SASKATOON -- Saskatchewan’s provincial auditor, Judy Ferguson, says Saskatoon Public Schools (SPS) needs to better assess the development of kindergarten students and preparing them for primary grades.

SPS said in a statement it is working to address the issues laid out in the auditor’s report.

“At Saskatoon Public Schools, we understand the importance of early learning programming for preparing students for their future.”

The auditor’s report found that while SPS gives appropriate tools to collect information and provides sufficient guidance on how often to use them, some assessments were missing information such as dates of when they were completed.

Some kindergarten teachers were not aware of expectations on how often to perform assessments.

“Saskatoon Public management noted it expects teachers to assess student numeracy at least twice a year — at the beginning of the school year to provide a baseline, and at least once again throughout the school year to assess student progress — consistent with good practice. However, we found not all kindergarten teachers are aware of this expectation,” the report reads.

The report says three of five teachers tested did not document the date they completed numeracy, literacy, and phonological assessments on kindergarten students.

The provincial auditor also said analysis identified 47 kindergarten students who did not participate in the Early Years Evaluation—Teachers Assessment (EYE-TA), a tool that collects relevant information on student abilities such as social skills, cognitive skills, language and physical development. SPS did not have reasonable explanations for not reassessing 11 of the 47 students, the report says.

The auditor provided several recommendations, including ensuring SPS provides teachers and schools with written expectations about how often kindergarten students are assessed.

The report also recommends the school division confirm whether alternative tools used to assess key areas of students readiness to learn are suitable, provide kindergarten teachers with additional training and guidance on applying key instructional practices used to increase student readiness, and routinely analyze data to identify trends or areas of struggle.

Saskatchewan Teachers Federation President Patrick Maze says while assessments help, the education systems needs to do better when it comes to social barriers that might affect the academic experience for early education students.

He says students who may not be properly nourished, have difficulties with speech or medical issues like difficulty hearing or needing glasses may come to school less prepared.

“If it’s meant to provide data or provide information in order to support funding and support student learning then we’re all for it.”