Chinook students continue to improve math and reading skills

Chinook students continue to improve math and reading skills Education SouthWest Saskatchewan  Chinook School Division

Students in Chinook School Division are continuing to make significant progress to improve their mathematical and reading skills.

The results of the most recent Math Momentum and Balanced Literacy monitoring reports were presented at the Chinook School Division’s regular board meeting Aug. 26.
Math Momentum and the maintenance of Balanced Literacy are two key initiatives to achieve priority academic goals in Chinook’s strategic plan for the period 2013 to 2017.
The eventual aim is that all students will be meeting or exceeding expectations in math on division-wide math assessments, but the current target is for 25 per cent more students in Grade 3, 6 and 9 to meet or exceed expectations by June 2015.
The Math Momentum monitoring report indicated that in spring 2011 only 47 per cent of Grade 3, 6 and 9 students were meeting or exceeding expectations, but that number increased to 58 per cent in spring 2012 and to 65 per cent in spring 2013.
Curriculum Co-ordinator Ed Varjassy is happy with the 18 per cent improvement over two years, which will put the 25 per cent target within reach.
“I think we’re going to be able to do much better than that,” he said. “It’s going to get tougher. The first year we’ve made an 11 per cent gain and this past year another seven per cent gain. The better you get the harder it is to show significant improvement, but we are improving.”
Since the start of this initiative the Grade 3 math scores have been very good. It increased from an already high 74.8 per cent meeting or exceeding expectations in spring 2011 to 85.8 per cent in spring 2013.
“We’ve taken a good situation in Grade 3 and turned it into a much better situation,” he said.  “As we progress from younger to older, the trend is that the results get a little less and less impressive, but when you’re looking at improvement the results are consistently good for us.”
In the case of Grade 6 there has been an improvement from 51.8 per cent meeting or exceeding expectations in spring 2011 to 64 per cent in spring 2013. The concern about the Grade 6 data is there has only been a small improvement of about one per cent from 2012 to 2013.
The Grade 9 math scores started from a low base of only 20.1 per cent meeting or exceeding expectations in spring 2011, but there has been a steady improvement to 43.8 per cent in spring 2013.
“So we’re showing pretty good gains there as well,” he said. “There’s a big area for improvement there yet and we will continue working on that.”
The Math Momentum initiative is benefitting other grades because the assessments and dashboards are made available to teachers to voluntary administer in Grade 2-9. Student participation in Math Momentum has increased from 1,203 in 2011 to 2,984 in 2013.
According to Varjassy, the main challenge during the third year of Math Momentum’s application will be the introduction of Guided Math in classrooms, which will provide instruction at the appropriate level for students.
“I see that to be a challenge because it is now a different way of teaching  and there’s a lot of work that’s going to go into getting teachers familiar with what this looks like and how to do it,” he said.
Another change during 2013/14 will be that math coaches will be spending more time in schools to assist teachers with classroom instruction.
Chinook’s original goal for its Balanced Literacy initiative, which was set in 2008, was that 80 per cent of students should be meeting or exceeding reading expectations. This goal was almost met with a 79.5 per cent result at the end of the three-year period.
The new literacy maintenance goal is that 90 per cent of Chinook students should be meeting or exceeding expectations in reading by June 2017.
Curriculum Co-ordinator Kathy Robson said the overall reading scores for June 2013 indicated 81 per cent of students were meeting or exceeding expectations on reading assessments. This is slightly lower than the 84 per cent level achieved in June 2012.
“There was a decrease but we also saw a lot of growth, so it’s not as significant as long as the kids are continuing to grow,” she said.
The literacy monitoring program tracks the reading progress of students through different grade levels. A significant result is the improvement in reading abilities for boys.
“The boys actually made more growth in terms of their overall improvement, which is really exciting,” she said. “We’ve known our boys haven’t been performing as well, so we’ve really tried hard to target that and do some things with our teachers.”
Key steps taken to support boys are the use of small groups to teach them at an appropriate level, purchasing nonfiction reading material on topics of interest to boys and allowing them to write about topics they find interesting.
The Levelled Literacy Intervention (LLI) program is another noticeable success. It provides reading intervention for Grade 1 and 2 students who are not meeting expectations.
“We had full time coaches and we put a lot of our resources into kindergarten to Grade 5 and we’ve seen really great results in our Grade 3’s,” she said. “Now we want to expand more into those middle years — 6, 7 and 8 — so that we can see those same higher results in those grade levels.”
Robson noted the broader challenge with the Balanced Literacy maintenance program is to keep the momentum going. This is done through literacy maintenance support sessions, which are aimed at any new teachers within Chinook or those new to the kindergarten to Grade 5 levels.

via SW Sask News – Prairie Post – Prairie Post

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