Learning to read is not a privilege but a basic and essential human right.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s (OHRC) Right to Read report was released in February 2022, and highlighted that learning to read is not a privilege but a basic and essential human right. The report included 157 recommendations directed toward the Ministry of Education, Ontario school boards, and Faculties of Education outlining how to address systemic issues that affect the right to learn to read. Just over half of those recommendations directly implicate the work of all Ontario school boards.
The report highlighted five key areas: Curriculum and Instruction; Early Screening; Reading Interventions; Accommodations; and Professional Assessment. LDSB acknowledges the importance of providing a comprehensive literacy program to all students by offering a structured approach to literacy that includes direct, explicit instruction in oral language, phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary development.
LDSB is committed to reaching all students by ensuring that everyone has access to tiered literacy instruction and intervention supports. It is important to realize that while the OHRC’s Right to Read report was released at the end of February, LDSB has been engaged in ongoing and important literacy work.
During the 2022-2023 school year, LDSB continued to engage in work that aligns with the Right to Read report including the following four initiatives:
- Supporting Job-Embedded Literacy Learning in Classrooms. Nine Learning Coaches were hired to support all 50 elementary schools. The Learning Coach supports educators by planning together, modelling lessons, providing feedback, and gathering data to inform instruction. This support has been instrumental as educators have shifted their learning toward more explicit, direct, and research-based literacy instruction.
- Professional Learning for Administrators. Knowing that educators would receive job-embedded professional learning as they worked alongside the Learning Coaches, a six-session learning series was developed for all Principals. By the end of the school year, LDSB invested over $200,000 in literacy materials that include instructional resources and decodable books, in all 50 elementary schools.
- Acadience Pilot – Universal Screening for K-2. The LDSB literacy program team led a series of four professional learning sessions with eight elementary schools to support a team of five individuals from each school (Administrator, Student Support Teacher (SST), and three K-2 educators) to learn how to implement a universal screener called Acadience and how to interpret the data to inform classroom instruction. This pilot will inform the systemwide implementation strategy that will be undertaken during the fall of the 2023-2024 school year.
- Expansion of Empower. The program has been expanded to 42 elementary schools and 7 secondary sites. The Empower program is a research-based, intensive, explicit literacy program. At the elementary level, students receive instruction for 50-60 minutes per day, in a group of six to eight students. The instructor receives four days of training throughout the school year. At the high school level, a small group of students attend an Empower class as a credit-based literacy course, for one semester. The goal of the program is to build student skills in the area of decoding and spelling (elementary) and decoding, spelling, fluency, and comprehension (secondary).
As we work toward implementing the revised curriculum, our goal is to engage with caregivers and the community to continue to share best practices and to support learning at home and at school.
The Literacy team, alongside the Indigenous Education team, Equity team, Educational Services team, and the Human Rights and Equity Advisor will continue to collaborate to support instructional approaches and share materials that allow all students to see themselves in the curriculum, and to support a sense of belonging and pride.
Finally, we will continue to work alongside the Educational Services team to ensure explicit and effective literacy instruction at all tiers of support. Alignment in instructional delivery will continue to be critical for students and staff.