Calgary

Grade 2 and 3 students in Alberta assessed to determine pandemic learning gaps

Literacy and numeracy assessments of Grade 2 and 3 students are underway at schools across the province in order to identify what kind of learning gaps have been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alberta Education targets $45M to boost numeracy and literacy for Grades 1-3

Literacy and numeracy assessments have begun for Grades 2 and 3 at Alberta schools. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

Literacy and numeracy assessments of Grade 2 and 3 students are underway at schools across Alberta in order to identify what kind of learning gaps have been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last spring, the province announced up to $45 million in funding for targeted supports for Grades 1-3 students who may require extra help after pandemic-impacted learning. 

Foundational skills

Helmut Kaiser, with the Calgary Catholic School District, says provincewide assessments are starting with Grades 2 and 3.

"The literacy assessments really look at those foundational literacy skills that students need to be able to read. So these assessments allow us to gauge where the students' word recognition and phonemic awareness is as they're getting ready to read," he said.

"The same holds true for the numeracy assessment. It looks at foundational math skills — you know, adding, subtracting ordering numbers."

Learning gaps evident

Although assessment results aren't ready, the CBE's Joanne Pitman says teachers have reported that learning gaps among this age group are evident.

Helmut Kaiser, director of learning services for the Calgary Catholic School District, says funding from the government will likely go toward hiring more teachers and classroom aides to work directly with struggling students. (Submitted by CCSD)

"What we do know is that there is definitely an increase in the level of needs at the start of the school year related to foundational literacy and numeracy," said Pitman, the board's superintendent of school improvement.

In order to access any of the $45 million in targeted funding, school authorities need to assess students to determine their levels of literacy and numeracy needs, and submit an application to Alberta Education.

"Alberta Education has provided Alberta-based norms for English and French literacy assessments, as well as English and French numeracy assessments, to identify students at risk of struggling with reading and mathematics," said spokesperson Nicole Sparrow. 

It is expected that interventions for these grades would begin shortly after the assessment are complete. 

Hiring more staff

Both Calgary school boards say the money will be used to hire more staff to work closely with struggling students.

"What we're anticipating this additional funding will do is provide us with the opportunity to hire additional full-time equivalents so that we can increase the timely response to students who need that foundational support," said Pitman. 

"In addition, there will be instruction happening as soon as possible and in a concentrated format. We're really looking at focusing in on a shorter time frame to eliminate some of the challenges that may otherwise exist and create other challenges for students."

Grade 1 assessments

Grade 1 students will undergo similar assessments in January.

Kaiser said the reason they're waiting to assess Grade 1 students is because a lot of them may not have attended kindergarten last year because some parents decided to keep them home.

"Kindergarten is an option entry year for students, so we've got a large number of kids that have come to us in Grade 1 without any formal schooling in kindergarten," he said. "We thought it would be best to wait until we can work on some of those foundational elements before we can do assessments on these students."

Older grades

Even though there will be no additional funding or provincewide assessing this fall of students at other grade levels, the school districts say they are doing their own assessments.

 "We will be working through that process with our older students as well because we know that disruptions in learning have happened not only in Division 1, but have happened all the way up to Grade 12.," said Pitman. "And we are cognizant of that fact and we will address those learning gaps in students as the teachers work through and identify them."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lucie Edwardson

Journalist

Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary, currently focused on bringing you stories related to education in Alberta. In 2018 she headed a pop-up bureau in Lethbridge, Alta. Her experience includes newspaper, online, TV and radio. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson or reach her by email at lucie.edwardson@cbc.ca

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