Literacy – what it looks like in my back yard

DSCF0093The ability to communicate your thoughts is among one of the most important aspects that will determine your success in relationships, ability to make money, as well as your life. Without a proper supply of vocabulary, literary capacity, and determination to do better, you will have a very difficult time being independent. Language learning is perhaps one of the most difficult things to master, and so, mastering any language requires a great deal of practice, determination, and continual usage. With all of this in mind and understanding the needs of our students Seba Beach School has created and implemented a school wide literacy program. The basis behind the program is that students learn best when they are taught at their level, with students at their level, in small groups and that the basics need to be learned and understood before moving to a new concept. To ensure that the students are working at the appropriate levels and that they are also being challenged, at the beginning of the year the literacy level of each student was assessed.

After the students were assessed they were placed into groups with students that are at the same level and to this group was assigned an educational staff. For example for one month students will look at all of the skills and tools that one can use to sequence stories. The students will practice this using readings, story boards, and other methods that are relevant for group levels. Bi-weekly at the longest educational staff will meet as a group to discuss techniques, strategies that are successful, strategies that need to be changed, and how students are progressing and whether or not they are ready to move to the next skill. To measure the growth and improvement of each student they will be assessed once every reporting period this will provide us with the best possible information to plan for each student. To help and communicate with parents the school will post updates to the school website to share the skills and tools that the school is using. This will provide parents with ideas that can be used to continue the work that is happening at the school.

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Please fell free to access our information and share it if it is beneficial. If you are interested in the program please feel free to contact the school and ask for Mr. Ram, Mrs. Smith or Mrs. Melmoth.

Staff are excited about the Literacy program and all of its possibilities. . We are looking forward to the successes of our students, to seeing the results of students being more independent and confident. Overall, the staff at Seba Beach are looking forward to making our belief and mindset that “ALL STUDENTS CAN LEARN” a reality.  Come, join us.

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It shouldn’t be about the NUMBER

Although it seems a little redundant to say, I will still say it. There are tones and tones of numbers in education. Aside from the obvious, Numeracy, many aspects and elements of a school are based on numbers. How many students are with in a school, the number of school days in the calendar, what the budget looks like throughout the year, student identification number, even down to how many cases of pencils will be needed to get through the year. It is easy to say that a significant amount of time, with respect to my job, is looking at and working with the numbers. This directs the conversation towards the reason for this post.

Next year my school will join the remainder of my school division in the format used for reporting students achievements, accomplishments and struggles. So, what this means in simplicity is that students report cards will not have letter grades or percentages listed on them, remembering my school is a K-9 school. The high schools in our division will still be using percentages to coordinate with the requirements of the post secondary institutes within Alberta.

As my teachers have been going through the learning process, preparing for the transition to the new division reporting format, I have been developing ideas, presentations and gathering information for parents who I will be meeting with on multiple occasions over the next few months. I will be meeting with parents to walk them through the process and change. While I have been preparing my thoughts and presentations, I have taken opportunities to inquire with parents both in my school’s community and in other communities about their feelings about the transition.

Although there are many concerns, stipulations and arguments as to why the traditional format should remain, during this post I am only going to focus on the need to have a percentage. The most common comment I have heard about the need for percentages it that it tells parents where the students are in the class, where they are in relation to their peers and how much they are learning.

In reality however, a percentage tells you pretty much nothing with accuracy. The reason I say this is that percentages, much like statistics, can be manipulated. Below I have two pictures, for example purposes that show two completely different percentages for grade 8 science. However if you look carefully the raw score achievements are identical. The difference is the weighting for the individual assessment sections such as assignments, quizzes, exams etc.

As you can clearly see there is a 19% difference between the two scores.  What does this mean. Well, according to this, nothing. This is just one of the reasons I am a strong believer in the new reporting process. The new process describes how a student is doing with respect to the skills, attributes and process that are involved in each subject. Basically the new reporting process tells you what a student can do without assistance, what a student can do with help and what a student can not do. In addition there are comments and strategies.

A simple percentage does not do this. When we go to the doctor we wouldn’t accept that we are functioning at a 75% health level, we would ask for clarification. If we took our vehicle in for maintainance and the mechanic said the car is at a 80%, we would ask for clarification. If your boss said you preformed your job at 78%, you would ask for more detail.  Why is it  then so easy to accept that a child has 75% in Language Arts.  Students are individuals with different skills, abilities and talents, so let’s comment on what they can do, are learning to do and need help with rather than just making them a number.