FMPSD column: An overview of FMPSD’s many literacy and numeracy supports

Denise McKinley. Supplied Image/FMPSD

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No matter how society, or technology evolves – literacy and numeracy will always remain a cornerstone of education. Here’s an overview of the many supports offered at Fort McMurray Public School Division (FMPSD) as we cultivate the leaders of tomorrow – today.


Each FMPSD school has implemented the Leveled Literacy Intervention – LLI system. It is a short-term, supplementary program proven to improve literacy achievement in struggling readers with engaging leveled books and fast-paced systematically designed lessons.

Speaking of systematically designed lessons, an estimated 1225 students (as of September 8, 2020)  at FMPSD are English Language Learners (ELL). They receive a variety of targeted supports..

“All of our teachers are trained to employ many strategies with ELL students. This includes review on how to use the Alberta ELL website, ELL toolkit provided to each school, word walls, Google Read/Write and screencastify (a Chrome browser extension that records your screen, face, voice, and more),” explains Denise McKinley, our District Literacy Coordinator.

Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System (BAS) is another tool. Each school is trained on how to implement and use it. “This is a teacher resource available at all schools to accurately and reliably identify each child’s instructional and independent reading levels and document their progress through one-on-one formative and summative assessments. This provides teachers with precise tools and texts to observe and quantify specific reading behaviours, and then interpret and use that data to plan meaningful instruction,” adds McKinley, who has been with FMPSD for 14 years, and in her current position for a year.

Additionally, McKinley works with teachers to determine students’ instructional/independent reading levels, identify students who need intervention and extra help, monitor and report student progress across a school year and grade levels, as well as inform parent conferences, to name just a few supports.

“I also visit classrooms, and meet with teachers to discuss all students including vulnerable students, with a focus on differentiation (a wide variety of teaching techniques and lesson adaptations that educators use to instruct a diverse group of students with a variety of learning needs, in the same classroom), resources available, assessment procedures, and targeted literacy interventions. I also have the opportunity to model literacy lessons/supports directly with students. This allows teachers to observe how to effectively use literacy strategies in the classroom.”

All of these initiatives help build the road to success when it comes to PAT (Provincial Achievement Test) and Diplomas. In particular, by “targeting the building blocks of literacy development, which is key to student success inside and outside of school. FMPSD recognizes the importance of collaboration and capacity building at each school and uses this collaborative time to discuss how to support students in literacy on a regular basis,” notes McKinley.

Shannon Dube. Supplied Image/FMPSD


Shannon Dubé, FMPSD’s Numeracy Coordinator for Elementary schools works with teachers to implement supports, which lead into the achievement of standardized testing in grades 9 and 12. She has been with FMPSD since 2007 and this is her third year in this role.

“I work directly with teachers to provide assistance on teaching strategies, differentiation, resources, and assessments. Much of our work and conversation centers around meeting the learning needs of all students in the classroom and ensuring their success.”

“Teachers strive to provide rich learning opportunities and tasks for students. This includes hands-on learning experiences, dialogue and conversations about math and its connections to the world, finding patterns in daily life, and learning problem-solving techniques that will help them from Kindergarten to grade 12,” explains Dubé.

Some of the supports, programs, and structures elementary teachers use to meet these goals include activities like Math Daily 3 (a framework for structuring math time so students develop deep conceptual understanding, mathematical proficiency, and a true love of Mathematics).

Mathseeds and Mathletics are online math programs, which provide targeted lessons for where student learning happens. Math Intervention/Programming Instrument (MIPI) is an assessment used by some schools to target needed areas of focus by mathematical strand for students in grades 2-10, and a Pearson resource called Mathology, being used in some schools creates cross-curricular connections to literacy, and spiral learning (In a spiral curriculum, learning is spread out over time rather than being concentrated in shorter periods with material revisited repeatedly over months and across grades).

Having these disparate learning opportunities creates well-rounded mathematicians and sets students up for success in everyday life as well as in assessment situations like completing a PAT or Diploma exam.

Finally, FMPSD teachers are provided professional development opportunities so they can take back the rich learning to their classroom teaching.

“FMPSD has excellent data and scores when it comes to PATs and Diplomas. Remember, this is one day and one test and only gives a small snapshot of where students are on a given day. There is so much more to Math than a multiple-choice test! The continued road to success on standardized testing lies in simply continuing with rich and meaningful learning opportunities from K-12, nurturing a love of Mathematics, embracing all learning styles and needs, building confidence in students and their ability, easing test anxiety by reassuring students that it is one day and one test, giving students space to explore their own thinking and their own strategies, and allowing opportunities for students to have some practice time with past test exemplars. In addition, getting used to the format, timed pace, and strategies for answering multiple-choice questions. It is important that we as educators stress the process over the answer,” adds Dubé.

Doing What’s Best for Kids. For more information on any of our 16 schools, visit: For real time updates: follow us on Twitter: @FMPSD and like us on Facebook: Fort McMurray Public School Division. Instagram @FMPSD.