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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.

right to read inquiry

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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