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Initiative to boost literacy

Three-year pilot project underway

Malcolm Gorrill
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Sep 21/01) - This fall marks the start of a three-year pilot project by the Beaufort Delta Education Council to improve literacy levels among kindergarten and Grade 1 students.

Reading a book is Mallory Beland, a Grade 1 student at Sir Alexander Mackenzie school. This fall marks the start of an initiative by the Beaufort Delta Education Council among students in kindergarten and Grade 1. - Malcolm Gorrill/NNSL photo

The K-1 initiative was announced in February, and came on the heels of standardized tests in which BDEC students performed below the national average.

To start the K-1, the education council has hired 12 new teachers so as to guarantee a maximum pupil-teacher ratio of 15-1. As well, an extra (optional) half day has been added onto kindergarten.

BDEC director James Anderson said recently that while it will be some time before the merits of the initiative can be judged, parents seem to be embracing it, especially the extra kindergarten time.

Cathy Canavan-McGrath, program consultant with BDEC, said there are efforts being made across the NWT to improve literacy levels.

"It's not something that's unique to this board, it's something that really is across the territory. Everybody's into focusing on literacy," Canavan-McGrath said.

"Certainly with the testing results we've had in the last couple of years, the needs at the early elementary level seem to really hit home. Our kids come to school needing to have something more than they've had."

Kindergarten and Grade 1 teachers will undergo more training in the teaching of reading, as well as music, art and drama. A session was held for those teachers during BDEC's recent staff orientation.

Canavan-McGrath said that the extended kindergarten will more easily allow them to include fine arts, such as painting and music.

She said that getting the initiative launched has been a challenge.

"Trying to get everybody on the same page and getting everybody working towards the same goals is still pretty much in its infancy."

Impact on SAMS

The K-1 initiative means that four teachers are now dedicated to kindergarten at Sir Alexander Mackenzie school. Last year 1-and-a-half positions were involved.

For the afternoon classes, parents have the option to have their children attend classes where the language of instruction is Inuvialuktun, French or English.

Principal Bernie MacLean expressed delight with the K-1 initiative.

"It should make a very positive difference in how much we're able to do with students," MacLean said.