Advocate for the Right to Read: Submit A Letter To Your School Board

Questions to ask your school board

Many concerned parents, professionals, and citizens want to know how they can help advocate locally for the implementation of the Ontario Human Rights Commission's Right to Read recommendations. We encourage everyone to ask their school board how it will respond to the report and the plans it has for implementing the new language curriculum. This is not only intended to help you understand the board’s plans, but will also spark discussion within the board about the steps it is taking to prepare for the changes to come.

The text below is intended as a sample letter with some leading questions. These questions will be best sent to a Superintendent or the Director of Education of the school board. It would also be useful to send a copy of the letter to the chair of the school board's Special Education Advisory Committee, with a note explaining that you have sent these questions to the board staff and are awaiting a response.

Sample Letter

Editable Sample Letter 

Dear [],

As [a parent/community member] I am interested in how the board is working to implement the Ontario Human Rights Commission's (OHRC) Right to Read Inquiry Recommendations. The OHRC is calling for critical changes to early reading instruction—changes that will ensure school boards are meeting their legal and ethical obligations to provide students equitable access to education.

The OHRC has made 157 recommendations, including implementing structured literacy in the classroom, screening all students twice a year from kindergarten to grade 2, and providing targeted early intervention starting in kindergarten for all students at risk for developing reading difficulties. The recommendations highlight the essential elements of a preventative approach to education. Under these recommendations, a student's needs are identified upon school entry, and targeted supports are implemented to ensure the child succeeds to prevent significant setbacks in education that would require remediation. 

The Ministry of Education has committed to implementing the Right to Read recommendations and has already issued a new guide to early reading instruction.  Additionally, the ministry has hired an external team of teachers and other professionals who are experienced in structured literacy and early screening to draft the new Language curriculum.  This new curriculum will come into effect as of September 2023.

Implementing these changes to instruction recommended by the OHRC and outlined in the new Ministry guide can not be done by teachers alone. Success will require strong and consistent leadership from the board, effective communication with staff and parents, and ongoing support for teachers. As a concerned (parent/citizen) I would like to understand how the board is preparing for these changes.

I ask for your consideration and response to the following questions:

  1. Communication

1.1   Has the board shared information about the Right to Read Inquiry Report with staff and parents/caregivers? If so, how was this information shared? (i.e. email, webinars, workshops, websites, social media)

1.2   Has the board made a clear and public statement committing to work towards implementing the OHRC recommendations?

  1. Leadership

2.1   The OHRC recommends that school boards include the Right to Read recommendations in their Multi-Year Strategic Plans, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion plans, and Special Education Plans. Has the board already done this and if not, when can we expect this to happen?

2.2   Is the board creating a detailed multi-year plan to implement all of the Right to Read recommendations?

2.3   If the board is working on an implementation plan, who is creating the plan? Is it being created by a collaborative team that includes classroom teachers who have training and experience delivering structured literacy instruction, principals, special education teachers, speech and language pathologists, and psychologists? Or is the board’s existing literacy team making decisions related to implementation?

  1. Training 

Successfully implementing the Right to Read recommendations will require sustained and supported professional development, not only for teachers but also for board-level leadership and administrators.

3.1   Are superintendents and systems principals receiving professional development to ensure that they have a high-level understanding of the key concepts related to the science of reading and the Response to Intervention (RTI) and Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS) frameworks set out in the Right to Read report? This development is needed to make informed decisions and provide effective oversight to ensure that the board is fulfilling its legal obligations to meet students' right to read.

If so, please describe the professional development that superintendents and systems principles are receiving, including who is delivering this training and the topics covered.

3.2   Are board-level literacy leads and coaches receiving in-depth formal training in structured literacy that will enable them to train and provide ongoing coaching to teachers?

Please describe the training board literacy coaches are receiving, the qualifications of the individuals who are providing the training, the length of the training program, and the topics covered.

3.3   Has the board begun to provide professional development to school administrators to ensure that they are prepared to provide support and oversight during the transition? If so, please describe this training and if the training is mandatory.

3.4   Have teachers and ECEs begun to receive training that aligns with the new guide to effective instruction, including how to deliver systematic and explicit instruction in foundational word reading and spelling following a planned scope and sequence?

If so, please describe this training including who is delivering the training, the length of training, and the topics covered.

  1. Classroom Resources

The new guide to effective instruction discusses the need to provide systematic-explicit instruction in foundational word reading and spelling following a planned scope and sequence.  It also discusses the need to provide children opportunities to apply the skills that are being taught by reading decodable text that matches the instructional scope and sequence.

4.1   Has the board developed or selected a common kindergarten to grade 2 scope and sequence?  If so, please provide a copy of this document.

4.3   Has the board begun to replace early leveled books with decodable texts that align with the scope and sequence provided to teachers?

  1. Screening and Data Collection

The Report makes recommendations to ensure that going forward decisions at the board, school, and student level can be driven by data.

5.1   Is the board working to design and implement an evidence-based early screening program that includes measuring the following in each grade (recommendation 60):

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

5.2   Is the board working to develop and implement reporting and recording tools for screening, intervention and accommodation approaches, and results and strategies that enable student educators to share information with each other from one class to the next and one year to the next?

  1. Intervention

6.1   Has the board discontinued the use of reading interventions that do not have a strong evidence base or are based on the three-cueing approach for students who struggle with word reading? For example: Levelled Literacy Intervention (LLI) or Reading Recovery®

6.2   Has the board selected and begun to provide training and resources in reading interventions that are recommended by the ministry and/or Right to Read report as having a strong evidence base?

6.3   Has the board ensured that every school has at least one evidence-based reading intervention that can be implemented with students in each grade level and for each tier?  If so, please provide a list of interventions in use on the board and indicate which grade and tier the intervention is used for. Is this information available on the board website and in the special education plan?

6.4   What data tracking is being used to ensure that students who have been identified as requiring intervention are receiving the intervention and that the intervention provided is meeting the needs of the student?

6.5   What does the board do when a student is not responding to the intervention provided?