Halifax: French immersion students lack reading skills

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Mon Dec 4 16:41:05 UTC 2006

Saturday, December 2, 2006

French immersion students lack reading skills

By Lindsay Jones

Benchmark French immersion literacy assessments show students lack key
reading skills. Most students were unable to accurately or fluently read
texts in French, according to Halifax Regional School Board's first test
results for Grade 2 French immersion students. When students were given a
pre-selected text, only 18 per cent read accurately and 16 per cent read
fluently. But an overwhelming majority of the students feel competent as
readers and are able to respond to a text.

Geoff Cainen, school board program director, said during this week's
school board meeting the data shows areas to focus on for professional
development. "We need to really look at the core language work that's
going on ... to make sure students have every opportunity to express
themselves orally as much as possible," he said. "We know - in English
classes, too - that the more opportunity the children have to dialogue in
a language, when we turn around and ask them to read, it's going to make a
difference." Grade 2 students in the English program, however, showed
significant improvement.

Students are reading with greater fluency and accuracy, and they improved
in their ability to ask questions about a text they've read, when compared
with 2003-04 results. But Grade 2 students need more instruction when it
comes to giving and supporting an opinion about a text, and using personal
experience to ask questions. Grade 9 results also improved. At least 80
per cent of students assessed met or exceeded criteria in 14 of 20
categories. Strengths include accuracy, fluency and making personal
connections with a text.

But only 55 per cent of students view themselves as readers. It's an area
of concern teachers will have to work on, said Cainen. "It's not that our
students can't read; it's that they choose not to," he said. "And there's
a big difference there, so we need to make sure students are being engaged
in the classrooms." All Grade 2 students and 10 per cent of Grade 9
students - randomly selected - completed the assessments in October. The
school board reduced the Grade 9 sample size this year because the
Education Department plans to introduce an annual literacy assessment in



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