LEADERSHIP FOR LITERACY
Several years ago, the SSDEC was dissatisfied with the level of student achievement. Only about half of the students were performing at or above the standards for reading and mathematics. The Council was resolved, and challenged administration and staff to improve student outcomes significantly; the children of the South Slave were no less capable and deserving of the best education possible.
The Council narrowed their focus to a few key areas (literacy, numeracy, and social responsibility), and set goals with measurable targets. Strategies were selected that current research indicated would garner improvement in student achievement, regardless of competing socio- economic factors. The school board embraced the literacy coach model. Every school hired a literacy coach who provides ongoing job-embedded professional development to teachers in evidence-based instruction, differentiation and intervention practices. The initiative was designed with high expectations, but also with flexibility for schools and staff empowered to find their best way to improved results in their unique environments. Regional administrators challenged school principals to join the lead, hiring their coaches, setting high expectations for success, and leading the development of growth plans by each staff member and for each student. This balance of ‘pressure and support’ has been a key component of the Leadership for Literacy initiative.
The success of our initiative also hinges on the partnerships forged with parents, elders and community groups. Because our communities still live with the legacy of residential schooling, and the realities of multi-grade classes, high staff turnover, and limited resources, we are purposeful in our efforts to ensure that community members feel welcomed in our schools and are part of our school family. Community members comprise our locally-elected governing bodies, and schools provide many opportunities for parents to visit the schools, provide input into programming decisions and celebrate in the success of their children. Our elders play an important role as well. We look to them for cultural advice and instruction and many have shared stories and legends that have been published in storybooks that we use in our reading and Indigenous language programs. We strive for schools that mirror the values and cultures of our communities and embrace local traditions. Through this initiative, our parents, elders and community members have been given a voice.
“This truly outstanding success is the result of many students, teachers, parents, partners and Elders working together in common cause. This broad approach is an effective way to help students and ultimately build smarter, more caring communities, and a fairer, more just Canada.”
–David Johnston, Governor General of Canada (2013)