Language development in early years highlighted in Catholic Division report

Herald file photo.

Student oral language results have improved each year since 2017, according to a recent Prince Albert Catholic School Division data report.

The school division board of education looked at their first “Wall Walk” on Monday, which showed an average oral language improvement of 30 per cent in pre-Kindergarten, and an average increase of 16 per cent by the end of May in each year from 2017-18 to 2020-2021.

Education director Lorel Trumier said the data shows just how important early learning is to developing students.

“I think that’s important for people to understand,” Trumier said. “So much happens in the early years. That experiential play and exploration component of the curriculum and procedures is extremely important, and what we have done is put added attention on that receptive and expressive language development.”

Wall Walk data looks at student outcomes across the division from pre-kindergarten to graduation. Some categories align with provincial targets, but PA catholic has also created a few targets of their own. Oral Language Development in Kindergarten and pre-Kindergarten classes is one of them.

“We are being very intentional about the strategies we employ in our school division,” Trumier said. “School division-wide, every school is working towards and teaching strategies about speaking and listening and reading and writing because we know they are all symbiotic processes.”

Oral Language Development in Kindergarten and pre-Kindergarten classes is part of the school division’s Strive for 5 policy.

Trumier said the Strive for 5 is an internal measure they started because approximately one fourth of students begin school without language development as high as it should be.

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

“We do that in our pre-kindergarten and kindergarten and we know that’s the onset of our journey with our families and our children to that point of graduation.”

In Strive for 5 students are taught to use more than a yes or no response and taught to communicate based on communication through interaction with another person. Teacher’s focus on five quality engagement conversational elements. 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,” Trumier said. “Therefore if you are intentional about teaching children about language they will be better equipped to read and write.”

The division’s oral language results show consistent improvement since Strive for 5 started. For example, in Oct. 2020 the pre-Kindergarten percentage was 47 per cent while in May, 2021 it was 83 percent. During the same timeframe in Kindergarten, the average was 73 per cent in Oct., 2020 and 92 per cent in May, 2021.

Science classes are one of the biggest areas Strive for 5 has helped build vocabulary. When talking about specific animals, teaches will talk about properties the animal has to help introduce new words. A clam, for example, can be shiny, wet, or rough, Trumier explained.

“They are learning as they engage in and socialize their learning through expression and we know that expressive and receptive language must be built prior to reading and writing,” she added.

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

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

The three-year graduation rates show 78 per cent of students completed Grade 12. For non-FNMI the rate was 92 per cent, while for FNMI students it was 59 per cent.

Provincially, the overall average is 79 per cent, with non-FNMI graduation rates 89 per cent province-wide and FNMI rates lagging at 45 per cent.

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

Other categories covered during the Wall Walk included Faith, Student Engagement, Reading, Writing and Math and Graduation Rates.

Data examined by the school division included Social Justice, Liturgical Services Data and Faith Formation in the Faith category; Student Engagement also included credit attainment of eight or more credits. Reading, Writing and Math included topics like Early Years Evaluation (EYE) and reading, writing and math results for Grade 3.

Grad Rates data included average final marks along with on-time and extended graduation rates.

They would then engage guidance counsellors to monitor what is happening with these students, whether it was health issues or students moving out of the division.