Tuesday, May 09, 2006

New Poll: Canada not Making the Grade

There is a new poll out commissioned by the Canadian Council on Learning which has found that Canada is not making the grade in certain key areas related to life-long learning.

Some highlights of the poll include:

  • Currently approximately 40% of young adults (20- to 24-year-olds) in Canada are attending some sort of schooling, whereas Canadians think that rate should be 62%;
  • Approximately 58% of Canadian adults can meet most everyday reading requirements, whereas Canadians feel that 80% would be an acceptable level;
  • While 56% of employers provide some form of structured job training, on average, Canadians believe that 74% should do so;
  • Today, 57% of the working-age population has completed some form of post-secondary education, and Canadians think that figure should be 67%.

Full poll info can be located HERE courtesy of NALD Headline News.

Two other literacy-related stories of interest over the last few days - the first, immediately below from out east about how "too much testing takes the fun out of reading". As someone who volunteers for Reading Circles mainly because I believe that kids should see reading as something fun and not something only related to school and learning, I'm all for making reading fun for kids - though I'm not sure how to go about escaping testing them. How else do you know how you are doing literacy-wise as a country, province, school board etc... The second, also from out east, is about bachelor of education students from St. Thomas University who will be spending two weeks in Nicaragua and Honduras in mid-June, building fuel-efficient stoves and helping to develop subsistence farming in rural areas while also conducting literacy workshops with members of the communities. Not too shabby!

PUBLICATION: Times & Transcript (Moncton)
DATE: 2006.05.06
BYLINE: Aloma JardineTimes & Transcript Staff

Literacy tests for children 'killing love of reading'; Elementary teachers told children should enjoy education before being subjected to tests
They laughed, they cried, they got to their feet and applauded when David Bouchard came to the end of his one-hour presentation at the New Brunswick Teachers' Association Elementary Council spring conference in Sackville yesterday.

An author and former school principal from British Columbia, Bouchard was preaching the joy and necessity of literacy to a captive audience made up of hundreds of elementary school teachers from across the province.

In a week when poor Grade 9 reading and writing scores were making headlines, a dash of enthusiasm and a challenge to continue to work to get children reading was welcome.

Historically, New Brunswick literacy rates have been abysmal.

Current statistics say between 60 and 68 per cent of people in the province cannot read past a Grade 4 level.

The Grade 9 assessments found almost half of students have trouble understanding what they read and even more struggle with writing.

One of the aims of the province's Quality Learning Agenda is to have 90 per cent of children reading by the end of Grade 2. Students' reading and writing skills are currently assessed at the end of Grade 2 and in Grade 7.

The Grade 9 assessment was the first to be done at that grade level and a pilot program this year will test students' abilities at the end of Grade 4.

Bouchard is not a big fan of standardized testing for young children and says the idea of testing children in kindergarten should be scrapped.

"It's killing the love of reading. They see it as a task and a threat," he says. "So do parents. Parents don't read with love but with a sense of commitment and fear."

Meg Pryde has been a teacher for 30 years and is currently teaching a Grade 4- 5 split class at Florenceville Elementary School.

"I have argued for a long time about testing kids in kindergarten. We label kids too early," she says. "Some kids are just not ready to read. I had a boy in Grade 4 just learning to read and loving it.... He'd been labelled and put on SEPs (special education plans) and he really didn't need to be, he just needed time."

Bouchard says children should be allowed to enjoy their education before being subject to standardized tests.

His plan to get children reading is simple.

"Would we all walk and talk if we hadn't had a role model? (Children) need time, relevant books, and role models," he says. "You are somebody's hero. Let them see you reading with passion. Modelling isn't one way of influencing kids, it is the only way. You can't light a fire in someone else's heart unless you light one in your own."

Elizabeth Matson teaches a split kindergarten-Grade 1 class at Frank L. Bowser School in Riverview.

She says the books her students gravitate towards at book fairs are the ones that have inspired a response in her.

"They ran right over and said, 'Oh, this is the book that makes Mrs. Matson cry,'" she says. "If it creates an emotional response, whether you laugh or cry, the children will be drawn in."

Pryde believes in the power of modelling because she has seen it work first- hand.

"I taught in New Zealand for a while and the reason they have such good scores is because the whole population reads," she says.

Pryde says one area where schools are lacking is good male role models because so many elementary school teachers are women.

Bouchard says it is up to parents and educators to find books that children can and want to read.

Matson says when her own son was in Grade 5 she had his reading ability tested because he just wasn't reading. She found he was actually reading well above grade level.

"He told me, 'Mum, they've not yet given me anything I care to read,'" she says. "We have to meet their interest level."

With so many students still coming out of the school system unable to read, Bouchard says something's got to change.

"What we're doing now is not working," he says. "There is a whole body of belief that says we are doing it wrong and yet we are dead set on doing more of the same thing."

Pryde believes the province may now be on the right track, even if they're not quite there yet.

"I think the literacy movement has put strong emphasis on the importance of literacy and it has brought more good books into our schools and more opportunities for boys and girls to read a variety of literature," she says. "I think it will have an impact, but I'm wondering if it will have the impact (we're hoping for)... The system may not be perfect, but we're working on it."

Jane Jonah teaches Grade 5 intensive French at Frank L. Bowser and says the students coming into her classroom are more confident readers.

"They are coming up with an I-can-do-it attitude even if they aren't all at grade level," she says.

Whether the focus on literacy in the younger grades will translate into better results down the line remains to be seen, but Matson is looking on the positive side.

"You have to believe that what you are doing is going to be successful," she says. "We are doing a lot that is right and good for children."

Bouchard says in his own family his father did not pass the gift of reading to him, nor did he pass it on to his two older sons, though he says he has learned from past mistakes and is now making sure he passes a love of reading on to his young daughter.

"The greatest gift we can give our children is the gift of reading," he says, before issuing a challenge to the gathered teachers.

"Do better than I did. Let literacy be your legacy."
PUBLICATION: The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton)
DATE: 2006.05.08
BYLINE: MARK TAYLORFor The Daily Gleaner

B.Ed students plan trip to Central America; Helping out - Education students aim to lend hand in poorer countries

A group of future teachers will get a different kind of education next month when they begin work on a humanitarian project in Central America.

The team of bachelor of education students from St. Thomas University will spend two weeks in Nicaragua and Honduras in mid-June, building fuel-efficient stoves and helping to develop subsistence farming in rural areas. As well, the group will be conducting literacy workshops with members of the communities.

The Falls Brook Centre, a sustainable development group based in Carleton County, is involved in the initiative.

"We are pretty excited about it," said David Ramsay, who took his place as one of many people at the Second Cup in Fredericton on Sunday night for a coffeehouse fundraiser.

He said he believes the people and the living conditions he will see will have an impact on him. Ramsay, a former computer consultant in Toronto, said he is looking forward to the experience.

"It's something that I've wanted to do for a while, especially after being to countries where there is work to do," he said.

Ramsay said he jumped on the opportunity to do the work with members of his class.

The native of Prince Edward Island plans to teach in high schools. Ramsay said he feels the trip will add to the quality of the teaching he can provide.

"There's that whole impact you can make with somebody," he said.

Andrew Sisk agreed.

The Chipman native, who has taken part in a similar project in Sri Lanka, was one of the people who suggested the mission to his classmates.

"Graduating classes will often plan a trip at the end," Sisk said. "It was myself and the others who said why not, because we're education students, go and give back somehow and in some way while going on a trip."

He said he remembers the trip he took to Sri Lanka just after receiving his undergraduate degree as a profound experience.

"I had all this theory and academic background," Sisk said. "To go and live in this country and not just observe it and to realize they were teaching me just as much as I would teach them was profound."

He said the trip will help him and the high school or middle school students he will later teach.

"I think anytime a teacher has real-life experiences and they're able to convey their experiences to the students, the students feel like its real," Sisk said.

He said a high school teacher he had brought lessons to life with the stories he told of his own experiences.

"That made it inspiring and real," Sisk said.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the trip and how they can help can visit the Falls Brook Centre website at www.fallsbrookcentre.ca.


At 10:37 PM, Anonymous Jen Robinson said...

Hi Louise,

Thanks for posting these articles. I especially liked the one about whether or not literacy tests are killing the love of reading. I would like to see David Bouchard speak sometime. I thought that the stuff about emulation being the only way to influence kids (read passionately yourself) was particularly powerful.

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