, and school divisions have been trying to mitigate the effects of learning disruptions. 

To combat the learning challenges faced by students, nearly $1 million in funds was allocated by the Lakeland Catholic School Division (LCSD) and put into a pull out intervention program, which has seen “astonishing” results with all students achieving some level of growth, according to Superintendent Pamela Guilbault. 

LCSD also received $299,318 in additional funding for the pull out program from the Alberta government's learning loss fund.

For the 2021-22 school year, the Alberta government announced $45 million in funding to support reading, writing and numeracy skills for early learners. 

Roughly $30 million was invested in the fall of 2021 for students in Grades 2 and 3, while up to $15 million was allocated to schools for students in Grade 1 in February, 2022. 

In order to access these funds to provide additional support for students in Grades 2 and 3, school authorities had to complete learning assessments to identify students who could benefit from a targeted program, above and beyond classroom learning. 

Lakeland Catholic chose to its own resources and the provincial funds to create small group settings for students to focus on literacy learning. 

“We trained our intervention teachers to deliver small group pull out intervention, and we trained all of our Kindergarten to Grade 3 teachers on structured literacy techniques so they could provide literacy instruction in the classroom to reinforce the intervention instruction every day,” Guilbault said. 

As a result of incorporating program techniques into classroom learning, students involved in the pull out intervention did not regress after completing the program, but instead, many progressed further, according to LCSD’s findings. 

Moving forward, any new teachers who join the division will receive the same training in structured literacy techniques.  

In the 2021-22 school year, over 533 Grade 1 to 3 students received intervention, which consisted of one or more 16-week rounds of small group pull out intervention. 

To determine if a student was eligible for intervention, Lakeland Catholic was required to assess students through a series of screenings. All students who entered the 16-week program that were considered at risk showed improvement, states LCSD. 

“On average, students showed one year of growth within those 16 weeks, which is unheard of,” said Guilbault.  

“We even have some students who actually progressed up to three years. That is unbelievable success.” 

The LCSD is already preparing for the upcoming school year, after testing students and determining who could benefit from intervention in the future. 

Guilbault added the way school divisions’ view literacy is changing, and the methods of teaching it to students are also evolving.  

“Our practices are research-based and evidence proven. Teachers are using data and a structured approach to explicitly target students’ literacy needs.” 

Another positive impact from the program is that students who participated in intervention and were shy at the beginning of the year are now more confident in classroom, according to Julie Chorney, the director of teaching quality and staff development at Lakeland Catholic. 

**The original version of this article incorrectly stated that nearly $1 million was provided by the Government of Alberta through the learning loss fund to Lakeland Catholic School's pull out intervention program. The provincial government only provided $299,318 to Lakeland Catholic School Division to address literacy, writing and numeracy skills. The almost $1 million worth of funds for the pull out program was allocated by the school division, not the province.

Jazmin Tremblay

About the Author: Jazmin Tremblay

Jazmin completed a minor in journalism at Hanze University in the Netherlands and completed her Communication Studies degree from MacEwan University with a major in journalism.
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