Many Langley primary students not reading at grade level

Decline cannot be attributed to one single factor, says assistant superintendent

Primary students in Langley are not reading at a level they have in previous years — a fact that concerns school district officials.

At the last board of education meeting, Superintendent Suzanne Hoffman tabled a report showing that when 274 students left Grade 3 they were still not reading at grade level. Of these, 155 were not meeting general grade level expectations.

“We plan to track vulnerable students,” said Hoffman. “We are having ongoing meetings and seeing where support is needed.”

There was a significant drop in reading level achievement in 2014.

According to assistant superintendent Gord Stewart, some of that momentum was lost due to the teachers’ strike.

Not only did children lose classroom time, summer sessions weren’t offered that year.

“The labour action hurt literacy,” said Stewart.

“But there isn’t one single factor we can attribute this decline.”

The board asked staff to find out why reading levels are in decline.

Stewart said learning conditions in the classroom over the years are becoming more complex, with as many 30 per cent of students in some classrooms facing significant behavioural challenges, from anxiety to autism.

A number of district initiatives were outlined in Hoffman’s report, including the implementation of Reading Recovery programs in every school and the implementation of a new kindergarten screening protocol designed to identify vulnerable students.

The Kindergarten Protocol is being rolled out this month.

“Parents have anxiety about this screening because they don’t want their kids to be labeled, but it is really for the teacher to have this information.

“If we identify five or six kids lagging behind, that information can be given to the Grade 1 teachers so they have tools ready to help those students succeed,” said Stewart.

Trustee Megan Dykeman was glad to see the screening taking place in kindergarten.

“If these issues are caught early on and worked on, the benefits show up later,” she said. By Grade 3, it is much more difficult to improve literacy.

Stewart said ensuring kids are ready to enter the education system and their readiness to read, starts with parents.

“Having pre-kindergarten kids take part in our Read, Set, Learn events and attending our Strong Start programs makes the transition to kindergarten so much better,” he said.

But many parents work and are unable to take advantage of Strong Start.

Stewart said they are looking at offering evening Strong Start next year.

Note: Originally, this article listed Blacklock Fine Arts, Richard Bulpitt, Parkside and RC Garnett were schools in most need of literacy support. In fact, those schools are were summer sessions for literacy support were available to students across the district.