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A literacy and numeracy path

WSD administrators and educators joined their peers from across the province for the recent Manitoba Summit on Literacy and Numeracy.

The Jan. 9 to 11 event, which was organized by Manitoba Education and Training, was an initial step in co-developing a long-term provincial literacy and numeracy strategy.

“We’re hoping this literacy and numeracy strategy will look at the best and most effective models in improving student learning across the province, and how we can create the supports around those best models so they can be effective in different school settings,” said Superintendent of Education Services—Curriculum and Innovation Celia Caetano-Gomes.

WSD had a sizeable group of educators at the event, which included superintendents, directors, consultants, principals, vice-principals and teachers from both elementary and high school.

“We tried to have people attend who have had many different perspectives and experiences when it comes to literacy and numeracy,” Ms. Caetano-Gomes said. “For example, we had staff who represented schools in the Inner City; schools with newcomers and refugees; schools offering French Immersion programming; schools participating in successful literacy and numeracy initiatives; schools with unique support programs for at-risk students.”

Literacy and numeracy are embedded across all subject areas and are considered to be important lifelong skills. Beyond simply reading and writing words, or adding and subtracting numbers, literacy and numeracy encompass the ability to make connections to real world contexts and other content areas, model and communicate thinking, create and think critically.

Results from recent pan-Canadian and international assessments show that Manitoba students are not achieving at the same level as other provinces in the areas of literacy and numeracy.

“Both Department of Manitoba Education and Training and the Minister of Education have indicated that they would like to see Manitoba be the most improved province from where we are today,” said Ms. Caetano-Gomes. “To achieve this, they are collecting voices from all the different partners and stakeholders. This will lead into a provincial strategy that is to be released in March.”

Current provincial assessment tools focus on reading, writing and math; but in the broader sense, literacy can be applied to a fluency in key competencies and skill sets in other areas, such as science.

“We are curious to see if the upcoming strategy will look at the broader collection of literacy achievement and progress for students,” Ms. Caetano-Gomes said.

 “Research shows that with a strong foundation in literacy, students will have better success in other areas. There were a lot of conversations about what that foundational literacy needs to look like across the province.”

Representatives from school divisions, private sector, daycare workers and universities came together to discuss how to best to support both students and staff in literacy and numeracy.

“Another theme that came up in the different stakeholder group discussions was the barriers facing students,” Ms. Caetano-Gomes said. “These are barriers of poverty, trauma, being new to Canada, mental health and individual experiences. There are a lot of different issues, but there was willingness across the different stakeholder groups to look for partnerships with other organizations and agencies to help address these barriers for children. If we can provide better supports to students facing these barriers, it will support literacy and numeracy achievement, as well as overall wellbeing.”

Along with establishing a strong model of literacy and numeracy practice in schools, Ms. Caetano-Gomes hopes the strategy will also place emphasis on support systems.

“I’m hoping the strategy will also look at those partnerships and support models to make schools as successful and empowered as they can be, reduce barriers for students and families and build the academic journeys of students development as learners.”

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