Literacy levels in New Brunswick middle schools not making the grade

Click to play video: 'Assessment results show student literacy rates not as good as hoped'
Assessment results show student literacy rates not as good as hoped
WATCH ABOVE: New Brunswick’s yearly student literacy assessment reveals Anglophone students in some middle school grades aren't doing as well as the government had hoped, particularly in reading literacy. The government hopes to hit an 85 percent success rate. As Global’s Adrienne South reports, they've got a way to go – Oct 27, 2016

New Brunswick’s provincial yearly assessment results reveal that Anglophone students in some middle school grades aren’t cutting it when it comes to reading literacy.

The assessment is done annually and measures writing, math, French and science literacy skills.  The report shows only 54.1 per cent of students are reading at what the government has called “appropriate” reading levels.

READ MORE: NB government releases 10-year education plans, leaves implementation to educators

The report shows a breakdown of literacy levels for Grade 6 Anglophone students across the province.

Around 25 per cent of students read at an “appropriate level”, just over 20 per cent read at what’s being called a “high appropriate level” and only 8.1 per cent of students have “strong” reading skills.

Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick President Frank Hayes says the assessment results are for diagnostic purposes, not to rank schools or children. He says the findings are meant to help recognize areas for improvement in the education system.

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Hayes says he was expecting to see incremental growth but the results weren’t as good as he had hoped.

“You’ve probably heard the premier say, this province, and the minister [say] that we have recently released a comprehensive literacy plan and also we have also released the Ten-Year Plan for Education and the recommendations and those sanctioned by the province to work on are exactly those that should improve the reading results for children in all grade levels,” Hayes said.

The province set a target of 85 per cent.

Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development Brian Kenny told Global News he recognizes the challenges highlighted by the results.

“We know that my job as minister is to be able to work with our educators, work with our public to be able to improve on what we have right now.

“We have a really good, solid base, we have some great educators throughout the province and I do believe that with everyone working together, we’re going to make some advancements in the future,” Kenny said.

Kenny says it’s everyone’s job to work together collectively to improve education in the province.  He says there were changes to the assessment program and says there are always challenges.  Kenny says, over the past several months, he’s been touring the province, meeting with educators and stakeholders.

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READ MORE: New Brunswick literacy expert calls for more training to teach children how to read

“I know we’re at a point in time right now where we have to make much improvement and that’s my job as minister to say, ‘What can we do to work together to make improvements on that?’ Everybody realizes where we are at this point in time, but we’re going to improve on that and move forward,” Kenny said.

Hayes says that while teachers provide a formal education, there is also onus on parents to help their children with literacy skills and to ensure time is balanced between using digital devices and smart phones to read and reading books.

“I think the teachers like to think they work in partnership with the parents,” Hayes said.

In an email statement to Global News, Conservative Education Critic and MLA Gary Crossman says the report contains “devastating numbers.”

“These should have been shared before the government rushed out their Ten-Year Education document and the early immersion changes,” Crossman said. “In Grade 6 we see 80 per cent of our children not achieving to appropriate levels in math and science. This is beyond concerning.”

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