Education Action Plan on track: district, department

Bishop Abraham Elementary in St. John’s.

Delayed openings at some schools for new training, familiarization

A delayed opening this week for 39 schools in the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District was the result of efforts by the provincial government to keep moving on the new Education Action Plan.

According to information provided by the Department of Education and English school district this week, the schools allowed for some teacher training based on the education plan released in July.

The plan called for the introduction of new reading specialists and “teaching and learning assistants.” It committed the province to hiring 200 teaching and learning assistants over three years. This week, The Telegram was told both the English district andConseil scolaire francophone provincial de Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador have been hiring as planned, with 54 teaching and learning assistants distributed throughout 40 schools.

Training days this week allowed time for some of the new staff members to learn alongside existing staff. Some teaching and learning assistants will be in place in the second week of school.

Topics covered in the training days this week included: “responsive teaching and learning, tiered approach to learning, the role of reading specialists, the role of teaching and learning assistants, and library learning commons.”

The Telegram asked after other, specific items from the education action plan, expected to be checked off the list this September.

A new student support services policy has been drafted, for example. As noted in the action plan document, some pieces of this will continue to be developed and introduced over time. The specific example offered by the department was the introduction of new processes and procedures for providing services from health professionals to students with complex needs.

A jurisdictional review of the primary school curriculum was also to be completed. That review was undertaken, The Telegram was told, and a report drafted. It is with department officials now and expected to inform future curricula updates.

The Education Action Plan stated the province would see the purchase of new software for “special case management.” The department said there are related software purchases happening, with training set through this year and plans to begin regular use in 2019.

The action plan also calls for a new “early assessment tool” to identify students requiring additional learning supports. That has been obtained, according to the department.

A new hire has been made in the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development to help the province improve in the area of multicultural education. A second individual, an existing program specialist, has also been identified to help.

The action plan called for professional learning in various technologies — assistive technology and “alternate format” materials. The provincial government says it has hired a person to lead the training and the training will get underway in this school year. “The training and support will be ongoing,” stated an emailed response to questions this week.

Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Al Hawkins offered his back to school welcome this week, pointing to some of the changes happening under the Education Action Plan. That includes new curriculums introduced for 11 courses within the K-12 system. “A new curriculum guide, resources and professional learning has been provided for each course,” noted a statement from Hawkins’ department.

The change in weighting for public exams was also noted in the statement, with the policy shifting to a 60-40 split, with school evaluations of student work worth 60 per cent and public exams 40 per cent, versus a previous 50-50 split.

The Education Action Plan followed 82 recommendations from the Premier’s Task Force on Improving Educational Outcomes. The new action plan contains short, medium and longer-term requirements for the coming years.

In a press release this week, the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School Councils encouraged parents to reach out to provincial government members and call on government to maintain education funding, and to see through the Education Action Plan.

This action plan promised to make changes to our education system that would improve and enhance the educational experience for the students of our province. It is our job to hold our government accountable for those promises and ensure that every effort is made to provide our children with a quality education in a safe and caring environment,” it read.

On Monday, Premier Dwight Ball, minister Hawkins and Virginia Waters-Pleasantville MHA Bernard Davis are scheduled to visit East Point Elementary in St. John’s. The premier and minister are expected to speak to progress in enacting the provincial education plan.