June is a busy month at the School District; there are a number of good things to report so where to begin? First, congratulations to the LSS graduating class of 2012. There are 49 LSS students graduating this year. While it has been a challenging school year for all involved, I believe we can also say it has been a successful year.
Related to this, as of May 31 district staff report there are no “drop-outs” across the entire school district this year. As staff told me, “This is one of the advantages of being a small district - teachers and staff can identify early when a student is struggling and ‘at risk’, and remedial plans can be put into place.” The Foundations Program here in Lillooet has been incredibly successful in supporting students, who might otherwise leave school, to stay and work at their own pace toward completing their Dogwood. I want to acknowledge and thank the work of Miss Gunn, Miss Mountain, and Mrs. Hale for their dedicated efforts.
A small piece of good news is the school district has re-instituted its 1-800 toll free phone number. The toll free # is (855) 453 - 9101. It will be connected as of July 1 and will be posted on the district website. Several years ago, the 1-800 number was discontinued and people asked that it be started up again so they can contact the Ashcroft district office without having to incur long distance costs.
And congratulations to Cayoosh Elementary School and the Cayoosh Parents Advisory Council for receiving $50,000 towards building their new playground. This is money awarded directly from Victoria by the Ministry of Education. The money will come in handy towards a new playground.
At the district office, June is the month senior staff (Superintendent, Theresa Downs) finalizes her Achievement Contract for next year. The Achievement Contract is a three-year workplan that lays out the educational goals all staff will focus on. Theresa develops this Achievement Contract in cooperation with all the school principals across the District to ensure each school is aware of and supports the goals and targets. I don’t have enough room in one report to discuss the entire workplan. But this month I will report that a major focus is on building the basic reading skills for learning early (i.e. kindergarten and Grade 1ne).
Research suggests that 90 per cent of students who do not “meet expectations” in reading at the end of Grade 1 never fully catch up. Therefore, in 2011 the district hired two Reading Intervention (support) Workers to work one-on-one with Grade 1 students (and their parents/caregivers) who are struggling. As well, some schools are testing the benefits of having “90 minute literacy/reading blocks” in which students build their reading skills. Also, teachers are receiving professional development training focused on teaching oral language and reading skills. And every kindergarten student in the district is tested for hearing and speech development. This testing has proven to be particularly helpful as between 10-15 per cent of those kindergarten students are being identified as having some level of hearing and/or speech impairment that could affect their ability to read. This testing allows schools to respond early, before the student falls behind in their reading skills.
In 2010-11, 79 per cent of Grade 1 students across the District were reading "at or above" the level expected for their age. Now, each school in the District has committed to utilize the strategies described above to increase by three per cent per year the number of students who finish their year reading at or above the level expected for their age. So when that same group of students finishes Grade 5 in 2014, 80 per cent or more should be reading at the "level expected". We will track this performance and will continue to report on the progress made.