Early learners in Grades 1 to 3 who struggle with numeracy and literacy are about to receive additional help after two years of interrupted learning caused by the pandemic in the form of $45 million from the province.
The province announced the new funding on Friday.
“COVID has truly hindered the learning of our children,” said John Lehners, board chair at Grande Prairie Public School Division, “We feel that this announced support, to close the learning gap, will make a real difference in the futures of our students.”
The program comes after the province received feedback from superintendents from school divisions throughout the province who told the provincial government how to best support, early learners.
Based on modelling and input from school authorities, approximately 15 per cent of students in Grades 1-3 will need support in the next school year for literacy and numeracy, says the province.
A University of Alberta study found in fall 2020 that students in Grades 1 to 3 were reading about eight to 12 months behind grade level.
School divisions will need to apply for additional supports with the number of eligible students based on teacher assessments.
Schools with early intervention with struggling students could have about 80 per cent of children catch up to their grade level, says the U of A study.
Previous research states that 75 per cent of students who do not have reading difficulties dealt with by the end of grade 3 could continue to struggle with reading throughout their school lives.
Schools will have flexibility on how they design their programs to best meet local needs by offering small group sessions for up to 16 weeks.
Alberta NDP Critic for Education Sarah Hoffman responded to the province's announcement on Twitter, saying, “Students have fallen behind because the UCP cut education staff, cut funding to schools, and failed to provide the necessary supports so schools could stay open and stay open safely.”
The province went on to say that around twice as many students require intensive support than school authorities expect in a typical year.
The province estimates the new funding will be for the benefit of up to 50,000 students.
The Peace Wapiti School Division and the Grande Prairie and District Catholic Schools division did not reply to Town & Country’s interview requests before the time of publication.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News