Carole McCurry leads her kindergarten class students in an activity involving numbers at George Fitton School on Thursday afternoon. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Children are showing signs in multiple areas that they’re not ready for kindergarten when compared to the rest of the province, Brandon School Division data shows.
Upon entering kindergarten, students overall are less developed in school readiness and there’s a significant increase in children with multiple challenges that could include physical health and well-being, social competence, emotional maturity, as well as language and thinking skills.
The data shows Brandon students are lacking in fine motor skills, shape identifying, pre-reading skills and basic oral language concepts.
The report, presented to trustees during Monday’s regular school board meeting, contains Early Development Instrument (EDI) data collected over the 2012-13 school year, kindergarten entry profiles for fall 2013 and kindergarten continuum data for November 2013. The data was collected by BSD teachers and administration.
"By doing the assessment they know all of the information before the report comes out," said BSD research and evaluation specialist Marnie Wilson. "Having done it, now they know the kids."
Compared to schools across Manitoba, EDI data shows local students are behind in basic numeracy, complex literacy, gross and fine motor skills as well as communication skills.
Carole McCurry, a George Fitton School kindergarten teacher with 25 years experience, has noticed students’ fine motor and social skills are weaker than they have been in the past.
"They’re just a different bunch of kids from a different time ... The technology is impacting the kids differently," McCurry said. "Kids are just coming with different skill sets that we need to look at addressing."
EDI’s objective is to measure school readiness and the developmental health of kindergarten students, as well as assess children’s overall readiness for Grade 1. EDI measures physical health and well-being, social competence, emotional maturity, language and thinking skills, as well as communications skills and general knowledge. Brandon students are below the Manitoba baseline in all of those areas by at least half or one percentage point.
BSD has also been tracking the percentage of students entering Grade 1 with multiple challenges. In 2012-13, seven per cent of students had multiple challenges compared to eight per cent in 2010-11 and six per cent in 2008-09. These percentages are in comparison to Manitoba’s five per cent baseline.
This is the second year BSD has collected kindergarten entry level and continuum data. Wilson said the continuum data breaks down end-of-year models and end-of-year outcomes for teachers to help keep students on track. It also provides kindergarten teachers with a "common language" throughout the division.
"Some of the most high-level discussions in all the meetings and committees I sit on is with those kindergarten teachers ... so that our kindergarten students get the best start that they can," Wilson said.
McCurry said the entry-level data provides teachers with a snapshot of every student’s skill level, which helps "drive her instruction."
"It gives us an idea of who may need support," McCurry said. "I revisit the data I collect frequently because I want to make sure I’m targeting what those kids need."
Extra support for early years students could involve changes to class programming, a speech pathologist, social worker and a clinical support team.
Students are also grouped and regrouped in the classroom based on their learning needs, Supt. Donna Michaels said.
"As teachers, what’s really critical is that we’re learning while our students are learning," Michaels said. "We have a common body of knowledge on questions designed to get all of us to think."
George Fitton kindergarten teachers have already met this month to discuss the results. Overall, the assessment overall was valuable and provides teachers with information to reference in the future, said George Fitton School principal Gail McDonald.
"That’s something I know with our staff, we’re very conscious of trying to link it from one grade to the next so that everybody sees they have a little piece to contribute in order to get these kids from kindergarten to Grade 12," McDonald said. "They need to know what’s happening here in order to program for the next step."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 13, 2013