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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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Black History Month 2021

By Shakisha Downey on Sun, Feb 14, 2021 @ 01:41 PM

February is Black History month in Nova Scotia.

We are so appreciative that our own Shakisha was willing to share her story and some excellent resources on why we need to focus on Black History this month and every month.  

Thank you Shakisha for all you do for Halifax Learning and for sharing.

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Below are 11 articles and videos that I believe everyone in Nova Scotia should read, reflect on and consider as we start 2021. It is a lot of information BUT if we are to really examine the history of Black Nova Scotians and have meaningful and informed conversations about Black History and the experiences of Black Nova Scotians, this is a good starting point. 

I would encourage you to download and read one of these pieces each week, giving time to reflect on the social context in between. 

I chose these pieces to share because they are very close to home to me. It was not until I began my Social Work program at Dalhousie University that I realized how truly removed and unengaged I was about my own cultural history, even as a Black Nova Scotian from the largest Black community in Canada, North Preston. 

My ancestors were refugees from America and Jamaica who upon arrival to Nova Scotia were provided land in what is known today as the Preston communities. These communities were nearly impossible to build up and support efficient standards of living. Despite an incredibly rich legacy of dedication to the land they built into the communities they are today, residents of Preston still struggle for clear titles from the government to land that has now been in our families for many generations. In this way, structures in society enable the segregation of Black peoples within areas associated with and subject to poverty, crime, waste and pollution. In addition, the media predominantly portrays North Preston, in particular, as dangerous, violent, and puts emphasis on the issues of drugs, guns, and sexualized violence that the community has struggled with. These representations play a huge role in perpetuating the oppression of Black Nova Scotians as well as Indigenous populations in this province- they are strategically demonized into the position of “the others'', as depicted in these pieces.

With increasing awareness and remembering this history through literature and community engagement, I am able to recognize and critically analyze how our Black and Indigenous communities have survived on the basis of resilience, resistance and reclamation for so many years, and take action towards advancing social justice. I aim for this in both my professional and academic career, recognizing a clear connection between the opportunities for success, stability and autonomy available to marginalized communities and literacy skills. The importance of literacy to this cause is that it is essential for social and human development and expression.

Literacy provides us with skills that empower us to comprehend dynamic social justice issues that persist today and in turn transform lives, including our own.

Gbenga Akintokun. (2020, June 2). Once Upon a Black Halifax [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCFsRcOZT7A&feature=youtu.be&app=desktop

How do we ensure that the historical teachings today and in the future are presented in whats that properly represent Black people in the development of this province and the Country? We must look back and remember, and never allow ourselves to forget.  
 
Once Upon a Black Halifax discusses the history of the Black community in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the struggles Black communities faced trying to achieve recognition and acceptance in our society. This history of Halifax taught in schools is very much rooted in colonial ideals of community with pockets of information regarding highly publicized Black communities such as Africville and North Preston. Though a look at Black history in Halifax reveals the richness of the Black community in Halifax and the varying achievements of its people despite continued racism and segregation. We need to continue to highlight the accomplishments and contributions of the Black community for generations to come, and not just during Black History Month. 
 
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"If you are White, you belong here, if you are Black, you are just, here." - Shindgai Nyajeka
 
Back in 1992, a number of Black students from a predominantly white high school in Halifax began working to establish a Cultural Awareness Youth Group (CAYG). The CAYG would become a vehicle for endorsing pride and self-esteem among Black students through education and cultural programs aimed at remembering the richness of their heritage and learn new ways to effect change in their communities. In particular, this video highlights the ways in which "whiteness" has historically been and remains the norm in our society including in the education system. The normative "whiteness" is maintained through institutionalized racism which holds Black people and other marginalized peoples including Indigenous communities, away from positions of power, privilege. 
 
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Hamilton, S. (Director). (1992). Speak It! From the Heart of Black Nova Scotia. [Film]. National Film Board of Canada. https://www.nfb.ca/film/speak_it_from_heart_of_black_nova_scotia/

 

From 1992- 2021, has real change been implemented to make room for Black students and Black History in education?  

 
I challenge educators to expand their own understandings of history to include the unwritten and previously seldom taught legacy of Nova Scotia's Black communities and the achievements of our people. These stories are still being written, and it is not too late to encourage our students to write their own stories in bold so they will never be forgotten. 
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Side note to educators- Something to think about
 
With Covid 19, how has access to quality education differed within the Black and Indigenous communities of Nova Scotia in comparison to the predominantly white communities and schools? 
How as an educator can you reduce the gap in equal opportunities for progress and literacy amongst all your students to ensure no one is left behind? 
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I came across this article featuring a classmate of mine from High school who is finishing up his MSW. He highlights the importance of making space for Black learnings and teachers within the education system.

Acting for Change.

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https://blackspan.com/include/african-descent-education-reports.htm -

Links to a number of works on educational barriers for Black Nova Scotians from 1994- 2019.

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More states, from the government "How Are We Doing? Baseline Data on African Nova Scotian Learners"

https://dbdli.ca/wp-content/uploads/Baseline-Data-on-African-Nova-Scotian-Learners.pdf

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The Nova Scotia Brotherhood Fund expands Black Nova Scotian's Mental Health Supports (for Black men) 

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Africentric Mind, Body and Breath- A Mental health Partnership of the Black Wellness Cooperative and the Heather Association of African Canadians Funded by the Canadian Red Cross, based on yoga, breathe and mindfulness practice to open and relax the body, release tension build spiritual awareness and reduce stress.

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And of course (our continued support for)  L.O.V. E NS- HRM youth inspiration and goal achievement in academics and social skills. 

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Also, this article highlights Black Nova Scotian writer and their work and they situate themselves and their identities within our society, which is built on white colonialist agendas and frameworks.

https://roommagazine.com/7-black-nova-scotian-writers-you-should-be-reading/

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 Article on the need for Africentric counselling in Nova Scotia

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The SpellRead Approach

By Halifax Learning on Mon, Mar 05, 2018 @ 11:42 AM

spellread read write spell learn tutor tutoring halifax learning spellread evidence-based reading program

SpellRead focuses on developing a student's "phonological automaticity", the ability to master sound-letter relationships and automatically process the sounds.  Activities in phonemic, phonetic, and language-based reading and writing form the foundation of SpellRead.  The SpellRead approach ensures that students' reading and writing skills become as developed and automatic as their verbal ability.

Students and educators see progress from the first lessons.  All lessons are clearly defined in the instruction manuals and taught in a carefully sequenced and explicit manner.  Each skills is thoroughly practiced in a fast-paced format so that students stay engaged in learning.

spellread read write spell learn tutor tutoring halifax learning spellread evidence-based reading program

SpellRead ensures students can automatically and efficiently decode all 44 sounds of the English language.  One way to ensure mastery of skills is through explicit, systematic, repetitive instruction that is equally effective and engaging.  SpellRead adheres to best practices in pedagogy by ensuring consistent, minimal language, positive reinforcement, fast-paced, multi-sensory program delivery.

What are the stats on SpellRead?

In one year our students:

  • learn how to effectively and efficiently decode new language using the 44 sounds of the English language.
  • are exposed to hundreds of new vocabulary terms without even touching a book.
  • take part in 25+ hours of Active Reading.
  • take part in 10+ hours of Writing Connections.
  • gain the confidence to approach new language with the tools identified by experts in reading research.
  • gain the skills to tackle school work and thrive!

 

Watch SpellRead in the classroom!

View our Student Results here.

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