School district still lags behind province in literacy and numeracy

Rachelle Stein-Wotten

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Wednesday, November 11 2020

A snapshot of student learning in Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools shows some improvement in graduation rates, but gaps remain in foundation skills.

Superintendent Scott Saywell presented the 2019-20 District Review Story to the Board of Trustees on Oct. 28, which is composed of results from the Student Learning Survey, grade 4 and grade 7 Foundation Skills Assessment and the grade 10 numeracy and literacy assessments.

The province-wide administered Student Learning Survey shows NLPS students in grades 4, 7 and 10 – the only grades who take the survey in the province – fall roughly in line with provincial averages. For the question, is school a place where where you feel welcome?, 77 per cent of grade 4 responses, 68 per cent of grade 7 responses and 61 per cent of grade 10 responses came back in the affirmative. For the question, is school a place where you feel like you belong?, 60 per cent of grade 4 responses, 51 per cent of grade 7 responses and 44 per cent of the grade 10 responses were affirmative; however, all are lower than the provincial average. 

The district continued to score lower than the provincial average in the Foundation Skills Assessment, which tracks reading, writing and numeracy. 

Percentages indicate students “on-track or extending literacy and numeracy expectation.” In reading, grades 4 and 7 students sit at 65 per cent and 70 per cent, respectively, whereas the province is at 74 per cent and 76 per cent, respectively. In writing, grade 4 students are 15 points behind the provincial average; grade 7 students are five points behind. In numeracy, grades 4 and 7 are both at or around 59 per cent. The provincial average is 68.5 per cent for grade 4 and just under 64 per cent for grade 7.

The grade 10 literacy and numeracy assessment outlines students “proficient or extending literacy and numeracy expectations” and shows a similar trend to the FSA. For literacy, grade 10 students in NLPS sit at 63.65 per cent, almost 10 points behind the province. In numeracy, students are at 33 per cent, seven points behind the provincial average. 

The graduation rates in the district continue to trend upward.  “Over the last four years we’ve crept steadily closer to the provincial average,” Saywell said.

Inclusive practices, literacy, assessment and numeracy make up the focus of one of the four goals of the board’s strategic plan – continuous improvement of instruction and assessment. Based on data the district has collected, assistant superintendent for elementary programs Laura Tait said, “It’s become apparent that the focus that we’ve had, for example on literacy, we need to shift that a bit and include numeracy.”

To address a revised math curriculum, Tait said time will be spent with teachers “to move teaching practices to a deeper understanding of number sense and conceptual understanding.” 

A new early numeracy sense assessment will also roll out. “We’re using it in these first few years as a teaching mechanism.” 

On the inclusive practices front, Tait said professional learning opportunities will continue to be offered and highlighted a new universal practices matrix.