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Blog Post #8:  When Children Succeed is a project of the Social Innovation Fund

Giving students what they need to succeed

Project puts extra resources where they're most effective

Less than a year in, a demonstration project for kindergarten to Grade 2 students in Saint John’s seven priority schools is already showing that additional resources can help close poverty’s education gap.

With 20 additional K-2 teachers and a speech language pathologist in place, When Children Succeed aims to make the case for needs-based funding in our education system. This model, used in a number of other provinces and countries, directs additional resources to schools that need it most, such as those with high poverty rates. In New Brunswick, funding is currently determined by student numbers, with class-size limits.

Many partners pulling together

The project is a partnership between ASD-South school district, the provincial Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Saint John’s Business Community Anti-Poverty Initiative (BCAPI) and Living SJ. It is one of eight projects receiving support from the Social Innovation Fund, a five-year, $10-million provincial investment in creative ways of combating generational poverty in Saint John. The fund is managed by Living SJ.

“The intervention is tailored to meet their needs." - Megan Donovan

Megan Donovan is principal at Hazen White-St. Francis, one of seven schools benefitting from additional classroom resources.  

"It boosts their confidence so much.” - Kaberi Sen, Grade 2 Teacher

Schools choose what's best

Poverty is a proven barrier to learning, and those early years, from K-2, are critical in ensuring its disadvantages don’t compound. The project builds on foundations for success in school, including early literacy and numeracy skills, a positive attitude, consistent attendance and developing learning habits conducive to academic, social and emotional growth.

An outcomes-based approach is being used, with targets such as 90% of students in Saint John’s seven priority schools to be reading at grade level by the end of Grade 2.

 

The project gave each of the seven schools welcome flexibility to decide for themselves how best to deploy the extra resources.

Some schools created more and smaller classes. Others hired interventionists to work on particular skills.

 

A team-teaching approach

For Megan Donovan, principal at Hazen White-St. Francis, and her colleagues, a collective approach fit their culture and aims.

 

“As a team, we decided we’d use a co-teaching model,” she says.

 

Now, the school’s two kindergarten and Grades 1 and 2 classes each have three, not two, teachers.

 

“You can really focus on the particular skill or sound or whatever your student is struggling with,” Megan says. “And you can really focus one-on-one. The intervention is tailored to meet their needs.”

 

Most days, every student gets individualized teaching time.

 

“It’s been fabulous,” says Rhonda Magee, lead kindergarten teacher. “They get so much attention. We are making sure each child is learning at their own pace.”

 

More than 60% of students have gone up at least one reading level, an unimaginable gain before.

 

“If the need is there, we can meet the child right away,” says Kaberi Sen, lead Grade 2 teacher. “By being able to meet with them daily, every student is showing growth.”

 

They’re seeing better behaviour. The students are more motivated.

 

“It boosts their confidence so much,” Kaberi says. “Their whole attitude changes.”