Language development in the early years highlighted in the Catholic Division report

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Oral language student performance has improved every year since 2017, according to a recent data report from the Prince Albert Catholic School Division.

The school division school board on Monday reviewed its first “Wall Walk” which showed an average improvement in oral language of 30% in preschool and an average increase of 16% at the end of May each year from 2017-18 to 2020-2021.

Education director Lorel Trumier said the data shows how important early learning is for student development.

“I think it’s important that people understand,” Trumier said. “There is so much going on in the early years. This experiential play and exploration component of the program and procedures is extremely important, and what we have done is pay special attention to this receptive and expressive language development.

Wall Walk data examines student performance across the division, from junior kindergarten to graduation. Some categories align with provincial targets, but Catholic PA has also created a few targets of its own. The development of oral language in kindergarten and preschool classes is one of them.

“We are very intentional about the strategies we employ in our school division,” said Trumier. “At the school division level, every school is working and teaching strategies for speaking, listening, reading and writing because we know these are all symbiotic processes.

The development of oral language in Kindergarten and Kindergarten classes is part of the school division’s Strive for 5 policy.

Trumier said Strive for 5 is an internal measure they started because about a quarter of students start school without language development getting as high as it should be.

“What we have done is an intentional strategy to build language acquisition strategies,” explained Trumier.

“We do this in our preschool and kindergarten and we know this is the start of our journey with our families and children to this point of graduation.”

In Strive for 5, students learn to use more than a yes or no response and to communicate based on communication through interaction with another person. The teacher’s focus on five conversational elements of quality engagement. The goal is to build language by exposing students to more words, especially with new concepts.

“We know that school is a language-based activity,” said Trumier. “Therefore, if you intend to teach the language to children, they will be better equipped to read and write.”

The division’s oral language results show steady improvement since the start of Strive for 5. For example, in October 2020 the pre-kindergarten percentage was 47% while in May 2021 it was 83%. Over the same period in kindergarten, the average was 73% in October 2020 and 92% in May 2021.

One of the most important areas is science lessons. Strive for 5 helped build vocabulary. When talking about specific animals, teachers will talk about the properties the animal has to help introduce new words. A clam, for example, can be shiny, wet or rough, Trumier explained.

“They learn by engaging and socializing their learning through expression and we know that expressive and receptive language must be built before reading and writing,” she added.

School counselors also looked at graduation rates at their Monday meeting. Overall, 87% of students completed grade 12 within five years of starting grade 10. For non-First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) the rate was 97%, while for FNMI students it was 74%.

Provincially, the overall average is 85 percent, with non-FNMI graduation rates of 92 percent province-wide and FNMI rates at just 62 percent.

Three-year graduation rates show that 78 percent of students have completed grade 12. For non-FNMI students the rate was 92 percent, while for FNMI students it was 59 percent.

Provincially, the overall average is 79 percent, with non-FNMI graduation rates of 89 percent province-wide and late FNMI rates at 45 percent.

Another topic was registration in the division. The total number of registrations for 2020-2021 was 2,912, as previously reported. Subpopulation enrollment data shows 1,366 self-identified FNMI students enrolled in 2020-2021, 196 students of English as an additional language, and 924 French immersion students.

Other categories covered on the Walk on the Wall included faith, student engagement, reading, writing and math, and graduation rates.

Data reviewed by the school division included social justice, church service data, and faith training in the Faith category; Student engagement also included earning eight or more credits. Reading, writing and math included subjects such as the Early Childhood Assessment (EYE) and reading, writing and math scores for Grade 3.

Data on graduation rates included average final grades as well as on-time and extended graduation rates.

They would then hire guidance counselors to monitor what is happening with these students, whether it is health issues or students leaving the division.

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