In this section, we explore
- the unique look and feel and purpose of LBS programs in a school board environment,
- a few particular challenges that school board programs face
Differences within the School Board Sector as a Whole
As we noted earlier, there are a number of factors that affect how LBS is delivered across the province. In the school board sector, programs vary from region to region, from school board to school board and even from class to class depending upon a number of internal and external factors.
Internal factors are ones that originate within the program. Examples of internal factors that affect how the program is delivered can include:
- the characteristics and needs of the learners that are being served
- class size
- whether classes are full-time or part-time
- the learners’ goals
- the learners’ literacy strengths and weaknesses
- facilities and resources that are available
- the class location
- the instructor’s teaching experience and training
External factors come more from the position, setting or location of the program. Examples of external factors that affect how the program is delivered can include:
- the proximity of other LBS classes
- whether or not the program operates in the context of, or in partnership with another social service agency or institution
- existing school board or partnership agency policies and procedures that direct how the LBS program operate
- whether or not the program operates in a unionized environment
Differences such as these govern not only the kinds of policies and procedures that agencies establish, but also the way in which instructors plan, organize and deliver the day-to-day program.
For example, differences that have to do with a program's particular internal and external factors will influence decisions such as these:
- the program’s start and end times,
- the order of daily events,
- the balance between individual and group instruction,
- the curriculum content that is developed,
- the depth of the instruction,
- the balance between independent and supported learning for each learner,
- the amount of research and lesson preparation that is necessary,
- the kinds of learning activities that are developed,
- assessment tools and methods,
- the instructor’s approach to administrative duties,
- record-keeping and individual case management,
|JOURNAL REFLECTION: What do you think?|
|What specific internal and external features govern the way in which LBS is delivered at your program location?
The challenging question that every program thinks about is this:
“How do we provide a quality literacy program that takes into account all of our unique internal and external realities but still meets Ministry expectations?”.
One approach could be...
start by getting a clear understanding of:
only provide training for learners whose goals and needs you can serve best
- the Ministry’s view of learner/program success (i.e., re: task performance and what goal completion looks like)
- your local community's needs and opportunities for training
- resources that are available because of your unique setting (Visit Rhonda to see an example)
- your program delivery parameters (i.e., in view of the needs and opportunities within our community and given our particular internal and external realities, realistically, this is what we can do well, and this is what we can't do)
What are the benefits of having LBS programs delivered by school boards?
School boards in Ontario are able to make contributions to the LBS Program that are unique. Here are a few of the reasons why this is so:
1. School Boards have a long history of literacy work within local communities.
When people want to upgrade their reading, writing and math skills, they often think of “going back to school”. Because schools have such an established presence and history within the community, many people inquire there first when looking for adult classes. Teachers working in the regular school system also help to direct adult learners into school board literacy programs. Those who work closely with children are often in a good position to recognize when parents could benefit from some literacy support. Over the years, many learners have come into the LBS program as a result of sensitive inquiry and recommendations from teachers in the elementary school system.
2. LBS instruction in school boards is provided almost exclusively to learners in groups.
At its best, group instruction allows for the development of a safe community of learners where people join with others in pursuing a common goal - to strengthen their abilities and develop the new skills they need to move towards their personal goals.
In developing a sense of community, classes become a microcosm of the world at large that include opportunities for practical, daily learning about:
- the value of diversity,
- respect for the individual,
- appropriate give-and-take in the exchange of ideas and opinions,
- working with others i.e. teamwork,
- responsible and appropriate social behaviour,
- participation with peers in the learning process.
Developing positive, interpersonal values and transferable skills for working with others, happens best in a group context.
3. School boards are most closely connected to Adult Secondary School Credit Programs.
Many learners who come into school board LBS programs are on their way to employment, and are looking to get their Grade 12 diploma, (OSSD) or their GED. They tell us that employers they have met want to see Grade 12 certification before they will hire. For those learners, it seems to make good sense to start in a school board program that will lead naturally into adult credit.
School board LBS programs that are already located within an adult high school find that, when learners are ready, their transition from LBS to the credit program goes smoothly.
The physical proximity between the LBS and credit programs simplifies the process for the learner, and facilitates the transfer of administrative information. As a result, fewer learners get lost in the gap between LBS and what comes next.
When LBS classes are not located in adult high schools, there is often a close feeder connection made with the nearest adult high school or credit program. Learners who can readily see where they will go at the next step, tend to be more motivated as learners, and better able to maintain their focus and commitment to learning over the long haul.
4. Some school board LBS programs work in partnerships.
Sometimes, school board LBS programs are offered in partnership with other services, agencies or institutions. You can find school board LBS classes in local detention centres, sheltered workshops, seniors’ residences, elementary or secondary school buildings, rehabilitation centres, pre-apprenticeship programs and employment centres to name a few. Partnerships allow school boards to work with many learners who may otherwise not be able to access literacy training. Since each partnering agency has its own unique role to play in the learner’s life, instructors often look for ways to develop curriculum that will build upon or support the learner’s relationship with the partnering agency and, at the same time, help the learner to develop skills that are related to his or her personal goals.
5. School Boards have had a mandated professional development program.
All LBS managers in all sectors and streams follow LBS Program Guidelines by offering regular professional development training to their instructors.
Ongoing training helps instructors keep up-to-date with new program initiatives, and supports them in increasing their skills in various aspects of program delivery. The amount of time and frequency of training available for instructors, is, however, vastly inconsistent throughout the province. It varies from between half a day, to several full PD days a year.
Up until the recent change in Ontario’s provincial government, there was a provincially mandated professional development program in place that required ongoing training of all certified teachers. In order to maintain professional status, and work as teachers in the regular education system, teachers holding an Ontario Teaching Certificate were required to complete 15 units of approved professional development training every four years. This applied to many school board instructors since approximately 50% of instructors working in school board LBS programs are teachers who have OTC accreditation and are members of the Ontario College of Teachers.
LBS learners who worked with instructors who participated in ongoing training benefited from having teachers who modelled life-long learning and consistently brought new ideas and skills to the classroom.
JOURNAL REFLECTION: What do you think?
|What is your opinion of having a mandated professional development policy for teachers?|
What challenges do school boards face in working with the Literacy and Basic Skills Program?
Within the Anglophone stream, if we were to look at how school boards differ from the other sectors - the community-based agencies and the colleges, we would be able to see some unique challenges that school boards face in delivering LBS.
ASIDE: Of course, we realize that people usually run into trouble when they make sweeping generalizations, so we want to be careful to acknowledge that where there are descriptions of community-based and college LBS programs, they do not necessarily hold true for each of their individual programs, but, in fact, reflect what is generally recognized across each sector as a whole.
Click on headings below to take a closer look at some of the LBS program-related challenges that are specific to school boards.
What does MTCU think about the fact that all the LBS programs in Ontario are different?
One of the strengths of the LBS Program is that it allows for, and expects, individual program differences. As MTCU’s Field Training Consultants make regular monitoring program visits across the province, they look for evidence that practitioners understand what the Literacy and Basic Skills Program is all about. They want to know that practitioners are able to incorporate program requirements in ways that best meet the needs of their particular learners within the context of their particular environment. While interpretations of the LBS Program Guidelines must be consistent, specific applications of the guidelines are expected to vary program to program.
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