Achievement Matters

Student achievement is about meeting the needs of each student. Every day, we strive to know our students so we can provide instruction that aims them towards their chosen pathway. Each path is unique.

An elementary student’s path leads to success at the secondary level. A secondary student’s pathway may lead to apprenticeship, college, community, university or workplace options. Adults may be working toward completion of secondary school credits, development of language and numeracy skills, or training that helps them achieve professional or personal goals.

To know each student, all staff require collaborative, job-embedded learning so they can plan, act, assess and reflect on how they can improve student achievement. We must know each student as a unique and individual learner. We will use a tiered approach that adjusts our practice according to student need, always asking: What do all students need, what do some students need and what do a few students need?

Annual Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) assessments are one way that we monitor student learning. From 2010-11 to 2009-10, HWDSB improved on five out of eight assessments. We saw annual gains in Grade 3 reading (up five points), writing (up three points) and math (up two points), as well as in Grade 6 reading (up one point) and writing (up two points).

We strive for sustained, long-term improvement. In the past three years, the percentage of students at or above provincial standard has increased on Grade 3 reading (up five points), Grade 3 writing (up seven points), Grade 3 math (up two points), Grade 6 reading (up six points), Grade 6 writing (up six points) and Grade 9 academic math (up five points).

We are also pleased that seven assessed secondary schools saw an upward trend on Grade 9 math results from 2009-10 to 2010-11. Since 2008-09, Board-wide academic math results have increased from 74 to 79 per cent of students at or above Level 3, just shy of the provincial average of 82 per cent. In comparison, applied mathematics has been challenging, and remains an area of focus for us.

We are seeing our students make slow but steady progress towards the provincial target of 75 per cent of students at provincial standard on Grade 6 reading, writing and math EQAO assessments. We believe that the results are beginning to reflect initiatives such as our focus on primary-level oral language and early reading, problem-solving in math, and our emphasis on professional learning teams.

In addition, HWDSB has continued to support students with special education needs and students for whom English is not their first language. The result has been that HWDSB is closing the gap between achievement for these groups of students and their peers. This year, we saw results for English Language Learner (ELL) students and Special Education students rise in Grade 3 reading, writing and math, and in Grade 6 reading and writing. This is encouraging, and will will work to sustain all of our gains.

New Tools Let Young Learners Follow Their Interests

On the heels of full-day kindergarten’s arrival, Prince of Wales Elementary School’s youngest learners are breaking new ground with classroom technology. Kindergarten teacher Kristina Thiessen’s students are experimenting this year with iPod Touches, a laptop, a digital camera, a remote multi-directional microphone and more.

“Last year was the first year of FDK and we took pictures and parents loved the program,” says Thiessen, part of an FDK team that includes early childhood educator Jaclyn Secore. “But parents wanted to know more about what was happening during the day.”

POW is among several HWDSB schools using technology to capture and enhance the learning of FDK students. All FDK schools are documenting their experience with the program using digital cameras. But POW, along with Pauline Johnson, Bennetto and Roxborough Park, are going tapping deeper into the 21st-century fluencies, a set of thinking skills and abilities that learners will need in the future.

“We wanted to engage students in full-day kindergarten, and asked, ‘How can we engage them and be responsive to their learning needs in a way that is play-based?'” explains Aaron Puley, an engagement consultant who oversaw the initial technology rollout. POW and the other involved schools are equipped with Smart Boards, projectors, laptops, iPod Touches, Livescribe pens, scanners, omni-directional microphones and more.

Students Reach Ahead for Secondary Credits

Far from being quiet, HWDSB schools welcomed almost 500 Grade 7 and 8 students during the summer to work toward credits that will put them one step ahead when they enter high school.

The popular, summer program Reach Ahead achieves several goals: it helps students preparing for Grade 9 become more comfortable in a secondary school, it maintains their learning skills and it lets students complete a credit even before they enter Grade 9.

Studying for two weeks for two summers in a row, students choose from programs including music, arts, green industries, athletics, communication technology and skilled trades. The trades option in 2011 was open to students who completed the first half of this credit in 2010.

Taking a summer half-credit not only gives students a head-start on the 30 credits they need for an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD); being one credit ahead before you start high school can free students up to take electives, and introduce them to options they may pursue in courses, or in life.

“This is a great way to increase student success,” explains Brent Wallace, vice-principal of Community and Continuing Education. “Students arrive in Grade 9 with a credit in their pocket, so instead of aiming for 16 credits by age 16, they will have 17.”

Read more

All Students Reading by Grade 3

Our goal in this year’s launch of our kindergarten to Grade 2 oral language and early reading strategy is to increase the number of students reading at grade level by the end of Grade 3. We focused on identifying students who may be at risk, while we enhanced quality programming that included balanced literacy, writing and oral language. The strategy’s components include:

  • The Making It KLLIC! program’s partnership between classroom teachers and speech-language pathologists builds greater capacity for the instruction of language and early literacy skills. In 2010-11, the program was implemented in all kindergarten classrooms, including French Immersion classrooms, as a Tier 1 intervention for all students.
  • Class Act kits were developed to serve small groups of students who required more assistance to develop critical early literacy and meta-linguistic skills. We provided kits to all schools as a Tier 2 intervention for some students in kindergarten to Grade 2 who experience difficulties in phoneme awareness, a foundational step to literacy.
  • We implemented the Nelson Levelled Literacy Intervention (LLI) program as a Tier 2 intervention in Grade 1. This is a companion to the Grade 1 Nelson Reading series, but has also been used with selected Grade 2 French Immersion students and selected Engligh Language Learners. We have implemented this program across HWDSB with collaboration between Learning Resource Teachers and Literacy Improvement Project Teachers.
  • The ABRACADABRA (ABRA) program is a free, interactive web-based literacy program designed for early elementary school-aged students who struggle with reading. HWDSB is one of the boards across Canada taking part in the ABRA pilot. We are piloting this program in nine Grade 1 and Grade 2 classrooms at three schools for 2010-11.
  • We are using the Empower Reading Program – developed by Hospital for Sick Children researchers in Toronto – in a number of our elementary schools to provide multiple strategies for students with reading difficulties. With the support of the researchers, we expanded this program to include three trainers and 44 elementary schools with primary programs.
  • Structured Reading program being piloted at four elementary schools is filling the gap we identified between the Class Act and Nelson Levelled Literacy Interventions. The program addresses core areas of language acquisition including alphabet knowledge, rules for decoding and encoding, as well as symbolic representations.
  • The goal of our Collaborative Inquiry Support is to support teachers in providing effective reading instruction for all students, while differentiating for some students who need specific, targeted intervention. This support is providing targeted reading assessment, intervention and teacher consultation for Grade 1 readers at two elementary schools.
  • The Student Work Study Initiative is a Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat program that examines student activity in the classroom to inform classroom action and intervention. At HWDSB this program involves grades 2 to 6 and eight elementary schools in our Board.

Students Take Lead in City-Wide Pollution Study

Journalists were watching as a class of environmental science students gathered around a Maple tree outside Sherwood secondary. They saw Grade 11 students Melisa Okanovic and Erin Jansen use a metal wire grid to highlight sections of the tree’s bark, bringing to life a fascinating story about learning, nature and the quality of the air we breathe.

Joining other area high schools, community groups and residents, this group of Grade 11 and 12 Sherwood students were among those who helped Environment Hamilton in its first year of monitoring tree lichen as a way to examine neighbourhood air pollution. Students used the methods of McMaster University biology professor emeritus Dr. George Sorger.

Testing Ash and Maple trees, Sorger noted a link between lichen growth – specifically of greyish Physcia Millegrana and yellowish Candelaira Colcolor – and Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels. Areas with high SO2 and NO2 had low to non-existent levels of lichen; areas with low levels of SO2 and NO2 had high levels of lichen. Because SO2 and NO2 indicate airborne pollution, the project assumed that lots of lichen means healthier air. The hope is that annual lichen monitoring can help Hamiltonians gain a better understanding of neighbourhood pollution levels.

Read more

Construction Students Build Walls to Reduce Barriers

Tucked into scenic Lovers Lane in Ancaster is a classroom like no other. It’s early morning and the air is crisp. Students are arriving at the site marked by a big, yellow construction trailer. By 9 a.m., eager Saltfleet student James Davies is working with a nail gun outside a tidy family bungalow.

“I’ve known since Grade 3 that I wanted to work in the trades,” says the Grade 12 student. He is among the students who are attending Saltfleet for the Building Careers from the Ground Up program, a a unique, six-credit, all-day, full-semester program that gives students a chance to learn skills and trades in the home-building industry.

Students can earn six credits in Senior Construction Technology through in-class and co-op education, as well as receive several work-specific credentials such as fall protection and WHMIS. They also build a house as they learn.

In shifts of four or five students at a time, the 25 students in the program are helping to build a garage with a wheelchair lift onto the side of the Ancaster house of Darren Smith, his wife Lesli and their sons. On this job site, building up walls is actually tearing down barriers because Darren, a Toronto police officer, has ALS.

Read more

Preparing Early Leavers for Post-secondary Pathways

We continue to learn more about our early leavers so that we can provide personalized programs that help them earn credits and progress towards their post-graduation destination.

In one example of this, the Mohawk Bridge program is building connections between Mohawk College and HWDSB students who are close to graduation. This engages students in their learning, ensures they are planning for a post-secondary pathway, and helps students earn a first-year college credit while still in secondary school.

Another way we support early leavers is through the Return and Learn program. Some secondary schools offer potential early leavers a chance to attend credit intervention programs outside of the regular school day. Students within three or four credits of graduating can work with a teacher in a safe environment at their own school, while also balancing the job and family commitments that made daytime classes a challenge. Combining this program with social-emotional supports is helping more students earn their diploma and move toward employment, apprenticeship or post-secondary education.

Adult Learners Prepare for Success

Community and Continuing Education (CCE) plays a critical role by extending our day-school offerings to include programming for elementary, secondary and adult students. We are listening to feedback from our CCE students, who report satisfaction with peer collaboration and self-directed learning, as well as a desire for blended learning with online and face-to-face opportunities and smaller classes. We will use this feedback to improve our adult day school offerings.

One important feature of CCE is U-Turn, a part-time high school program that allows adults with few credits to earn their Grade 10 equivalency. Students learn study skills and learn Ontario curriculum as they prepare for up to four assessment tests, in English, mathematics, science, history and geography. Students can earn up to 17 credits of the 30 required for graduation – and credit completion is the benchmark we measure.

In addition, through CCE we also offer Remedial Programs Supporting Achievement. These classes support students in areas of literacy, math and homework at several time periods during the year. Programs run after school from September to June, or at strategic times of the year including July for Grade 7-8 students or August for students entering Grade 9. These take the form of 10 modular sessions 60 to 90 minutes long, intended to increase student academic performance and learning opportunities.

Empower Program

Read to Succeed Boys Book Club Conference

Technology in the Classroom

OYAP Construction Skills Contest – HWDSB