In her story for the Vancouver (BC, CA) Sun Janet Steffenhagen reported about the substantial gains in tool skills shown by students at an inner-city school in Vancouver. Under the headline “School leaps ahead in the rankings: Britiannia elementary principal credits a controversial reading program for students’ remarkable improvement,” Ms. Steffenhagen reported that aggregate scores on Canada’s Foundation Skills Assessment moved Britannia School from 636th rank to 232nd among 1000 schools in BC.
Britannia is bucking some stiff odds, according to Ms. Steffenhargen’s story. She reported that many of the children speak English as a second or other language, come from ethnic minority homes, and have parents who did not receive adequate education. According to Britannia principal Greg Barnes, these students have benefited from the systematic and explicit instruction embedded in DI programs.
“Our kids really need structure. They really need the predictability, the routine and the structure. When they have that, they can succeed.”
Every student in the school is engaged in Reading Mastery for almost two hours a day. Grouped by ability rather than age, students are led through the daily lesson by a teacher reading from a script.
After lunch, the student body moves to writing lessons — again, in groups determined by ability, not age.
Barnes admits that the priority given to reading and writing takes a bite out of the day and leaves little time for other subjects such as social studies and science, but he said that’s in keeping with an Education Ministry directive for schools to identify their shortcomings and fix them.
Link to Ms. Steffenhagen’s article.