A Red Deer County parent says poor Internet service puts rural students at a disadvantage with online learning. (File photo from The Canadian Press)

Literacy teams making a difference for students in Red Deer Public

Over 300 students between Grade 2 and 5 have improved their literacy skills after a $1 million commitment from Red Deer Public Schools’ Board of Trustees for COVID-19 recovery.

In recognition of the learning gaps students may face due to the pandemic, the Board allocated $1 million for COVID-19 recovery last year, which focuses on academic support for students who need it. A significant portion of that funding was allocated to hire a literacy intervention team to support students just below reading level.

“The focus is to support students that are approaching grade level, who have learning loss due to COVID-19 or other circumstances in their lives,” said Sherri Jansen, Learning Services Coordinator in a press release.

“The reason behind this initiative is we know that literacy is key for success, not just in school but also in life. If we want our students to be successful in school and thrive in our communities moving forward as adults, we need to grow their literacy skills.”

With the funding, six Red Deer Public teachers were selected to work with students from Grades 1 to 7. Teachers work with small groups of students using a systematic phonics approach and the Level Literacy Intervention (LLI) resources to enhance fluency, vocabulary and comprehension skills.

To date, the one-year funded program has supported over 300 students. By the end of the school year, it is expected that more than 500 students will be supported by improving their literacy skills.

“An additional benefit is that we are building capacity in schools,” stated Jansen. “While our team of experts are working in the schools with students, they are sharing best practices with teachers. The resources that we have purchased for this project will remain in schools and continue to benefit learners throughout the years.”

The initiative has had a significant impact on students and has been a tremendous success.

“Every student in this program has shown growth in their ability to sound out words, comprehend text or both. Our team has seen positive shifts in students’ attitudes towards reading which will have beneficial outcomes for lifelong learning,” said Jansen.

Board Chair Nicole Buchanan added they were proud to make a difference for students.

“We need to ensure our students are learning to read so that they can read to learn as they progress through not only their education journey with Red Deer Public but throughout their journey beyond grade school,” she said.

“In supporting our students through this initiative, we are setting them up to reach their fullest potential.”