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More funding for schools to close learning gaps

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Alberta’s government is doubling its 2022-23 funding commitment to combat learning disruptions in the early grades and address complexity of students’ needs.

The early years of education are critical to long-term learning success. Alberta’s government is committed to ensuring all Grade 1 students in Alberta develop the foundational skills they need to succeed in later grades. The government is providing an additional $10 million this year to help Grade 1 students who need help catching up to grade level in the areas of foundational math and literacy.

“Alberta’s government is building on last year’s success, where we helped at-risk students catch up to their peers by more than half a year’s worth of learning. We are taking action to prevent future challenges for our youngest learners, who are in the critical years of their development.”

Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education

Building on past supports

This funding is in addition to other supports the government has provided to combat pandemic-related learning disruptions.

In 2021-22, the government provided $45 million to provide extra supports to students in grades 1 to 3. As a result, 70,000 students regained an average of almost seven months of literacy and numeracy development. Data also indicated that approximately 20 per cent of students required further intervention to catch up. To further support those students, Alberta’s government provided another $10 million to help school authorities continue to support the same cohort of students, who are now in grades 2 to 4.

Ongoing research and feedback from school authorities, teachers and parents indicates students in Grade 1 are experiencing challenges in their reading and math skills and were affected by learning disruptions while in kindergarten or preschool, and for many of these students, Grade 1 is their first year learning in a school setting. In recognition that early childhood education—integral to learning development for many students—was impacted during the pandemic, Alberta’s government is providing $10 million specifically for students in Grade 1. The government is able to provide this funding for Grade 1 students at this time of year because schools have had the preceding months to work with these learners and determine their exact needs.

“Targeted early literacy and numeracy programming is a proven practice that has a significant impact on student learning. The College of Alberta School Superintendents board of directors appreciates the additional funding to support foundational math and literacy skill development for Alberta Grade 1 students.”

Scott Morrison, president, College of Alberta School Superintendents

“The Alberta School Boards Association appreciates this investment to address learning disruptions for Grade 1 students to support the development of foundational skills. This will assist school boards as they continue to support young learners and make informed decisions based on the needs of their local school communities.”

Marilyn Dennis, president, Alberta School Boards Association

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to our education system, and the announcement of funding to support Grade 1 learners is a beacon of hope. As a board chair for a school division, I am proud to see the prioritization of our students’ learning and development, and this funding will help us provide the necessary resources and support to mitigate the effects of learning loss. This is a significant step towards a brighter future for our young learners and the entire education community.”

Joe Becigneul, board chair, Greater St. Albert Catholic School Division

Early literacy and early numeracy skills are strong predictors of a child’s long-term academic achievement. It’s important to ensure students who are just starting out in school can develop the foundational skills they will need to build on in later grades. Research has shown that if educators can identify and help struggling learners early, those students can catch up to grade level relatively quickly. By providing extra supports to Alberta’s youngest students now, the government will help prevent future learning difficulties.

School authorities will have the flexibility to tailor programs to their students’ unique needs. For example, they may hire additional teachers and educational assistants, provide more training to their staff or purchase resources like books and access to online resources.

Quick facts

  • The $10 million to support Grade 1 students who require additional support is part of the government’s commitment to provide $110 million over three years for students experiencing both academic and mental health challenges because of the pandemic.
  • School authorities can begin applying for this funding immediately. The first four months of the school year allowed teachers to assess students and identify students in need of additional interventions and supports.
  • Budget 2022 also included $1.4 billion for Learning Supports funding to meet students’ specialized learning needs.
  • As a result of the learning disruption programming in 2021-22, school authorities reported:
    • their students experienced increased success
    • student confidence and engagement increased
    • they received positive feedback from parents
    • increased professional development and collaboration among teachers, educational assistants, administrators, interventionists and divisional leadership in designing interventions and assessing students’ success
  • Beginning in September 2022, school authorities are required to administer literacy and numeracy screening assessments for all students in grades 1 to 3. Students in grades 2 and 3 were assessed earlier this school year, and Grade 1 students were assessed by the end of January 2023. The $10 million the government is adding for this year will help ensure Grade 1 students who are behind grade level will receive the supports they need.
  • School authorities will reassess students at the end of the school year to measure their progress.
  • Assessing students in their early years provides essential information to teachers, parents and government about potential student learning issues and needs, and ensures students get the help they need sooner.

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