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SECTION 2 Student Learning

April 21, 2021
Education Review main art Web

Executive Summary
SECTION 1: Long Term Vision

SECTION 2: Student Learning
SECTION 3: Teaching
SECTION 4: Accountability for Student Learning
SECTION 5: Governance
SECTION 6: Funding
Winnipeg School Division’s Recommendations

Appendix A
Appendix B

Student learning in the 21st century is not a one-size-fits-all concept. WSD students need to learn how to master content while producing, synthesizing, and evaluating information from a wide variety of subjects and sources with an understanding and respect for diverse cultures. In addition, students are developing strong critical thinking and interpersonal communication skills in order to be successful in an increasingly fluid, interconnected and complex world while also demonstrating creativity, communication and collaboration.

Education prepares students to be learners for life. Technology allows for instant and immediate access to information, constant social interaction and easily created and shared digital content. WSD educators are optimizing technology by creating and engaging a personalized environment to meet the emerging educational needs of this generation and generations to come. Research has demonstrated that engaging students in the learning process increases their attention and focus, motivates them to practice higher-level critical thinking skills and promotes meaningful learning experiences. Teachers who adopt a student-centered approach to instruction increase opportunities for student engagement.6

Overall, many factors impact students’ readiness to learn including socio-economic status, personal attributes, physical and mental health, parental engagement, curriculum, teaching quality, leadership, school culture and more. This section responds to the focus area of student learning and illustrates how Winnipeg School Division is implementing many initiatives and impacting student learning.

The topics covered within this section include:

  • WSD expectations for students’ literacy and numeracy.
  • How poverty influences learning.
  • Excellence in student achievement.
  • The relevance of the core Manitoba curriculum for today’s students.
  • The relationship between mental and physical health, well-being, safe environments and student learning.
  • The role of technology in student learning.
  • The relationship between early learning and future educational success.
  • The impact of learning pathways and transitions on student success.
  • Career Education.


Winnipeg School Division has high expectations for its students and all school administrators, support personnel and district councils create on-going opportunities for dialogue. These opportunities support learners in developing a common language and understanding of WSD’s Principles of Learning. Growth takes place as each learner reads, interprets, reflects and communicates their learning to others. The understandings are then applied to the daily practices of the learner. The terms instructional leader and learner apply to all individuals, irrespective of role within Winnipeg School Division. The role of leader or learner is defined by the purpose and context of each circumstance.


Research tells us that socioeconomic status (SES) is a major driver of literacy and numeracy results, and as indicated in Literacy and Numeracy in Manitoba: Setting the Context, “gaps for some populations start very early, in the first months and years of life prior to children entering Kindergarten, and remain as they progress through school. Toxic stressors such as poverty and trauma can contribute to these achievement gaps.”7

This relationship has been shown to be quite prominent in Winnipeg specifically. In a study done by the Manitoba Center for Health Policy, where neighbourhoods were categorized by socioeconomic status (low, low-mid, middle, high) it was observed that students from low SES neighbourhoods had much lower pass rates and were significantly less likely to graduate than their high SES classmates.8 Additionally, despite the fact that low SES students required greater and more intensive resources – they actually received less of these programs than their high SES counterparts – with 13 percent of high SES area Grade 1 students receiving reading recovery compared to four percent of Grade 1 students in low SES areas. Due to the high demand for resources and the funding restrictions (e.g. grants based on the assumption that only 20 percent of students will need these kinds of programs) the high-needs schools used their funding for less intensive programming that could reach all the affected students.9

Consequently, in order to see improvement in student results, those with the highest needs must be sufficiently supported. Focusing on high-needs students who are occupying the low end of the achievement spectrum offers the greatest growth potential for improving student learning and provincial assessment results.

As indicated in the Province’s Poverty Reduction Plan, “consultation participants across Manitoba spoke about the importance of healthy, nutritious food, dental and vision care, medications, safe housing and public transportation.”10 Even though “investing in Manitoba’s future prosperity through supports to children and youth” is the Province’s first priority listed in their Poverty Reduction Plan there are several gaps in the provision of supports and many responsibilities end up falling on to the shoulders of school divisions.11

Winnipeg School Division provides several of these services with limited support or acknowledgment from the provincial government. WSD programming includes nutrition programs, clothing programs, helping parents find housing, hearing screening program, providing vision care and glasses (Mobile Vision Care Clinic) as well as arranging other health and social services and supporting families in difficult times.

Many WSD schools provide breakfast, lunch and snack programs. These programs require more support and resources than they are currently receiving through grants to continue meeting growing demands. Since 2016, there have been 122,157 breakfasts and 12,000 lunches served in WSD. The elementary students also received snack servings as part of a Nursery snack program.

WSD also funds a milk subsidy program available to students in parent-run lunch programs in Kindergarten to Grade 9. All WSD schools promote initiatives that help parents, teachers and the community have a positive attitude toward nutrition and lifelong eating habits.
WSD provides these services because we recognize students are deeply affected by their environments – and having appropriate social/health supports are vital in keeping students on their educational path.

Recommendation 3: That the Province of Manitoba, in collaboration with educational partners, develop clearly identifiable determinants that are required for the success of students and work with educational partners to achieve them. 

Recommendation 4: That the Province of Manitoba apply funding and supports for a universal meal program with consideration that food insecurity has significant implications to the physical and emotional well-being of children and which can impact educational outcomes. We cannot expect optimal student learning and best achievement outcomes if children are hungry at school.


In a rapidly changing world, the K to 12 education system must keep pace with meeting the needs of students by providing a flexible learning platform specific to the learning abilities of the individual child.

While literacy and numeracy are undeniably necessary life skills, a student’s success should not be measured on academic achievements alone. Excellence looks different for each student and the K to 12 education system needs to accommodate this with diverse programming. To this end, WSD offers a wide range of programming, from science, technology, culinary arts, automotive technology, horticulture and landscaping, and the arts. From Kindergarten through Grade 12, specialist teachers offer various classes, initiatives and opportunities in dance, drama, music and visual arts.

Winnipeg School Division has differentiated itself by working with the strengths of each child. In our experience, equity is needed to achieve student achievement. Some indicators of equity include: newcomers receiving additional supports, students requiring inclusive education supports, LGBTTQ students finding a safe place at school and within their Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA), trauma affected families have a safe space within school communities and students who are excelling are challenged to ensure their engagement.

All students need to be embraced and diversity ought to be celebrated. WSD schools pride themselves on a positive, safe and welcoming environment while educating the whole child. For example, student success at Argyle Alternative High School looks much different than other high schools.

WSD is home to a range of choices and alternative programming to meet the various needs of our diverse student community. These include: Adolescent Parent Center, Argyle Alternative High School, Children of the Earth High School, Niji Mahkwa, R.B. Russell Vocational High School and the Winnipeg Adult Education Centre, and off-campus programs.

In supporting excellence in education, WSD has many initiatives, which are referenced throughout this document, such as:

  • Professional Services Support (PSS): To increase student outcomes and the growing needs of students, the WSD consultant structure was reconfigured in 2018/19. The new model produces job embedded support for teachers in the classroom and support for schools in reviewing and disaggregating data to provide appropriate programming through PSS. This reconfiguration enables WSD to address ongoing needs in numeracy and literacy to assist WSD in meeting objectives outlined in the WSD Strategic Plan.
  • Math Pathway: Winnipeg School Division identifies student needs in elementary mathematics through the use of “The Math Pathway”, which highlights essential learning from the curriculum. The Math Pathway is a tool which supports teachers in observing students’ mathematics. Each student has an individual record of learning called the Evidence of Student Growth Booklet. Data collected is shared with each child to help them set goals for moving their learning forward. Teachers use the data to determine a starting point for instruction, determine the strengths and learning needs of each child so that they can tailor next steps and for reporting student progress to parents on an ongoing basis.
  • Talk to Me: A Speech-Language Program implemented for Nursery and Kindergarten students in 20 schools within Winnipeg School Division. The goal of this program is to help students develop stronger speech and language skills so that they can become better readers and succeed in school. Classroom teachers identify students to be screened by the Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). If selected, the student participates in speech and language sessions three times a cycle. The program is carried out by a trained Speech-Language Educational Assistant under the supervision of the SLP. 
  • Read to Me: a school-wide reading framework focusing on teaching beginning literacy—phonenic awareness, alphabetic principle, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension—for Grades 1 to 3. Schools implementing this framework adopted a research-based core reading curriculum, devoted an uninterupted 90 minutes daily to reading instruction, grouped students by skill level, and measured progress in basic skills three times annually. The framework provides for small group tier two intervention for students who are not progressing. At the individual level of support, school personnel create individualized, specially tailored plans, which may include additional instruction, one-on-one instruction, and more opportunities to practice skills. The framework is having a positive impact on student literacy scores, attendance and social emotional data.
  • International Baccalaureate programme (IB): available to students throughout WSD who have met the requirements for the programme, is offered at Kelvin High School. The programme offers a challenging, comprehensive and highly academic curriculum for the academically talented student. The same course of studies is followed by students around the world. High standards are maintained by means of external examinations set in Geneva, Switzerland. The IB programme is followed for three years (Grades 10-12). IB graduates are well prepared for post-secondary education. Many universities grant first year standing for courses in which students have achieved a certain level on their IB courses.
  • Advanced Academic Placement (AP): The AP Program provides special opportunities to those students who are motivated and planning to attend university. This program of university level courses and exams for secondary students was designed to allow the successful student to receive advanced credit and/or standing upon entering university. The school division offers AP courses in three different high schools including Sisler, Grant Park and Daniel McIntyre. The courses may include; Biology, Chemistry, English, Calculus, Physics, Art and Psychology

    The AP program is recognized worldwide. Most universities and colleges in Canada and the United States recognize AP courses. Some universities actively recruit high school graduates who have AP course credits. At the present time, there are over 11,000 secondary schools that have students taking AP courses. The Advanced Placement Program is best known for giving high school students the opportunity to earn university credit, to save on tuition, and even to graduate early from university.


It has been decades since the last provincial review of the K to 12 education system in Manitoba. Many areas have changed including provincial demographics, technological, environmental, economic and societal transformations. However, the structures underpinning education have remained unchanged.12

The Province of Manitoba must continue to revise all curricula based on grade and subject area with specific student learning outcomes. The curricula should ensure relevancy in educational content and to streamline across all subject areas while including the four foundational skills: literacy and communication, problem solving, human relations and technology.13

“The Province of Manitoba has a process for curriculum development and implementation. Many stakeholders are involved including educators, scholars, industry representatives, and other community members with relevant expertise are called upon in a consistent curriculum development process.”14 There has been some controversy about the accountability and transparency of curriculum development and implementation in the province.

Recent experience with the new English Language Arts Curriculum for Kindergarten to Grade 2, is an example. The curriculum was piloted in St. James-Assiniboia School Division and shortly thereafter was launched province wide. Each school division, however, was independently left to implement the major overhaul of the curriculum. The expectations of the updated curriculum are very high and are not paired with assessments. There is lack of support within the province causing school educators to feel isolated in implementation and assessment. Teachers are frustrated trying to link all curriculum together, and need more support, training and professional development to support the new curriculum.

Recommendation 5: That the Province of Manitoba implement a more collaborative process for curriculum development, implementation and assessment and a review should occur every seven to ten years. 


Students require wellness in all areas to reach their full potential. The relationship between mental health, physical health, well-being and safe environments can all positively impact student learning. Focusing on Mental Health in Education can enhance student learning and achievements, increase confidence of students and staff and ultimately increase graduation levels.


The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) outlines that mental health spending in Manitoba is below the standard set by national and international research. Currently the provincial budget is set at five percent, but CCPA recommends the spending increase to nine percent.15

In May 2019, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) called for a national mental health promotion strategy and a framework for mental health analysis to ensure that the mental health implications of current and forthcoming federal policies and programs are considered.16

The Province of Manitoba has already made strides in recognizing the impact of mental health on the population. Namely, the Accessibility for Manitobans Act aims to identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility.17 Mental health often takes a hidden form, and can emerge or manifest into mental illness.

Recommendation 6: That the Province of Manitoba increase spending in mental health promotion and integrated services specifically for K to 12 education. 

Recommendation 7: That WSD assist the Province of Manitoba to create and implement mental health curriculum for Kindergarten to Grade 12 students. In addition, that mental health promotion and planning be integrated into the curriculum and school activities across the province, to benefit staff and students, as it is benefiting those in WSD. 


Winnipeg School Division was one of the first stakeholders in Manitoba to take part in a voluntary student led national survey. Since then, the survey has evolved to Our School Survey and the Province of Manitoba has enlisted other school divisions to take part.
Recent data from the 2017/2018 school year shows high levels of anxiety and depression:

  • 23 percent of students in Grades 4 to 6 and 31 percent of students in Grades 7 to 12 reported moderate to high levels of anxiety.
  • 32 percent of students in Grades 7 to 12 reported moderate to high levels of depression.


WSD implemented a Mental Health Strategy in 2014, based on research (including longitudinal meta-analysis studies) that detailed the connection between positive student mental health and an increase in academic abilities (particularly numeracy and literacy). The priority focus for the WSD Mental Health Strategy was to have Mental Health Literacy (MHL) across the division (staff and students) by 2018. MHL is an understanding of mental wellness and illness. By increasing the knowledge about mental wellness and illness, we reduce stigma and strengthen our own mental health and that of those around us.

  • Mental Health Literacy training was provided to all 78 schools. Training continues to be offered at various non-school sites throughout WSD.
  • The majority of WSD Kindergarten to Grade 8 schools have implemented twice-daily mindfulness moments to promote self-regulation.
  • Establishing annual Healthy Minds Week for staff and students, community/parent forums on selected topics (i.e. anxiety), gallery walk display, various presentations and other annual initiatives.
  • Student Services (Counsellors/CSS) connect with the Indigenous Education team to offer Journey’s training for clinical and counselling staff, with a focus on resiliency and reduction of sexual exploitation programming for six pilot schools.


Technology can be a powerful tool for transforming learning. It can help affirm and advance relationships between educators and students, reinvent learning and collaboration, address equity and accessibility gaps, and adapt learning experiences to meet the needs of all learners. Technology is often thought of as an add-on to student learning. A shift in thinking must occur to change the mentality of technology as something new, to something that assists everyday student learning.

To realize fully the benefits of technology in our education system and provide authentic learning experiences, educators need to use technology effectively in their practice. Technology should support and enhance student learning and not be taught as alternative.


Supporting young children’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical development and learning is a complex, and exciting journey. Adults who teach young children have an opportunity to design the environment for children to explore, wonder, investigate, discover and construct their own thinking. The early years when children are developing at a rapid rate, are the optimum time for teachers to provide experiences that will build a foundation for lifelong learning.

Extensive research documents the impact of Early Childhood Education (ECE) including:

  • Improved social skills.
  • Improved cognitive and language development.
  • Improved attention spans.
  • Improved socio emotional development.
  • Improved mental and physical health and overall wellness.
  • Enthusiasm for life-long learning.
  • Identified learning and developmental delays at an early stage, resulting in students receiving appropriate supports sooner.

Studies have shown an increased likelihood of graduating high school with fewer behavior issues and pursuit of secondary education.

High quality early childhood programs promote healthy development and can generate savings by preventing the need for more expensive supports later in life. Some studies show that participation in high quality child care can help children avoid special education, grade repetition, early parenthood and incarceration. Disadvantaged children, particularly those from low income families, benefit greatly from early childhood education, with respect to social outcomes and future economic well-being. Early learning for all children has been shown to improve the abilities of all children.18

With all the benefits of ECE, the question becomes, “Why isn’t more in place?” There are countless studies that show the benefit of ECE far outweighs the costs. For example, the National forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs has indicated that high quality ECE can yield $4 to $9 dollar return per $1 dollar invested.19 An evaluation of the High/Scope Perry Preschool project, one of the most well-known studies in Michigan, US, found an estimated social return of about $12.90 per dollar invested.20 Canadian Economists calculate the cost-to-benefit ratio at between $2 and $7 returned for every $1 spent, depending on the population studied.21

The newest research from Perry Preschool: Intergenerational effects shows ECE strengthens families and can break the cycle of poverty. The research provides further evidence that investing in high quality ECE can produce gains for disadvantaged children and delivery better outcomes for society. It also shows strong intergenerational effects in achievement but also in family life including greater personal and social gains spanning multiple generations. As a result, high-quality ECE emerges as an effective tool for fighting intergenerational poverty.22 With all the benefits of ECE the question becomes why aren’t more funding available and more programs in place?

In March 2015, the Government of Manitoba established the Manitoba Early Learning Child Care Commission to provide recommendations for implementing a proposed early learning and child care framework. As of 2019, the work the commission has yet to be adopted.23

In Manitoba, there is a gap from when parents finish parental leave and formal schooling begins. While child care and education fall under the provincial legislation, they are not streamlined effectively. Too many families are awaiting daycare spaces and are forced to work alternate hours, jobs or unemployment. As of June 2018, the Manitoba Online Childcare Registry had a total of 16,605 children requiring care.24 Other worrisome statistics indicate only 23.8 percent of children aged 0-5 have regulated center-based spaces.25

In Manitoba, many children entering Kindergarten and Early Years are “not ready” in key areas of development.26 These early gaps often result in persistent achievement gaps that do not close as children progress through school. Manitoba can do better and needs to do better.

Recommendation 8: That childcare, Early Childhood Education and K to 12 education be streamlined with appropriate funding. In addition, that the Province of Manitoba consider implementing the work from the Manitoba Early Learning and Childcare Commission.

Examples of WSD initiatives and programming for Early Childhood Learning:

  • Early School Years Program: The Early School Years Program is offered in six Inner City schools (Fort Rouge, Mulvey, William Whyte, Pinkham, Dufferin, and Niji Mahkwa), to provide an enriched educational environment for children in Nursery and Kindergarten. The primary focus is on language development and supporting parents in their involvement in the educational process of their children.
  • Nursery School In WSD: Since 1965, WSD has operated a nursery program in 59 schools fully funded by the local community. The program started in Winnipeg’s lowest socio-economic areas focusing on early years’ development up to age six, setting competency and coping skills that affect learning, behaviour and health throughout life.
  • Full Day Kindergarten: WSD is currently offering Full Day Kindergarten (FDK) in 11 schools. Students will be evaluated after Grade 3 to determine the impacts on FDK students compared to students in half day kindergarten.
  • Early Years Enhancement: In March 2017, the Province of Manitoba announced a new Early Years Enhancement grant to support student success in literacy and numeracy.
    Winnipeg School Division views this as positive and progressive support for early years education. This initiative gives us the ability to be responsive to WSD’s priorities for early education while honoring experiential learning, cooperation and social/emotional needs of children. This support allows children to achieve higher academic success in literacy, numeracy and connections to other subjects.


Transitions from education into career pathways are increasingly complex. Transitions are also required for equity among Indigenous students, students living in poverty, students with disabilities and students with exceptional needs. Students are called upon to navigate multiple career transitions within an ever-changing labour market. Students need a set of advanced career-management skills and supports to manoeuvre between and within learning and work. Transitions are also required for equity for disadvantaged groups such as Indigenous students, racialized students, low income students and students with disabilities.27

The Canadian Ministers of Education Council (2017) have outlined a Reference Framework for Successful Student Transitions from K to 12 to Post-Secondary Education. Although they acknowledge other transition points are not included in the document but are subjects of another process.28

In 2013, the Government of Ontario released a document called “Creating Pathways to Success – Policy and Program Requirements, Kindergarten to Grade 12.” This document outlines the implementation of a comprehensive K to 12 education and career/life planning program designed to help students achieve their personal goals and become competent, successful and contributing members of society. This is a school-wide program delivered through classroom instruction linked to the curriculum and through broader school programs and activities.29

Recommendation 9: That the Province of Manitoba consider implementing a learning pathway/transitions framework to assist students in life transitions from K to 12 to post-secondary or college, trades certification or careers. The framework should include skills and competencies carried through all curriculum and streamlined into post-secondary teachings. For examples, look to other Canadian provinces (i.e. British Columbia and Alberta).30, 31 


Winnipeg School Division is committed to inspiring students to achieve academic success, reach goals and enter the workforce. Preparing for the workforce is an important outcome of education and, through WSD career development, students learn their own strengths and interests. Through a variety of curriculum choices, programs and events, Winnipeg School Division students are able to explore possible future career options. WSD partners with organizations and businesses to monitor the labour market for Winnipeg youth and provide the tools, technology and skills they need to lead to meaningful careers.

As educators, we aim to help students understand the concept of career by providing them with opportunities for personal growth, self-reflection and career exploration. By integrating this approach into all schools, students will see the relevancy in their education and how it relates to their future. Rather than simply talking about work, we want students to be able to articulate their skills and interests and make realistic connections to their desired futures.

WSD recognizes the importance of providing a pathway for students to enter the workforce. Apart from the career education, students at all levels must be exposed to curriculum relevancy, skill development, career building and world of work awareness and readiness. Through this pathway to the workforce, WSD offers students the following programs:

The Academy of Creative Technology (Act) at Sisler High School, the first of its kind in Canada, specializes in Technology education. This program delivers an enriched technology education experience that aims to develop both technology skills and relevant soft skills employers require to be competitive in the digital economy. The program focuses on developing students capable of thinking critically to solve real world business solutions, while mastering Information Communication Technologies. The goal of the program is to prepare students to be effective digital citizens, enable students’ successful transition to postsecondary, and to ultimately contribute to Manitoba’s IT workforce. Courses are offered to students in Cyber Security, Animation, 3D Digital Imaging and Film Making.

Aerospace Manufacturing and Maintenance Orientation Program (AMMOP) is offered to students attending Technical Vocational High School. The program is designed to support students who want to transition to employment and postsecondary opportunities in the Manitoba Aerospace Industry. AMMOP is a 10 month program in which students learn the skills that will lead to a career in the Aerospace Industry. Over 500 students have obtained work in Winnipeg’s Aerospace Industry. The program is to be expanded in September 2019.

The Medical Careers Exploration Program is offered to Indigenous students attending Children of the Earth High School and was developed in partnership with Pan Am Clinic, Health Sciences Centre, Grace Hospital, WRHA, and the University of Manitoba - Access Program. This is a three- or four-year high school program with emphasis on preparation for post-secondary studies. The focus of the program is to have Indigenous high school students explore career options within the medical field. Through internships with Pan Am Clinic, Health Sciences Centre, Grace Hospital, Mount Carmel Clinic, Women’s Health Center, and other clinics and sites, students are incorporated into the various roles in health care. Upon successful completion of the program, students are academically prepared to pursue further education in a medical career of their choice.

WSD continues to encourage community partnerships to provide students with work experience and on-the-job training while they are in school. Although WSD offers these many programs and partnerships, and works closely with the Business Council of Manitoba, we would value the opportunity to do more in initiating and expanding career education. Up-to-date annual labour market information from the Government of Manitoba would be extremely helpful in this regard.

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