Learning assessments key to student success in early yearsPosted on
Students in grades 1 to 3 will benefit from literacy and numeracy screening assessments to help those struggling get back on track.
Mandatory screening assessments
In response to the learning loss identified in a pilot during the 2021-22 school year and the Child and Youth Well-being Review Panel recommendations, school authorities will now be required to administer literacy and numeracy screening assessments, selected from an approved list, starting in September 2022.
“Assessing students in the critical early years of their education is key for ensuring long-term learning success and ensuring early interventions are in place to prevent future learning challenges. Parents can be confident their young children are learning the literacy and numeracy foundational skills they need for success in their future education goals. These assessments and interventions will continue to position Alberta as a global leader in kindergarten to Grade 12 education for years to come.”
Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education
The implementation of language and math assessments for students in grades 1 to 3 was one of the Alberta government’s key platform commitments. Fulfilling this commitment, while also addressing COVID-19-related learning loss, will ensure both parents and teachers understand and assess progress in the critical early years to help struggling learners. Many other provinces already collect assessment information about students at this age.
Additionally, Alberta’s government will continue to provide updated provincial norms, intervention resources and reports for school authorities that choose to continue using the government-provided screening assessment tools released this school year. The LeNS and CC3 screening tools have been developed in both English and French by world-class researchers and have been successfully used in the last year to accurately identify children in need of additional support.
“These assessments are necessary because they provide important information about student learning, which allows our teachers to apply ongoing research-based instruction as well as literacy and numeracy intervention that enhances learning for all students and brings those who struggle significantly closer to grade-level expectations. Students are motivated because they are experiencing success daily.”
Pamela Guilbault, superintendent, Lakeland Catholic School Division
These screening tools, along with the EMA@School numeracy tools and all associated learning resources provided by the government, are free for school authorities to use. School authorities have the flexibility and autonomy to choose other government-approved screening assessments on the approved list at their own expense.
This builds on the work undertaken this school year to identify struggling learners and provide interventions and support. Alberta’s government has provided $45 million to help address pandemic-related learning disruptions for Grade 1-3 students.
Additionally, evidence from University of Alberta professor George Georgiou's intervention project with Grade 2 and 3 struggling readers in four school divisions in Alberta has shown that 82 per cent of students improved by 1.5 grade levels in five months’ time. The new requirement for consistent use of early years assessments to identify struggling learners is also timely as the new kindergarten to Grade 3 curriculum is implemented for English Language Arts and Mathematics beginning in September.
“Decoding Dyslexia Alberta applauds the literacy initiatives that commenced in the 2020-21 school year. We support the use of reliable reading assessments and interventions for all students in grades 1-3 starting in September. These assessments will help teachers accurately identify children at risk for reading difficulties and provide timely and targeted support.”
Sarah Sarich, president, Decoding Dyslexia Alberta
In 2021, the College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS), on behalf of Alberta Education, engaged school authorities regarding existing practices for early years assessments. This work informed Alberta Education’s planning and implementation of the assessments. It was noted during this engagement work that none of the assessments are comprehensive and cover the breadth of the curriculum. Anecdotal evidence also suggested that some of the standardized assessments are sometimes used for purposes that they are not designed for. A report detailing this engagement work is available on alberta.ca.
“Since Alberta’s school authorities utilize literacy and numeracy student assessments for early intervention, CASS is appreciative of the government’s offer of free intervention resources. The flexibility and autonomy of assessment choice as the government moves to fulfil its platform commitments is appreciated. CASS is open to working collaboratively with the ministry regarding future government-approved screening assessments and best practices related to data usage.”
Wilco Tymensen, president, College of Alberta School Superintendents
- Screening assessments will be phased in, beginning with grades 2 and 3 students in September 2022 followed by Grade 1 students in January 2023.
- Alberta Education will establish beginning, middle and end-of-year provincial norms for the government-provided screening assessments to help identify students who may require additional supports.
- The assessments will continue annually until students are finished Grade 3. School authorities will also reassess at-risk students at the end of the school year to measure their progress. School authorities will submit a summary of their screening results in their Annual Education Results Reports (AERR). This approach helps the province, school authorities and schools track successes and continuously improve the quality of education for students and supports a transparent, accountable and responsive education system.
- Information from these screening assessments will provide critical information for school authorities to consider for their long-range planning and to inform classroom instruction.
- Mandatory screening assessments are separate from student learning assessments (SLAs), which are digital tests administered at the beginning of the school year in Grade 3 to assess outcomes related to literacy and numeracy in language arts and mathematics in the current Grade 2 provincial programs of study. SLAs will remain optional.