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The New Ontario Language Curriculum: Early Screening and Reading Interventions 3/5

At Latch Onto Learning we are big advocates for early intervention! One of the OHRC Right to Read inquiry report recommendations is early screening for all children. This is great news for parents because you would be notified if your child is experiencing difficulties in reading. Oftentimes, parents are not aware of grade level benchmarks and as a result do not know to take action on behalf of their child. Let's take a look at a few of the recommendations:

Right to Read Recommendations 59-67 focus on Early Screening

  • Evidence-based screening of all students in Kindergarten Year 1 to Grade 2 in word-reading accuracy and fluency

    • screen all students twice a year

  • At a minimum, measure:

    • Kindergarten: letter knowledge and phonemic awareness

    • Grade 1 (beginning): phonemic awareness, decoding, word identification and text reading

    • Grade 1 (second semester): decoding, word identification and text reading, and should include speed as well as accuracy as an outcome

    • Grade 2: timed word reading and passage reading

  • Identify students at risk of failing to learn to read words adequately, and to get these children into immediate, effective evidence-based interventions

  • Mandate a tiered/(Response to Intervention (RTI)/Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS) approach for all students

Right to Read Recommendations 68-85 focus on Reading Interventions

  • Make sure the interventions are systematic, explicit programs in phonics instruction and building decoding and word-reading accuracy and fluency

  • Early intervention should target the foundational skills of:

    • phonemic awareness

    • sound-letter knowledge

    • decoding

    • word-reading accuracy

    • fluency

  • Later interventions should include:

    • more advanced orthographic patterns

    • syllables

    • morphemes

  • Use standardized scores or percentiles on reading measures

    • i.e. a score that is one standard deviation or more below the mean on a standardized test of word recognition or decoding

    • Replace vague language about being “significantly” below grade level

  • School boards should build collaborative teams from personnel with knowledge and experience in the science of reading

Policy/Program Memorandum 168

This past summer, Policy/Program Memorandum 168 was released. Based on it's emphasis on Early Screening and Multi-Tiered System of Supports, I would say it is written in response to the Right to Read inquiry report's recommendations related to early screening. Here are a few highlights from this policy:

"Research suggests that the implications of difficulties with early reading skills can be minimized or even prevented, when identified early and addressed using evidence-based instruction"

Definition of an Evidence Based Early Reading Screening Tool

  • Evidence-based early reading screening tool: identifies students who may have future difficulties with reading

    • comprehensive

    • Assess each foundational reading skill against a benchmark

    • Reliable and valid

    • Aggregate student data

    • Provide immediate information (in order to inform teacher instruction)

    • can assist the province on a system-level

  • Identifying letters, sounds, and their relationships, as well as decoding words and reading texts

  • Should not be the only method to determine if additional services / special education programs are required

  • Should support effective instruction

Mandatory Early Reading Screening Policy

  • all students in Kindergarten, grade 1 and grade 2 be screened for early reading using ministry-approved, evidence-based screening tools

  • Screened twice a year

    • However, students who met benchmarks in the first screening do not need a second screening (optional)

    • first screening must be completed before mid-November

    • results of the screening must be communicated in the first report card

    • second screening must be completed by mid-March

    • second ministry-mandated screening must be communicated in the second report card

    • Timing can be adjusted by principals/teachers but must be communicated to parents/guardians in advance

  • teachers may administer diagnostic assessments throughout the year

Definition of A Tiered Approach

  • A systematic approach to providing high-quality and evidence-based assessment, instruction, and interventions that correspond to individual student needs.

  • Access to tiered classroom-based instruction and supports must be available to all students, based on need(s) identified through early reading screening or subsequent reading skills assessment.

  • If more intensive instruction (i.e. Tier 3 supports) is provided, parents/guardians must be informed

Tier 1 instruction: provided to all students (Universal Design and Differentiation)

Tier 2 instruction: more intensive, small-group support, in addition to tier 1 instruction

  • for students who did not meet the screening benchmark or have difficulty in 1-3 foundational reading skills

Tier 3 instruction: the most intensive, individual or small-group support, in addition to tier 1 instruction

  • for students who have either a number of difficulties, a considerable degree of difficulties, and/or persistent difficulties in foundational reading skills

  • As identified through their screening result(s) and/or other reading assessments despite tier 1 instruction and/or tier 1 and 2 instruction

The New Ontario Language Curriculum

The New Ontario Language Curriculum addresses this aspect of Right to Read inquiry report in the front matter. The front matter is the beginning chunk of the curriculum. It includes guidelines for how to teach the curriculum. In the 'Some Considerations for Program Planning in Language' we see an entire section dedicated to "The Tiered Approach to Language and Literacy Instruction". Interesting, the actual Ontario Language Curriculum does not mention Screening. This may have to do with teacher collective agreements and teacher professional judgement.

All in all, Latch onto Learning is excited that parents are going to be notified in kindergarten if their child is at risk of reading difficulties. Policy 168 proposes evidence-based screenings implemented to all students across the province. This allows you as a parent/guardian to better advocate for your child and get the early intervention that your child needs to be a skilled reader. Our tutoring programs align with the intervention focus. Research suggests that early intervention can minimize or even prevent later reading difficulties. If you are concerned about your child's progress, we can help support the process.

*As I write this post (mid-August 2023), the Ministry approved screening tools have not been released to the public.

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