The Government of Alberta has announced up to $45 million in new funding to close the gap on pandemic learning loss.
The funding, announced Friday, will support school authorities as they help students in Grades 1-3 in the areas of literacy and numeracy, said Premier Jason Kenney.
“Based on research on reading levels carried out here in Alberta and elsewhere, we know that students in Grades 1 to 3 are the ones who have been most negatively impacted by school closures and interruptions, ” Kenney said.
“We also know that school that intervene quickly with struggling readers are able to help students catch up to grade level.”
The targeted programming is based on feedback from superintendents from school divisions throughout the province on how to best support early learners.
The government says early research indicates literacy and numeracy are two key areas where some younger children are experiencing challenges as a result of the pandemic.
Research also indicates that early intervention with struggling readers can help students catch up to grade level. Without intervention, those students could continue to struggle with reading throughout their school lives.
Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange said the COVID-19 pandemic has “created an unprecedented need among younger students and schools.”
“This year has been like no other in our education system. I cannot thank everyone in our education system enough for their dedication to our students this year. Their efforts have been just outstanding,” said LaGrange.
“Despite the incredible work by students, parents, teachers and administrators to ensure students can learn safely this year, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a large impact on learning in Alberta and around the world, particularly with our youngest learners.”
This funding will enable school authorities to offer intensive interventions for up to 16 weeks for students in Grades 1-3 who are identified by school authorities as needing additional support when they return to school in the fall, LaGrange said.
School authorities, who are already using a variety of assessments with their students, will have flexibility in choosing the assessments they can use to identify students who need these additional supports, she added.
“Public and separate school boards, Francophone, regional authorities, charter school operators and accredited funded private school operators will also have flexibility to design programming to best meet those local needs,” she said.
In March, a voluntary program for schools was launched to assess the impact of the pandemic. It focuses on reading deficits among early learners.
A panel is also engaging with Albertans on the impacts of the pandemic on school-aged children.
“I appreciate the government’s investment in this important initiative to ensure student learning is prioritized coming out of the pandemic,” said Holly Bilton, Chinook’s Edge School Division board chair.