New Brunswick Schools Early Literacy
The NB Schools Early Literacy Project is a collaborative action research project in partnership between the Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy (CRISP), the New Brunswick Department of Education, five school districts, twenty provincial schools, and six federal First Nations schools. The study is designed to augment the New Brunswick Department of Education’s Quality Learning Agenda (QLA; 2003), and has as its overarching goal the reduction of reading failure in New Brunswick students. CRISP’s role in this collaborative endeavour is the design, development, and implementation of a school-based continuous monitoring system that provides concrete and instructionally relevant information to teachers of students in kindergarten, grade one, and grade two. In collaboration with our research partners, it was decided that this monitoring system must:
- provide teachers with an objective and multi-dimensional measure of readiness to learn at school so that developmental weaknesses are detected within the first term of kindergarten;
- closely monitor each child’s literacy growth trajectory development from K-2 using assessment measures that are sufficiently sensitive and specific to capture small increments of change in crucial literacy fundamentals, particularly for identifying children not ‘on-track’ in literacy development;
- the monitoring system’s efficacy across differing geographical regions and cultures;
- provide aggregate data to discern the skill-specific, demographic, instructional, and contextual variables that are most closely associated with enhanced literacy outcomes and most relevant to policy and program decision-making; and
- enable comparison of the reading achievement of New Brunswick students in grades K-2 with a contemporary sample of Canadian peers.
In addition to this monitoring role, CRISP also provides ongoing professional development to educate teachers, administrators, and literacy support personnel on the administration and interpretation of early literacy assessment measures, and the use of assessment results to plan instruction that responds to identified learning needs. CRISP also prepares regular reports for schools, districts, and the Department of Education, and analyzes assessment results to address specific research questions. The primary research question is whether implementation of this school-based early literacy monitoring system and related professional development for teachers improves literacy outcomes. This improvement will be determined by comparing:
- individually-administered standardized test results of each participating cohort with those of Canadian peers; and
- annual provincially administered grade two assessment results between participating and non-participating grade-level cohorts.
This action research study is framed by converging research evidence that reading disparities among children are evident as early as kindergarten; that early identification and preventive early intervention can significantly reduce the number of children with reading difficulties, and can drastically diminish the number of children identified as learning disabled. The issue then is early identification, and the means we have chosen to ensure consistent early identification for participating schools in this research project is the implementation of a continuous, school-based monitoring system. This system provides instructionally relevant information early in the kindergarten year and at specified time points during the K-2 period, thereby enabling teachers to determine which children are falling “off track”, the type and extent of their skill-specific weaknesses, and the targeted interventions they require. Data are also being used to assess the efficacy of various remedial interventions already in place in school districts, to identify “best practices” for disseminating across schools and districts, and to inform ongoing professional development needs.
Funded in part by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; the New Brunswick Government’s Department of Education; and the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network (CLLRN)
- Elizabeth Sloat (project leader)
- Doug Willms
- Joan Beswick
- Natalie Lutwick
- Teresa Tang
- Beth Fairbairn