Holy Family manages student assessments during COVID

An extensive report about how students in the Holy Family Roman Catholic Separate School Division are doing with academic achievement was presented to the board of trustees at their October board meeting.

The assessments of how the students are doing are different, noted Terry Jordens, because the last school year was interrupted and cancelled in mid-March by the COVID-19 pandemic, so the normal way of measuring academic achievement has had to be adjusted accordingly.

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After classes were cancelled province-wide on March 20, Holy Family began offering schooling online on April 5, but it was not mandatory. Since classes resumed province-wide on Sept. 8, the learning is mandatory.

“If a student chose to take part in the supplemental learning, they were able to get marks on their work and it was included in the June report cards,” said Jordens. “The focus this year was on catching up and closing the gaps in learning.”

Provincially, the Ministry of Education is not requiring school divisions to collect achievement data, but Holy Family decided they will collect any data they can to give them a picture of where students are at academically, said Jordens.

The school division has 160 English language-as-a-second-language learners, 52 students who have intense special needs, and 27 self-identified First Nations or Metis students.

In October 2019, 151 students were assessed for early childhood learning, using the parameters for assessment such as cognitive, gross motor skills and fine motor skills, and 71 per cent of kindergarten students were determined to be ready to learn.

“We were above 90 per cent in two domains already,” added Jordens.

For reading, assessments were done in October and in January last year, with 31 per cent of students at a year-end level in October, and this increased to 47 per cent by January.

For writing, Grades 1-9 students were assessed in February, and found 66 per cent were at or beyond their grade level, with Grades 5, 7 and 9 students higher in February than they were January of the previous year.

Assessments were also made for math for Grades 1-9 students in February, and 80 per cent were at or beyond their grade level, with that number at 83 per cent as of June 2019.

“We will continue to support math with student engagement,” said Jordens.

To measure student engagement, she noted they are developing a survey for students that will go out in November, and in December they will review the data from those surveys. For Grades 4-9 students, there will be questions that relate to deep learning.

In a survey conducted in April, the school division found that 91 per cent of their students were voluntarily taking the supplemental learning online. As they moved into June, those numbers reduced somewhat. In spite of this, report cards were done in June for those students who did take part to cover the period of March to June.

Grade 6 students were assessed for math and reading so that in September, their Grade 7 teachers had an idea where the students were coming from.

Supports were provided for reading such as one-on-one reading time with a teacher online, said Jordens. “There was a big focus on relationship development between staff and students. There was a weekly Google session and there was daily guidance as well. Some teachers provided a daily agenda, and there were activities for families to do and get involved,” she added.

For the current school year, Holy Family will proceed with data collection, said Jordens. “It’s important for us to know where students are at.”

Reading assessments will be done three times through the year, with online students included, and for writing and math they will be assessed in March and June at the division level.

“The ministry has changed their expectations, but here in the school division we’ll continue to collect the data that we have been,” said director of education Gwen Keith. “We’re moving forward in every way and are prepared as we can be.”

They have plans in place to continue if they have to move into Level 3, and Keith added, “Hopefully we have to go to Level 4, locked down at home.”

Asked if there is a possibility that online students may return to the physical school building, Keith said they very well could, as one student already has.

“We’re set up for whatever way it plays,” she added.

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