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NLPS students bounce back with literacy intervention

Statistics provided by Northern Lights School Division show that literacy interventions are having substantial success after previous assessments saw some Grade 2 and 3 learners nearly a year behind their grade reading level earlier this year.
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LAKELAND – Literacy interventions put in place by Northern Lights Public Schools (NLPS) this year to combat the learning disruptions of early learners caused by the pandemic saw significant improvements for the students who were included in the program. 

A total of 334 Northern Lights students participated in the literacy intervention program. There were 175 Grade 2 students who were included in the program and 159 Grade 3 students. 

Elementary students selected for the literacy program were those who were determined to be ‘in need of intervention’ following a Fountas and Pinnell assessment. 

The Fountas and Pinnell assessment is used by instructors to determine both the instructional and independent reading levels of students, and to document progress through one-on-one sessions. 

The purpose is to observe and quantify students’ reading behaviours and to help assessors make informed decisions on how to help students improve their literacy abilities on an individual basis. 

The assessment found that on average, Northern Lights’ Grade 2 students were 10.6 months behind grade level at the beginning of the intervention program and the Grade 3 students were an average of 14.6 months behind grade level. 

“Our staff did a great job of identifying strategies to support students who needed assistance and ensuring they received the help they needed,” said NLPS Board Chair Karen Packard, in a statement provided by NLPS.  

Further information provided by NLPS shows that students participating in the intervention program in Grade 2 jumped an average of 7.2 months in grade level. 

Grade 3 students gained an average of 8.8 months in grade level. 

“We are thrilled with the results so far and will be advocating for funding from Alberta Education so that we can continue with this programming next year,” added Packard. 

NLPS received a $348,000 learning disruption grant from Alberta Education to provide targeted literacy and numeracy interventions to students in grades 2 and 3 who were considered to be at risk of falling behind as a result of pandemic-related learning disruptions.

Intervention strategies were selected by a team of four NLPS staff, which included the division’s two learning consultants and two teachers experienced with literacy intervention.  

The division also purchased Leveled Literacy Intervention kits and hired educational assistants to work with students in small groups at each school.  

Over a period of 12 to 16 weeks, students spent time with the educational assistants on a regular basis. 

“Some students not only caught up to grade level, but jumped ahead a bit,” stated Terry Moghrabi, an associate superintendent of NLPS. 

“The feedback from parents has also been positive. They have noticed a big difference in their children’s confidence and ability to read on their own.” 

Impact on numeracy not yet determined 

The school division will not be able to assess the impact of their intervention efforts toward numeracy learning until fall due to the CAT-4 assessment that was used. 

“The CAT-4 test (cognitive ability test) is used to predict student success through the evaluation of verbal, non-verbal, mathematical, and spatial reasoning,” states the assessment creator’s website. 

Northern Lights is seeking permission from Alberta Education to continue using the Fountas and Pinnell assessment to measure student progress in literacy, and the CAT-4 assessment to measure student progress in numeracy. 

“It is important that we continue to build on the momentum and the gains that were made this year,” said Packard. 

The Board will also be requesting that the province continue the learning disruption grant next year so that additional interventions can be provided to students who need them. 

“We need the grant to continue so that we can put the resources and staffing in place to offer these interventions to our students,” she said.