A new initiative for early years education will provide school divisions with greater flexibility to enhance kindergarten to Grade 3 education and work toward achieving better results in the early years.
“Our government is empowering school divisions to choose the best practices in literacy and numeracy – practices that will allow Manitoba schools to strengthen the fundamentals of a quality education,” said Education and Training Minister Ian Wishart. “This important step will enhance early years education and improve student achievement across the province.”
The minister confirmed the new Early Years Education Initiative will replace the Smaller Classes Initiative, affording school divisions greater flexibility and autonomy to direct funding in ways that will improve outcomes for students in the early years (kindergarten to Grade 3). Beginning in the 2017-18 school year, school divisions may decide how to use the associated funding to improve outcomes within their unique student populations – either by covering operating costs in order to maintain the smaller classes, to invest in improvements to teacher capacity and student achievement, or some combination of the two, Wishart noted.
“Through today’s announcement, Manitoba’s new government provides all school boards with greater discretion to fulfil our mandate,” said Ken Cameron, president, Manitoba School Boards Association. “By giving us the flexibility to use our resources where they are needed the most, we can strengthen quality of education for our kids, while also keeping costs affordable for the local taxpayer.”
The minister also noted the new Early Years Enhancement Initiative will include an evaluation component to measure provincewide progress annually following a four-year implementation timeframe. Manitoba Education and Training will work in collaboration with school divisions and post-secondary partners, utilizing third-party expertise to evaluate the outcomes of teaching methods and enabling adjustments to be made based on performance results. The department will facilitate the sharing of best practices for improving student achievement among school divisions.
“We want to thank the government for introducing the Early Years Education Initiative,” says Colleen Carswell, board chair, River East Transcona School Division. “It’s very important that we’re given the flexibility to target our funding in ways we believe will produce the best results for all students. Our present practices tell us how important it is to evaluate the effectiveness of teaching methods in all areas but most importantly in literacy and numeracy. We look forward to working with Minister Wishart and the government in this regard.”
Within the same timeframe, school divisions will no longer be held to the guidelines of the Smaller Classes Initiative, which the minister noted capped class sizes arbitrarily and did not include a process to evaluate success or failure of the program. The minister noted that data derived from the grades 3 and 4 provincial assessments in reading and numeracy demonstrates no significant improvement in student achievement since the inception of the Smaller Classes Initiative.
“Evaluation is an essential component of any new program as it allows us to assess what approaches are working and which areas require additional attention. It is concerning the previous program had no formal evaluation mechanism to assess whether the initiative was producing better results in kindergarten to Grade 3 literacy and numeracy,” said Wishart. “Our provincewide measurement of educational outcomes will both ensure that Manitobans are getting the results they want from our education system and that future policies impacting students are properly informed.”
In addition, in the fall of 2017, as part of the K-12 Framework for Continuous Improvement, school divisions will be required to set realistic and measurable targets for increasing student achievement in literacy and numeracy in their school division plans, Wishart said. The framework, introduced last May, requires school divisions to monitor and report annually on student progress which enables the province to track student achievement.