Government to offer new supports for young Alberta students, diploma exam weight lowered

·3 min read

The Government of Alberta is making $45 million available to support young students who may have fallen behind in their studies as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In May, Alberta’s government announced $45 million would be made available for school authorities to offer programming aimed to assist with student literacy and numeracy skills.

Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange announced on Oct 27, the government will be distributing the funding at a rate of $490 per student for literacy or numeracy supports.

“This funding will allow schools to increase supports to improve writing, reading, and numeracy skills for younger students who have fallen behind during the pandemic,” she said.

“This funding will allow schools to increase supports to improve writing, reading, and numeracy skills for younger students who have fallen behind during the pandemic.”

The funding is not mutually exclusive. If a student requires support for both literacy and numeracy, their school authority would receive $980 to support that student.

School authorities completed literacy and numeracy assessments earlier in the school year and will be using the funding to offer focused programming to go beyond classroom learning.

This may include increasing the intensity of programming such as by moving to small group or one-on-one supports, hiring additional staff, increasing parent communication, ensuring staff have necessary tools and supports.

The initial focus of the programming will be on students in grades two and three, with support being made available for grade 1 students in February.

Approximately 38,000 grade two and three students in Alberta will receive literacy programming, and 25,000 will receive numeracy programming.

“It is crucial to address learning challenges in the early years of a student’s development. That is why I am so pleased that we are able to provide these supports at this time in the pandemic,” said LaGrange.

The focus on grades 1-3 for the supports is based on consultation with the College of Alberta School Superintendents, as well as “others” in education, suggesting the early learners have been the most impacted by the ongoing pandemic.

For grade 12 students, though no financial assistance has been announced, the weight of their diploma exams has been lowered to 10 per cent of their final grade for this year.

The intent behind the weight drop is to give students the experience of writing an exam while still recognizing the impacts from the pandemic on their learning.

Post-secondary institutions have been made aware of the changes and advised to consider that when reviewing student applications.

“Reducing the weighting of these exams is good news, as some students may have fallen behind, while also needing to learn new material,” said Lori Jess, president of the Alberta School Boards Association.

“School boards appreciated diploma exam being made optional last school year, as well as the ongoing consideration of challenges being reflected this year.”

Provincial Achievement Tests for the younger grades will remain unchanged.

John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times

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