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Right to Read Inquiry Uncovers Inequities, Recommendations

By Halifax Learning on Thu, Mar 03, 2022 @ 05:30 PM

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has released their report from the Right to Read Inquiry. At issue was whether learning-disabled and marginalized students were subject to human rights violations during their instruction in Ontario public schools.

The Commission’s findings were released February 28th 2022.

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How data was collected

Both numerical and qualitative (narrative, descriptive means of data collection) were collected and analyzed. Several key findings emerged:

Learning outcomes for learning-disabled, Black, Indigenous, low-income, students from racialized groups and other marginalized subsets were concerning to the Commission. For example, Indigenous students were less likely to reach provincial reading benchmarks than their white counterparts. Their five-year graduation rates were lower than their white counterparts.

The demand for early intervention programs (Kindergarten through Grade 2) outstripped the supply, and many students’ needs were continuing to go unmet under the current eligibility guidelines.

The main source of the numerical data was EQAO standardized test scores.

Report uncovers limited access, widespread inequity

The Commission found Ontario public schools failed to provide evidence-based instruction to struggling students. Schools are taking a “wait and see” approach for struggling students instead of creating access to reading support and evidence-based intervention. Students must also have a formal diagnosis and a psycho-educational assessment to be eligible for interventions.

These factors disproportionately affect marginalized and lower-income students who historically lack access to diagnostic and evaluation services.

Increasing access, removing barriers

Recommendations from the Commission to remedy this portion of the findings included the implementation of evidence-based, systemic, phonics, and word-reading programs for students who needed them. The Commission also recommended removing inappropriate barriers, such as required psycho-educational assessments, which were costly when privately obtained, and out of reach to limited-income families.

Additionally, the lack of province-wide consistency means uneven access for students, especially those most in need of reading intervention programs. School boards used 16 different programs, only five of which were evidence-based. The board-developed programs were not rigorously evaluated or vetted before implementation.

Additionally, the Commission proposed developing standardized, evidence-based eligibility criteria for students.

The Commission also recommended making evidence-based reading interventions widely available at each grade level.

SpellRead earns high marks for a science-based approach

However, once the evidence-based program, SpellRead, received high praise for its science-backed, age-appropriate, and comprehensive approach to reading instruction. Aimed at students with or without a diagnosis, studies in Newfoundland, Novia Scotia and the U.S. have demonstrated the program’s positive effect on students’ decoding skills, word reading, fluency, and comprehension.

SpellRead has been regarded as the Gold Standard of evidence-based reading programs, and its implementation throughout Canada would benefit struggling students and even the learning playing field.

The implementation of SpellRead fall in line with the Commission’s recommendation to implement standardized, evidence-based reading programs for struggling readers.

To do this, the Commission also recommended the Ministry of Education allocate additional funding to hire and train additional teachers to facilitate the recommended reading programs. Doing so would eliminate the current “wait and see” approach and would increase access for students who would otherwise struggle without intervention.

Furthermore, the Commission encouraged increased accountability and transparent communication at the school board level. Parents and students should be able to receive clear, timely communication regarding the availability of reading intervention programs.

Although the report uncovered inequities within Ontario’s public school system for students from marginalized groups, it did identify concrete solutions to closing the achievement gap that currently exists.

The ability to read fluently is a right all students should have access to, regardless of their socioeconomic standing or group identity. By implementing science-based, standardized reading intervention programs and removing access barriers, more students will be able to succeed not only at reading but life outside of school.

 

Topics: Right to Read
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What You Need to Know About Ontario's Right to Read Inquiry

By Halifax Learning on Fri, Feb 25, 2022 @ 09:53 AM

Reading is an essential skill that will serve students well in school and later on in life. For students with reading-related learning disabilities, reading poses additional challenges that impact the rest of their school performance.

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In October of 2019, the Ontario Human Rights Human Rights Commission (OHRC) began an inquiry to determine whether or not learning-challenged students were facing human rights violations in the course of their education in public schools since learning to read is a fundamental right for all students.

Are Ontario schools adequately meeting the needs of at-risk readers?

In essence, the Commission is working to determine if Ontario public schools are meeting the reading instructional needs of learning-disabled students.

The findings, due to be released February 2022, could also benefit low-income, First Nations, English language learners, new arrivals, and other marginalized student groups, as well as students at risk of developing learning disabilities.

The commission’s inquiry is focused on accounts from educators, students, and parents across Ontario. Additionally, the commission is reviewing teacher training, school reading curricula, and consulting with experts. They are also reviewing school board policies and procedures as they relate to students with reading-related learning disabilities.

The OHRC is interested in hearing about the concerns and challenges faced by students in Ontario’s public school system.

The OHRC is focusing on the following benchmarks in their inquiry:

  • Universal design for learning
  • Reading intervention programs
  • Mandatory early screenings
  • Effective accommodations
  • Psycho-educational assessments (if needed)

COVID19's impact on student learning outcomes

The commission also learned of the impact of the COVID19 pandemic on learning-challenged students. School closures and distance learning posed extra challenges, and created a negative impact on student learning, compounding the students’ ongoing difficulties.

Both the OHRC and disability rights groups raised concerns in the following areas:

  • Technology
  • Professional services
  • Personal contact
  • Specialized programming
  • Screening
  • Instruction
  • Summer learning programs
  • Shared legal responsibility
  • Identification, Placement, and Review Committees (IPRCs) and Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and the duty to accommodate

As of October 2021, the commission began the process of finalizing the Right to Read Inquiry report. The report will contain detailed recommendations and findings for school boards, government, education faculties, curriculum/instruction, reading interventions, learning accommodations, professional assessments, early screenings, and systemic issues faced by learning-challenged students.

The final report is expected to be released in February 2022.

Reading is a fundamental skill that needs to be accessible to all students, regardless of their learning status or achievement level. The Right to Read Inquiry will determine if the needs of Ontario’s learning-challenged students are being met, and whether or not these and other at-risk students are experiencing human rights violations in the course of their education.

We are grateful to the many professionals who generously gave their time and guidance throughout the public inquiry, including Dr. Siegle from UBC and Dr. Jamie Metsala from MSVU, a well-known name in our local community and a Literacy Researcher & Advocate for Effective Early Reading Instruction & Reading Interventions.

The results of the inquiry could help to shape educational public policy in the years to come, and to remedy inequalities present in Ontario public schools. We also anticipate that the policy may have an impact on other areas of Canada and we hope to see its influence here in Nova Scotia.  

Learn more and follow report details here

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Literacy from a Culturally Reflective Lens

By Shakisha Downey on Wed, Feb 23, 2022 @ 12:08 PM

Here at Halifax Learning, we are committed to encouraging policymakers to embrace strength-based, evidence-based approaches to education, as we understand illiteracy as a major social justice issue. All children deserve to be taught fundamental skills with instruction that is proven to be effective and based on research, and we take our role in children’s learning very seriously. In 2022 we look forward to continuing this mandate, and building coalitions with Black and Indigenous communities to help enable our most vulnerable children and youth to achieve their full potential and advance social justice through action.

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Negative impact of colonial stereotypes on BIPOC communities and learners

Colonial stereotypes of the Black and Indigenous peoples of Canada have historically portrayed our cultures and ways of life as negative and undesirable, maintaining dominant social discourse about marginalized communities as dangerous, violent, and plagued with issues of drugs, guns, deficit, and sexualized violence. These narratives have had profound long-term effects on the academic outcomes and experiences of Black and Indigenous students, their families, and communities. They have created and maintained mounding barriers to students’ functioning to their full potential in academic success, maintaining positive relationships, as well as job and career attainment. Ultimately, these narratives have shaped the perceptions Black and Indigenous students have of themselves. Because Black and Indigenous students feel alienated in their learning environment, whether they can fully understand this alienation or not, they are more likely to act out in schools and in their communities as a way to compensate for their frustrations that are seemingly misunderstood.

Social justice movements leads to shifts in public awareness and engagement

The last few years’ emphases on racial social justice issues including, but not limited to the BLM Movement and TRC Calls To Action, has brought about major shifts in public awareness and political engagement. These demonstrations and initiatives have pushed us as Canadian educators to do more to promote the importance of the practical as well as political nature of success, achievement and the development of knowledge. The school-to-prison pipeline for BIPOC students whose academic needs are not being met in public schools further prompts an immediate response from the community and advocates to take action on these trends. Research shows that positive academic outcomes for minority students have the potential to decrease the likelihood of having behavioural and social issues at school, within their relationships, communities, in job/career attainment, or with the criminal justice system, and other authoritative figures. As educators, we must continue to push for the government and the public school system to intervene for the right of all children to develop and learn to their full potential, especially for minority students who continue to be systemically held down.

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Culturally responsive pedagogy is key to success for minority students

Many scholars support that literacy intervention programs that deliberately focus on the affirmation of positive identities for minority students through the enrichment of culturally responsive pedagogy (CRP) can enhance academic performance. The implementation of culturally responsive education is associated with positive societal outcomes including higher productivity, social integration, economic growth, and stronger communities (Shankar et al, 2020). Research examines how the figured world of literacy intervention classrooms can shape a student’s identity and position them in certain ways based on their perceived abilities (Frankel, 2016). Minority students with LDs face even more challenges in developing positive identities as competent learners in their learning environment (Louick, 2017). Drawing on socio-cultural understandings of identity, when positioned by teachers and society as inferior, especially in terms of their academic abilities, even students who are confident learners experience conflict with their own perceptions of themselves. In other words, findings drawn from the experiences of students indicated the necessity for educators to reflect on structural barriers to their students’ positive self-image and the influence their assumptions, teaching methods, and contents have on these experiences.It is important for us as educators to understand learning styles and identities from student perspectives, and create learning environments that students can make meaningful connections with to feel like autonomous and powerful leaders in their lives, education, and achievements.

Effective learning environments as extension of students' communities

Effective learning environments should be an extension of students’ communities, and learning institutions must work with and for communities to achieve transformative learning that is culturally relevant. Structural changes at the institutional level through the creation of transformative learning environments where students are enabled to be heard, supported and empowered to be successful are a must. Sharing this belief, Halifax Learning has maintained initiatives for Black and Indigenous student excellence as it explores the most effective and meaningful ways of integrating Indigenous and Black perspectives in curricula, and improving cultural diversity within our team. Whether exploring education from the perspective of educators or students, research on this topic affirms the importance of student agency in the classroom and how prior experiences with learning identities shape students’ overall learning in ways that have the potential to impede or facilitate their ability to position themselves in their learning and other social environments. In addition, research shows that micro-level classroom variations such as CRP and financial support schemes alone can not provide a functional and effective agenda of reversing achievement trends among minority students. It is the necessary inclusion of critically and culturally responsive teaching frameworks that increase growth in awareness, acknowledgement and motivation for action towards social justice in education that make the true difference for minority students.

Resources on this topic

  • Frankel, K. K. (2016). The Intersection of Reading and Identity in High School Literacy Intervention Classes. Research in The Teaching of English, 51 (1), 37-59. http://ezproxy.library.dal.ca/login? url=https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy.library.dal.ca/scholarly-journals/intersection-reading identity-high-school/docview/1840889488/se-2?accountid=10406
  • Louick, R. A. (2017). The Relationship Between Motivation, Self-Perception, And Literacy Among Adolescents With Learning Disabilities. In Boston College Lynch School of Education, Department of Teacher Education, Special Education, and Curriculum & Instruction. (pp. 1-36).
  • Shankar, J., Ip E., Khalema N.E., (2020) Addressing academic aspirations, challenges, and barriers of Indigenous and immigrant students in a postsecondary education setting, Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 29(5), 396-420, DOI:10.1080/15313204.2017.140967
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Are Learning-challenged Children More Likely To Be Bullied?

By Halifax Learning on Tue, Feb 15, 2022 @ 06:39 PM

Students who are perceived as “different” by their peers are more prone to bullying. Bullying can include physical aggression, name-calling, exclusionary behaviours, and cyber-bullying through social media or text messages. 

Which children are vulnerable to bullying? Kids with physical disabilities, social difficulties, socioeconomic gaps between them and classmates, and kids with learning differences are among the students who are frequently targeted. 

Children who with conditions such as ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, and other learning differences are especially vulnerable, as are those on the Autism spectrum. 

The impact of bullying

Bullying has far-reaching consequences, ranging from physical pain, anxiety, school avoidance, depression, and poorer learning outcomes. The bullied child may act out or withdraw, straining already fragile peer relationships, and setting the stage for more bullying. 

According to data presented in Public Safety Canada, long-term effects of bullying include depression, loss of self-esteem, aggression, and in some cases, suicide. 

Children with learning differences are especially vulnerable. In an increasingly competitive academic environment, children who fall behind academically could end up being the target of bullies. 

While academic competitions and honor rolls may be good for high-achieving students, a learning-disabled student may struggle emotionally with their results and grade reports. No child wants to feel “different” or left out. 

Identifying the root of the problem

For students with suspected learning differences, a psycho-educational learning assessment is an excellent first step. The assessment will help identify the root cause of a student’s learning and behavioural challenges. 

Next, a customized learning plan is created, giving the student specialized assistance in addressing areas of concern and providing a level academic playing field. A customized learning plan will also help the student address social challenges that can come in tandem with learning differences. 

Over time, a shy or school-averse student may gain confidence as they learn to master subjects and concepts that were previously difficult for them. This newfound confidence and sense of “I can do it!” will carry over to peer relationships and making them less of a target of bullies. 

Students with learning differences are often quite intelligent, and a well-structured learning program will help the student harness their innate intelligence while gaining mastery over previously difficult subjects. 

Students learn to work with their learning differences, not against them. 

Next steps

Programs such as Halifax Learning’s online learning, school readiness, and SpellRead activities can help a struggling reader through a customized program suited to their needs and makes an excellent supplement to their school-based learning program. 

Students who struggle with speech patterns and issues can benefit from our speech programs. They will gain confidence and be more likely to interact with peers, making them feel less “different” over time. 

Children with learning differences often end up the target of bullies. By addressing their unique needs and strengths, learning-challenged students can experience greater confidence and self-esteem as they master topics previously difficult for them. 

Contact us today to find out how our programs can help your student reach their full potential--inside and outside of school. 

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Waiting for a Psycho-educational Assessment?

By Halifax Learning on Wed, Nov 24, 2021 @ 06:47 PM

Students with learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder, social or emotional difficulties, or any other learning challenge can significantly benefit from having a psychoeducational assessment performed. They offer valuable direction for a child's future development and needed support. In fact, an assessment can be an excellent investment even when you don't suspect a learning disability, as it can evaluate a child's difficulty comprehending assignments or completing work accurately or on time.

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Unfortunately, the wait time for a psychoeducational assessment inside the Canadian school system can be long, sometimes two years or more. Sadly wait times have increased due to Covid-19 school closures.  Assessments are also available through private sources but often cost thousands of dollars, which makes them a nonviable option for many.

The good news is that Halifax Learning’s free reading assessment, while not a replacement for a full psychoeducational assessment, can expertly and accurately highlight where students need support now. That makes it a good option while you wait for a more comprehensive evaluation. 

What Is a Psychoeducational Assessment?

For students who need to access additional or customized learning support, a psychoeducational assessment is a must. It identifies learning challenges in students of all ages, from young children to adults, and provides a deeper understanding of their educational abilities. It also helps diagnose the root cause of a student’s academic or behavioural challenges, signs of which can include:

  • Low report card grades
  • Difficulty focusing during class
  • Disruptive behaviour in the classroom
  • Feeling anxious or overwhelmed during tests
  • Not performing at full potential academically

The assessment process involves interviews, document reviews, formal testing, and completion of rating scales and questionnaires. The resulting report provides recommendations for special services and resources in both the home and school environments. 

Sometimes parents are worried an assessment will find something is “wrong” with their child. But people with reading and other learning challenges are often quite intelligent. They just don’t process learning the same way other students do. Identifying a child’s unique style and determining their cognitive strengths and weaknesses is an important first step in getting them the necessary support to improve their academic performance; it can even increase their enjoyment of school! 

How Halifax Learning assesses a student’s needs

Halifax Learning’s free, one-hour online and in-person assessments measure a student’s phonological and phonetic skills, reading fluency, word recognition, comprehension, and writing and spelling skills. They provide a clear and comprehensive understanding of a student’s strengths and weaknesses and give us a picture of the way the student is reading. 

Halifax Learning believes  all children can learn to read and read well. Our fully integrated approach uses language-based reading and writing activities to help students, particularly those who struggle with reading, improve their reading skills. 

To learn more about our story and how we can help support your child’s learning needs, reach out to us or book an in-person or online reading assessment today.

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Helpful tips for Parent Teacher Meetings

By Halifax Learning on Fri, Nov 12, 2021 @ 07:15 AM

Parent-teacher conferences are put in place for communication, accountability, to celebrate success, and to overcome challenges. They are an opportunity for teachers to relay insight about a child's interactions with their peers, their approach and attitude towards challenging material, and their reactions to new emotions and ideas.  Everyone should take advantage of this time, albeit limited, to increase opportunities for the success of the student. 

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Halifax Learning has educators with years of experience as public school teachers and also clinicians working as reading specialists. The tips below are a collection of experiences we’ve found most useful when communicating with parents. At Halifax Learning we have the privilege of frequent parent-teacher consultations.  We also have a systematized assessment procedure that also ensures a discussion at the mid point of a SpellRead student's programming and upon completion of the program. 

Here are 5 ways to maximize your parent-teacher conference.

1. Don't Wait!

Don't wait for Parent-Teacher Conferences to open lines of communication. Remember, you are a team and communication is critical. We all know our public school teachers are overwhelmed with demands, but offering support, relevant information and ensuring you're supporting your child's needs at home will only reduce the demands on our classroom teachers.

You can help support your child's classroom teacher by asking for advice on ways you can support your child at home. Ask for recommendations for:

  • an online course, reading material or an upcoming conference that puts a spotlight on your child's learning challenges. 
  • an incentive program that can be carried out both at home and in the classroom. 
  • additional practice, activities and/or apps.
  • professional services and support in your community. 

2. Ask for Honesty

Give your child's teacher permission to be honest. Let them know you are prepared for the good, the bad and the ugly in order to move forward. In order for your child to thrive, the adults overseeing their education need to work together, even if it hurts. 

Teachers want to tell all parents that their child is exceeding expectations and your child's teacher is likely agonizing over focusing on the positive. As hard as it is to receive difficult news, it's also hard to share it, but when we sugar coat reality, we are providing a disservice to our students.  At Halifax Learning, ss providers of a structured literacy program, too often we are asked why no one spoke up sooner. When parents ask for honesty and open communication, parents and teachers can more quickly develop solutions for the child's learning needs.

3. Share Information

The golden rule for teaching success is "get to know your students" and no one knows your child better than you do. Relationships are paramount and parents can help fast track this process by sharing as much information as possible. Share with your child's teacher:

  • the challenges and successes that have defined your child.
  • what motivates your child.
  • what causes your child anxiety.
  • what programs and services they have received up to this point.
  • the strengths and challenges you face as a parent in reinforcing the goals set out by your child's teacher.

4. Include the Student

Your child is the subject of your meeting and one of your best sources of information.  Students should have an opportunity to assess and provide feedback about their teacher, classmates, and learning environment. Yes, a child's perspective can be skewed, but regardless, what they perceive to be true impacts their learning outcomes.

How they feel matters and can help inform their educational journey. Have multiple, meaningful and intentional conversations with your child about their experiences at school and record their comments in a journal at a later time. Ask your child specific questions and allow them to express their feelings completely. After several conversations about school, reflect on your notes and look for patterns that resulted in success or presented barriers for your child's learning. Take this information to your child's teacher with the intention of finding a resolution, not to point fingers. 

5. Advocate, Advocate, Advocate

Advocating for your child doesn't mean being a bully and making unreasonable demands. Asking informed questions with the expectation of an informed response is well within your rights. When it comes to your child's reading, you should ask: 

  • When were you last able to read with my child one on one? 
  • What are they reading in comparison to their peers? 
  • What do you notice about my child's reading? Are they using compensatory strategies such as memorization, context or pictures to guess or are they using the sound-letter relationship of the alphabet code to attack unknown words?
  • Are you teaching the five core components of essential reading skills? How? 

… 

If your child is struggling to read, remember:

✓ Reading skills do not develop in a short time.

✓ 95% of the developing readers benefit from explicit, systematic instruction to decipher the alphabetic code.

✓ Developing readers need multiple, repetitive opportunities to master skills.

✓ Reading programs must incorporate all five of the core components to ensure skilled, confident, reading.

✓ Halifax Learning uses evidence-based programming that offers effective, sustainable results, delivered by exceptional, experienced, experts. 

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Understanding The Science of Reading

By Halifax Learning on Thu, Nov 04, 2021 @ 08:00 AM

Halifax Learning embraces the Science of Reading. It’s a term often used when discussing remedial reading programs, but many parents we talk to aren’t entirely clear on what it means. 

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We know that being a proficient reader has a huge impact on a child’s entire education. In this post, we want to talk about what the science of reading is and how it enables students to succeed not only in reading but in all areas of learning.

What is The Science of Reading?

As the name implies, the science of reading is based on methods and statistical analyses drawn from the work of experts in education, special education, psychology, neurology, literacy, and more. Over 20 years in the making, their evidence-based body of knowledge has helped uncover the deficiencies in traditional observation-based methods. 

The conclusive research of the science of reading gives educators the information they need to gain a deeper understanding of how children learn to read, what skills are involved, and which parts of the brain are responsible for reading development. From the research, experts have been able to develop a best practices approach for teaching foundational literacy skills often called “structured literacy.”

By helping educators understand the cognitive processes essential for reading proficiency, the science of reading helps prevent many reading difficulties in young students who are most at-risk. And studies have shown that for students in higher grades, intensive phonemic awareness and decoding training coupled with opportunities for repeated practice with reading controlled text has been highly effective. 

How Science of Reading Differs From Traditional Reading Instruction

Conventional reading instruction emphasizes whole world memorization, which can impede a student’s progress. Phonics empowers students by increasing their reading power. Here’s how it works.

Reading development can be divided into three stages: letters and sounds, phonic decoding, and orthographic or spelling mapping. When a child memorizes 10 words, they generally can read those 10 words well. However, if the child learns the sounds of 10 letters, they can read:

  • 350 three-sound words
  • Over 4,300 four-sound words
  • 21,650 five-sound words

As learning to read is a complex neurological process, it only makes sense to use evidence-based methods to support all readers.

Are Phonics and Science of Reading the Same Thing?

The science shows that systematic, explicit phonics instruction is the foundation for successful reading. Yet while phonics, which is about decoding words, is a critical component in early reading education, other techniques are used by educators to keep students focused and energized as they master challenging skills. The science of reading also:

  • Incorporates connecting phonics to spelling instruction.
  • Recognizes the importance of language and reading comprehension.
  • Focuses on building vocabulary and background knowledge.
  • Helps students develop comprehension skills.

So, while phonics is certainly an essential element in the science of reading, it’s not the whole thing, in fact, ​​ efficient reading instruction includes: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, reading fluency, and reading comprehension - all working together.

How Halifax Learning Can Help

Halifax Learning is committed to transforming students’ lives through the power of reading. Halifax Learning's delivery of the SpellRead Program is a fully integrated approach based on specific skill mastery that uses language-based reading and writing activities to help children, particularly those who struggle with reading, improve their reading skills.

To learn more about the science of reading and how Halifax Learning can help support your child’s learning needs, reach out to us today.

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Why Parents Love Halifax Learning's Assessments

By Halifax Learning on Wed, Oct 27, 2021 @ 11:21 AM

If your child struggles to perform as expected in school, you may have been advised to have them take part in a psychoeducational assessment. These assessments can be invaluable in both identifying areas of need and helping your child understand their strengths so they can apply them in the classroom and daily life.

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A psychoeducational assessment involves an in-depth interview with the parents, your child, and teachers as well as personal observation and multiple standardized assessments. One downside to the assessments in the Canadian school system is that it can take two or more years to obtain one. To get one sooner, you’ll need to pay a private psychologist or agency.

Halifax Learning’s Reading Assessment

Fortunately, there is another option available while you wait for the more comprehensive psychoeducational assessment.

Halifax Learning’s free, one-hour online and in-person reading assessments are accurate, reliable tools that help measure your child’s phonological and phonetic skills, reading fluency, word recognition, comprehension, and writing and spelling skills. They can be highly beneficial for students with learning disabilities or other social or emotional challenges.

Parents who have their child assessed through our program come to us for a variety of reasons:

  • Their child’s school has pointed out areas of concern, including low literacy skills.
  • The parents themselves have noticed their child is behind academically.
  • The student has been diagnosed with or suspected to have a learning disability or ADHD.
  • The "the Covid Slide" has caused a student to fall behind their peers.
  • They were referred by the school, an educator, or another professional such as a psychologist or speech therapist.

For more than 20 years, we’ve delivered the best evidence-based reading support program for thousands of Halifax students and would love to do the same for your child.

How Our Reading Assessment Works

Available in-person or online, our professional reading assessments are free of charge, quick and comprehensive, and for all ages. They take approximately 30 to 45 minutes to complete. Once concluded, we can meet with you to review the results and provide you with a copy of your child’s assessment and any other resources necessary to meet their goals. The results of this initial evaluation are then used as a benchmark for the student’s midpoint progress and exit assessments.

The assessment itself measures phonological and phonetic skills, reading fluency and comprehension, word recognition, and spelling and writing skills. It provides us with an understanding of your child’s strengths and weaknesses, so we have a clear view of the way they’re reading. We can then introduce specific strategies and techniques that can dramatically improve reading ability and comprehension, often within one year. Best of all, your child gains reading comprehension and fluency skills they can use for a lifetime.

Progress Reports

Once your child is enrolled in our program, their progress is tracked weekly so you can request a check-in at any point. Two additional assessments are performed during the program, one halfway through and the other at its conclusion. These assessments give us a clear picture of your child’s progress and let you see how well your child is advancing, where they’re excelling, and which areas might still need improvement.

At Halifax Learning, we believe every child should have the opportunity to achieve their highest potential. Our fully integrated approach to improving reading skills uses language-based reading and writing activities that help students, particularly those who struggle with reading, develop into strong, confident readers. To book an in-person or online reading assessment or to learn more about how our program can support your child’s learning needs, reach out to us today.

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The Covid Learning Slide: A Year Later

By Halifax Learning on Tue, Oct 19, 2021 @ 06:24 AM

Educators have long dealt with the “summer slide,” the loss of learning that takes place while students are on summer break. Today, a new phrase, “the COVID slide,” presents a whole range of novel educational challenges.

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When we first wrote about this phenomenon in September 2020, we talked about how the COVID slide turned the school system upside down, disrupting millions of children, families, and teachers. Sadly, a year later, the slide has continued, with experts calling the education disruption a “shadow pandemic” that’s widening learning gaps and causing Canadian students, particularly those at-risk, to fall behind their global peers.

While many educators are eager to emphasize their students remain motivated and are on target with their schoolwork, they also acknowledge a concern about students not keeping up academically. They especially worry about students who have underlying learning challenges or lack appropriate resources to keep pace.

Fortunately, there are things parents can do to help their children who might be experiencing COVID slide, including investing in online instruction such as Halifax Learning’s SpellRead Program.

Shrinking Learning Gaps to Minimize Disruption

Many experts agree addressing learning gaps now can go a long way in keeping students’ education journeys on track. Student well-being, home-school resources, and consistent evaluation and assessment, they say, can help at-risk students by providing flexible approaches to the delivery of learning.

These same experts also see the current crisis as offering an opportunity to improve educational pathways for learners and build resilience for all students. They believe educators can alleviate student learning loss that many say will last through the end of 2021’s school year by putting three crucial initiatives in place:

  1. Acting now to reduce learning gaps and commit for the long term.
  2. Embracing holistic and flexible interventions that enhance the multiple worlds of individual students, including resources that enable the use of a variety of delivery methods.
  3. Rethinking and embedding evaluation and assessment components to maximize impact.

Including students and parents in the design and delivery of learning interventions is an especially useful way of achieving these goals. Programs like SpellRead can accelerate learning and ensure a student receives the ongoing support and assessments they need to thrive and meet their full potential.

How Parents Can Help Students Experiencing COVID Slide

Before they can help their child cope with the pandemic’s effects on their studies, parents must recognize how their child is doing. Has the child lost interest in subjects they once thrived at? Are they using the phrase “I hate reading” more often? These might be the sign of academic struggle. At-home reading lessons that include activities in phonemic, phonetic, and language-based reading and writing can ensure a child’s skills in these areas remain current with their grade level while keeping them engaged in overall learning.

A University of Alberta study confirms that students who were already struggling with reading are falling even further behind in their reading skills due to the COVID slide. Halifax Learning is committed to helping educators, students, and their families, turn the situation around. To learn more about the COVID slide and how our program can help your child strengthen their reading skills, reach out to us today.

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Dealing with Dyslexia – Kieran’s Story

By Halifax Learning on Fri, Oct 08, 2021 @ 12:42 PM

Every child that comes through our doors is unique and bright. We love getting to know their personalities and strengths, and we also love helping them work through their struggles with reading and building strong, confident readers.

In celebration of Dyslexia Awareness month, we want to share the story of one of our students. It’s a story of struggle and success, recognizing the signs of a struggling reader and knowing there is help available.

If you wonder if your child is developing age-appropriate phonological skills, we offer a complimentary Speech and Language screening. We can help you determine if your child is meeting communication milestones by gaining and using skills as expected for their age. Click to learn more and sign up.

Dealing with Dyslexia – Kieran’s Story, as told by his mother, Kirsten.

 

Our child is a bright, loving and caring boy. What we didn't expect were the other traits he was blessed with, such as and not limited to; difficulty with; reading, performing tasks in a specific order, the order of the days of the week, expressing himself, anxiety and temper tantrums at home, but not in the classroom. We thought that this was normal child behaviours for the age, and as individuals, we each possess our unique personalities and such, so this will pass, and we will move on, no big deal, right? It wasn't until we discovered our child wasn't at the same level in reading and writing as his peers in a classroom setting that there may be something else at play here. How could he know a word on one page of a book but not recognize the same word on the next page, or mixing up the order of events or tasks, and why can he spell a word out loud but struggles to spell it correctly when written. I admit, I also struggled with learning to read, spelling, reading out loud, and several other things. Even with my struggles and experiences, I still failed to recognize the signs until hearing about the struggles he had in the classroom environment compared to his peers.

Dealing with Dyslexia – Kieran’s Story (brothers)

We started down the path of discovery with the help of the school. He was in grade 2 at this time, and the teacher sat with me to show me examples of writing from other students compared to our child's writing skills. She showed me samples of the books others were reading compared to the ones he was reading; they differed more than I realized. Without that comparison, I was unaware until that moment what position my son was actually in. How did we not know about this sooner as he was about to start grade 3 next year? We had a lot of unanswered questions at this point. 

The first step was to engage a speech and language pathologist as part of a program offered through the school over the summer break. He passed with flying colours in all areas and was on par or exceeded his peers in some areas. Given this, we were puzzled. It was recommended that we try tutoring, which we did, and it wasn't working. It was then recommended that we obtain a full education assessment by a trained psychologist. This was something we could do through the school; however, there was a large demand for this service, and the wait was over five years long.

We had recently moved back home to Nova Scotia at the time, both my husband and myself were laid off by our former employers out west in the downturn, and we took this opportunity to move back home. We were in the process of finding a family home while temporarily renting. Our son was missing his friends; the family pet passed away, I had a baby to care for, I started a new job, my husband wasn't working, among many other challenges knocking on our front door. All of those things aside, we decided that for the best interest of our oldest child, we needed to go privately for an assessment and figure out the finances, so we did just that. We engaged our family doctor and found a reputable resource to perform the assessment. The assessment process was long and painful for all involved. Having said that, every bit of the pain was worth the effort. We underwent several interviews as a family, lots of paperwork and surveys were completed and submitted by the school, our doctor and myself. Our son underwent many hours of testing and interviews, taking lots of breaks to get through it all before we finally had a diagnosis. It was very thorough, which gave me confidence we had an accurate result. It was discovered that our son has all of the following, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, ADHD, anxiety and poor working memory, quite the cocktail of a mix. Even though we applied for disability on our taxes, we did not qualify since it was determined by the government that they felt our son wasn't affected by these challenges 100% of the time, so any financial support was all up to us. We didn't let this get us down. Once we had the diagnosis and recommendations from our psychologist, the real work began.

Dealing with Dyslexia – Kieran’s Story

After a few tears, laughs, realizations, self-reflection and a few more tears, mainly due to the fears of the unknown ahead of me for our family and our son, I quickly got to work, and I started researching like crazy. I ordered reading material. I reached out to other parents, friends and family that had children with similar diagnoses, friends that were officially diagnosed and living every day with these same challenges to bounce ideas off of, building up a support system and learning about what resources were available to us. During the research process, SpellRead was mentioned more than once by the resources in that support system. I admit I didn't love the cost as we had many obligations at this time in our life, and COVID-19 was just about to hit us, adding further uncertainty to all of this. We had been taking part in the Reading Recovery program offered at the school, but that wasn't enough when COVID-19 hit us as we lost the in-person interaction. We decided, in the end, to engage SpellRead and see where this would take us all as a family and give SpellRead a chance. We owed this to our son to provide him with the best possible chance to grow and build up his skills. We were skeptical in the beginning but stuck with it since it came so highly recommended by others within our personal support system. It took a couple of tries to get him into the right online class. Keep in mind that we were all just sent home from schools and offices as COVID-19 hit us, so emotions and uncertainty were very high at this time for us all. This added many new stresses into the mix that we didn’t have to contend with before like, working from home and homeschooling. For our family, this was a very challenging and stressful time as with just about every other family and business working together to figure things out.

The staff at SpellRead were very patient and willing to work with us through the process during this difficult time to ensure our son was in the right class for his specific individual needs. The first six months were a struggle for our son in the program, and in general, as life threw some interesting challenges our way as a whole family. We stuck with the program and believed in their teachings. We were skeptical at times; we stuck with it anyway and trusted the program. We completed the homework and practiced when we could. The flashcards worked great for us in the car on road trips or long drives when we needed to get out of the house and have a change of scene or to check on the progress of our home build, which had significant delays due to COVID-19 and presented us with a whole other set of challenges associated with that.

We also enrolled in the summer program to keep our son fresh in his reading and writing skills over the summer. We are finally moved into our new home just in time for our son to attend a new school and go into grade 4, along with his little brother starting pre-primary. He is currently in the next phase of the program, where the program's focus is on real words and decoding of real words. Since having our son in the program, he has gained so much more confidence with reading, writing, and so much more. Some of the changes we have seen since the program began are and are not limited to; He is no longer guessing at words. He is taking the time to sound things out more often and trying bigger words without a big a fit or blow-up of emotions. He is spelling with more confidence, he's picking up harder books to read on his own, reading difficult words while playing video games he plays as well as, show and movie titles. He doesn't always spell a word correctly. However, I can make out what he has tried to spell for the most part whereas in the past, I would have to get him to read it to me since it was quite cryptic when written. Even though he didn't know what he wrote most of the time. This still happens but not nearly as frequently and happens more frequently when he is tired or needs a snack. All of these are huge wins in our books. Oh, and another fun one that I must mention is, if my husband and I spell out a word to one another in secret, he is starting to know what the word is we spell out loud, even if we do it super fast! I can't express just how far he has come from where we started and it's all down to all of our hard work and dedication. I know this is a bit of a cliché, but it's true! It takes a community to raise a child.

Of course, there is still work to be done as he has a learning disability, this will not change, the program afforded him newfound confidence he didn't have before, which is invaluable and a big part of success in learning. This program has proven to be a benefit to our son's learning and we are glad we stuck with it despite the many challenges dealt with us these past few years. The financial side is a very small price to pay for his confidence and individual growth, which he will need to succeed and thrive in the world with all of the traits he was blessed with. The main piece of advice I can offer you is, stick with it and don't give up. Your kids are worth the effort and hug them often.

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