Literacy skills growing among Horizon students

EAST CENTRAL — Efforts to improve literacy among students in the Horizon School Division are having an effect.

According to data from the division, for students between Grades 1 and 8, 70 per cent are reading reading at or above grade level when they start school in fall 2019, a 12.4 per cent increase since 2015.

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The provincial goal is to have 80 per cent of students reading at or above grade level by the end of the 2019-20 school year.

Kevin Garinger, Horizon’s director of education, said it’s his division's hope and expectation to meet those goals.

“We continue the path to try and see that trajectory continue to move in the direction we want it to,” he said.

Grade 3 students, who have received a lot of focus, have seen a seven per cent increase into the mid-60s between 2015 and 2019.

“Children who are not at level at Grade 3, it can be developmental, it can be a lot of other reasons,” Garinger said. “We need to then make sure they are at level in Grade 4, 5, 6. We've got lots of work to get them moving too.”

Students in Grades 5 to 8 have seen a 21 per cent increase into the low 70s over the past four years.

“I can tell you that our teachers are incorporating various instructional strategies. They're engaged in professional growth and development,” Garinger said. “We expect to continue to see great things happening. Certainly what is happening is very positive.”

For high school students, 45 per cent of Grade 9 and 10 students were at or above grade level in terms of writing in fall 2017. In fall 2018, that increased to 48 per cent.

Garinger said the division has brought in professionals to help it consistently measure students’ writing ability, which will also help teachers develop plans for improvement.

“Now that we know where they're at in terms of that level of writing, we continue the journey of growth and development that will help see that those kids continue to improve in that area,” Garinger said.

The director of education said the division is using models and testing, like the Ontario comprehension assessment, that aren’t being used in other divisions in the province.

“We’ll continue to make sure that is a pivotal part of what we do,” Garinger said. “We know that we're going to continue to see great growth in that area because there's a real concerted focus on writing in Horizon School Division.”

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