Early Learning and Literacy

In June 2008, “Be Ready for Success: A 10-Year Early Childhood Strategy for New Brunswick” was launched. Prepared after widespread consultations, the report contains seven commitments and 39 action items to ensure integrated and responsive preschool services for children. Among the new investments are the establishment of four new early-childhood-development centres, the hiring of more early-learning specialists, and enhanced support for at-risk and special-needs children. In addition, French and English early-learning and child-care curricula have been implemented in regulated child-care facilities as of September 2008.

School-Age Literacy

In 2007, the Department of Education, which represents both linguistic communities through the Anglophone and Francophone sectors, outlined its plan, When Kids Come First, setting educational commitments to the students of New Brunswick. Of these commitments, four of the eight have implications for improving students' literacy achievement:

  • Commitment 1: To Ensure School Readiness
  • Commitment 2: To Work Urgently on Literacy, Numeracy, and Science
  • Commitment 3: To Help Children Develop a Passion for Learning
  • Commitment 7: To Promote Cultural Identity and Linguistic Growth

A benchmark report on the target of When Kids Come First is available on–line.

Initiatives common to the Anglophone and Francophone sectors

  • Early registration during the year before a child enters kindergarten facilitates the provision of many learning opportunities for parents and their children. In recognition of this, a new provincial early-years initiative has been implemented and includes the following: a preschool screener, the Early Years Evaluation—Direct Assessment, administered to each registered child prior to entering school (the results of which are shared with parents and kindergarten teachers to provide valuable information on each child's developmental strengths and needs), and allowing for early intervention in identified areas prior to entering the school system; a “Welcome to Kindergarten” bag with take-home literacy materials for each child; and the funding of transition-to-school coordinators to work with families, schools, and supporting agencies to ensure that each child's entry into the public school system is positive.
  • The Innovative Learning Fund in New Brunswick provides financial support to innovative educators by investing in original projects led by teachers, schools, and districts, which can then be shared and copied in other schools. The $5 million annual fund has resulted in programs such as Beyond the Books, which promotes a culture of literacy in schools, homes, and communities, and a writing centre at a secondary school in which gifted students are partnered with struggling writers in lower grades. In 2008-09, more than 145 projects in anglophone school districts and 120 projects in francophone districts received funding, with additional funds made available for school-initiated projects.
  • The Community Schools Program encourages the community to take a more active role to ensure all children experience success in literacy, numeracy, and science. It positions schools as centres of learning by using school resources and facilities, community resources, volunteer groups, parents, public services, government departments and agencies, and recreational and cultural opportunities to support a culture of lifelong learning. By the 2008-09 school year, more than 15 per cent of New Brunswick schools were operating officially as community schools. This initiative is proving instrumental in rallying community partnerships to support school-age literacy.
  • All schools are in the process of instituting the professional-learning-communities approach to ensure that teachers are examining effective instructional practices, monitoring student achievement, and designing appropriate intervention approaches for students who exhibit ongoing difficulty in learning.

Highlights of initiatives specific to the Anglophone sector

  • A First Nations early-years program has been introduced in First Nations communities that provide preschool programs for four-year-olds. The focus of the program is to provide professional development in the areas of literacy and numeracy to facilitators working in each community. The program works toward ensuring that students are ready for kindergarten. The program uses many of the initiatives that are part of the Department of Education's Transitions-to-School program.
  • To meet the province's commitment to bilingualism and additional–language learning, the Anglophone sector has revamped the approach to French–language instruction by introducing French–language and culture experiences to students from kindergarten to Grade 2; moving the entry point for early immersion to Grade 3; adopting an intensive French program at Grade 5; retaining the late immersion entry point at Grade 6; and developing a Bilingual Learning Environment Policy.
  • The Atlantic Canada Reading and Writing Achievement Standards for K–9 have been developed, and districts have received an implementation package and financial support to introduce the standards to K–10 teachers. These standards establish common expectations for educators in student reading and writing at the end of each level.
  • To support the instructional leadership required for increased student achievement, literacy “look-for” documents for Grades 3 to 5 have been developed and launched. They follow a similar format to the K–2 “look-fors” implemented in 2003. “Look-fors” provide a guide for instructional leaders to identify and observe effective literacy practices in classrooms.
  • Tools to support literacy instruction across all curricular areas have been developed. Twenty-eight facilitators have been trained throughout the nine anglophone districts to implement a program specifically to assist subject-area teachers to integrate reading instruction with adolescent learners. The “Cross-Curricular Reading Tools” document to support literacy instruction across the curriculum was developed through the Council of Atlantic Ministers of Education and Training (CAMET), and districts have supported this resource through a variety of professional-learning opportunities.
  • In order to create a sense of urgency in meeting our literacy, numeracy, and science targets, annual progress reports have been created to update all New Brunswickers. Reporting annually on progress at the provincial, district, and school levels engages all stakeholders to celebrate and share collective successes, while at the same time focus on areas requiring improvement. Balancing successes and opportunities for improvement through this public report will help to make the system more accountable.

Highlights of initiatives specific to the Francophone sector

  • A package of materials on learning strategies for reading, writing, and oral communication was developed as part of the Pan-Canadian French as a First Language Project initiated by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada. Teachers at all grade levels receive training in the effective use of the materials in the classroom, to maximize the use of teaching strategies that empower students to become accomplished readers and writers.
  • Parents of all students evaluated in provincial literacy assessments at the end of Grade 2 and at the start of Grade 4 receive a report that describes their child's performance and encourages them to participate in the student's education and to help improve the student's literacy skills.
  • Thanks to reader and writer profiles developed for the end of Grade 2 and the start of Grade 4, as well as to appropriate training, teachers and students have a clear picture of what students should know and be able to do as autonomous readers and writers.
  • A new secondary (Grades 9–12) French curriculum was implemented in French-language schools in New Brunswick between 2006 and 2009. The curriculum revolves around five purposes of communication (to tell, to persuade, to report, to guide, and to convey), and is based on the notion of didactic sequence and focused on quickly initiating the learning process by encouraging students to produce work. Oral communication — vital for students in minority settings — plays a larger role in the curriculum through meaningful activities and contexts designed to foster students' identity-building through linkages with the community. Department expectations are clarified through competency profiles illustrated by exemplars available on the department profile (repository of didactic sequences).
  • Since 2008-09, the New Brunswick Department of Education has recommended highly specific interventions for students with dyslexia, who now receive individual, comprehensive, and frequent services from specialized provincial teachers to help them overcome difficulties, use appropriate strategies, and recognize suitable adjustments in order to become functional, autonomous readers.
  • The New Brunswick Department of Education has implemented a program to provide schools in difficulty with assistance, including additional resources and support in literacy, numeracy, and science.

Adult Literacy

  • Development of an Adult Literacy Strategy commenced in the fall of 2008, beginning with a consultation session with adult–literacy stakeholders. These stakeholders included representatives from government departments and advisory bodies with an interest in adult literacy, nongovernmental literacy organizations, private–sector companies, industry associations, unions, and other organizations. The draft strategy has been reviewed both by government and in a follow-up consultation with adult–literacy stakeholders. The strategy Working Together for Adult Literacy: An Adult Literacy Strategy for New Brunswick, was released in the fall of 2009.
  • The government of New Brunswick has invested in a major expansion of the adult-literacy collection available through the public library system. The collection now has more than 15,000 books in both official languages, including audio books, audiovisual materials, and fiction and non-fiction books that have information on arithmetic, budgeting, and other life skills of interest to adult learners. The materials were chosen primarily for adults who have varying degrees of reading ability. There are also support materials for literacy tutors.

Literacy for Aboriginal Populations

The Government of Canada, the government of New Brunswick, and New Brunswick First Nations communities agreed to a collaborative effort to improve the educational outcomes of First Nations students in both band and public schools in New Brunswick. This commitment has a potential value of $40 million over the next five years. The First Nations Education Strategy offers First Nations students additional academic supports, including in literacy, and culturally relevant programs and services, along with ongoing access to the supports normally provided by schools and school districts.

Literacy for Francophones in Minority Settings

Five additional francophone schools and their communities in New Brunswick made a commitment to work together to enable every child to succeed in school in a program called The School at the Heart of the Community (L'école au cœur de sa communauté). The Community Schools Program encourages communities, municipalities, business people, nongovernmental agencies, and parents to help schools carry out their educational and cultural missions. The community takes a more active role in children's education — in literacy, numeracy, and science. The program is also in place in New Brunswick's anglophone schools.

Workplace and Workforce Literacy

In October 2008, a Standing Forum on Skills Development was created by the New Brunswick Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour. The forum includes representatives from business, labour, education, and not-for-profit sectors, as well as from other community groups, including First Nations, recent immigrants, women, youth, persons with disabilities, and older adults. Literacy groups are among those represented. The purpose of the forum is to examine the ideas gathered through round-table discussions and an on-line dialogue that had taken place over the last year. Participants in these discussions provided advice on priority areas that government and stakeholders need to address. Working groups are being established for priority areas, including one on workplace literacy and essential skills. More information is available from New Brunswick Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour.

Workplace Essential Skills

The development of a new Workplace Essential Skills (WES) program-delivery model began in fall 2008. WES provides an accelerated process for lower-skilled, lower-educated adults to gain the knowledge and skills they need to improve their employment-related skills. The program uses a Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) process as well as a competency-based approach to training. The curriculum includes components of each of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada's nine essential skills. Leadership of the WES program is centred in the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour, and shared by four divisions in the department to ensure collaboration and seamless delivery and that WES is embedded in related programs and adult-learning pathways. Central office and regional WES teams, as well as regional coordination groups, will implement and manage program delivery attuned to both provincial and regional employer and learner needs. Two Centres of Excellence (one for each official language) are being established to serve the province and to provide expertise in areas of learning content, tools, prior-learning assessment, measurement, evaluation, and other related services. Private-sector partners include employers, business and industry associations, sector councils, unions, and non governmental literacy organizations.