Provincial support for early learning now showing benefits in classroom
Spring Park school Grade 3 students Alex Koughan and Ava Hurry practise their reading skills. P.E.I.'s common assessments were announced on Thursday.
There is some good news with P.E.I. student literacy and mathematics assessments released last week, but the results prove that testing is essential, and that more work needs to be done in classrooms across the province.
The most promising achievements were recorded in the Grade 3 classes where it can be argued those better test results are directly related to the province expanding kindergarten into school system. Those students who entered the system at the kindergarten level are now being tested in Grade 3 and those results are encouraging.
The changes made in Prince Edward Island’s early learning system, and to a lesser degree improvements in Quebec, were the topic of a glowing feature story in a recent edition of the Globe and Mail.
The story said P.E.I. is showing the way for the rest of the country in terms of support and opportunities for children starting at the daycare level and through kindergarten. Those assessments result seem to bear out that conclusion.
The Globe story set out in great deal how youngsters in P.E.I.’s early learning system are benefitting from new targeted programs and extra provincial dollars.
Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Alan McIsaac was pleased with the assessments but the results also should convince the minister to push for even better results.
The Grade 3 results are truly encouraging. Students who met the grade level expectation in reading rose from 62 per cent in 2007 to 87 per cent in 2013, while those who were experiencing difficulty dropped from 27 per cent to nine per cent during the same period. The results should be more accurate than ever as a record number of students participated in this assessment, with only seven per cent of students exempted from this year’s assessment, down from 14 per cent in 2007.
Among Grade 6 students, a worrisome statistic is that 76 per cent met expectations, down slightly from last year. But offsetting that negative is that 83 per cent are now meeting or approaching expectations in reading, up from 63 per cent in 2009.
The results also indicate new literacy resources and early intervention programs introduced in recent years are showing positive results.
These programs are also being evaluated, to ensure students are receiving the most effective support.
There was an olive branch extended last week to Island teachers who are still upset at their declining numbers in the classrooms. As teachers retire, fewer replacements are being hired and classroom sizes are increasing so there is less individual attention being paid to students most in need.
Government cited declining student enrolments as the reason fewer teachers are needed and that it needs to save money wherever possible.
The teachers federation even argued that expensive student assessments should be ended and the money directed towards hiring more teachers who could then provide students with additional help and support.
That idea was rejected by Mr. McIsaac who has made it clear that assessments are here to stay.
He said the assessments tell the department where the education system is doing a good job, where help is needed and where improvements are needed.
The department made sure it thanked teachers who are involved in developing and marking the assessments, which are based on the curriculum used every day in Island classrooms.
The assessments also give parents an idea of how well their child is doing in reading, writing and math at critical stages of learning. The reports have been sent home with students and the results are now also available online.
The disappointing results in some areas are sure to upset some parents and well they should. The education system must always try to do better and the constant need for excellence and innovation should be the Golden Rule for teachers, the department, staff, students and parents.