Northern literacy rates improving faster than in South

By Bryan Eneas
January 19, 2018 - 12:00pm

Northern schools have long struggled to keep literacy rates on par with the rest of Saskatchewan. But after a concerted effort to better train teachers, implement new programs, and raise expectations, schools are seeing the results.

While the rest of the province remained status quo, literacy rates in the North improved by seven per cent during the 2016-17 school year according to Dawn Kuppenbender, the superintendent of curriculum and instruction for the Northern Lights School Division.

“That’s significant. The province hasn’t seen any increase and we’ve always struggled,” Kuppenbender said. “Really, we’ve been one of the bottom divisions for a number of years, but we’re not at the bottom anymore.”

The seven per cent bump can be attributed to many different programs, but teamwork played a big role in the improvements. Kuppenbender said the school division raised expectations of both staff and students.

“Let me tell you, they’re rising to the occasion,” Kuppenbender said. “Parity with the province is not going to be reached in one year however if we continue to improve as we did last year, we will get there.”

In addition to professional development, the Saskatchewan Reads program has also played a major role in the increased literacy rates across the school division. The intent of the program is to provide groundwork for school divisions to create their own reading initiatives to meet the needs of their students.

One program the school division relied on “heavily” was the Literacy Coach program. Literacy coaches are chosen based on their experience and understand the skills necessary to read. They’re also “very proficient” working with children.

Data regarding literacy rates is collected and reviewed every month by staff from the school division and things continue to look very positive.

“We’re always looking at [the data] and hoping for the best,” she said. “There’s so much growth that happens in the latter part of the year. We’re optimistic, that’s for sure.”


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