Achievement Matters

Student achievement represents movement toward a chosen pathway, which can vary depending on the student. We want to see elementary students successfully transition to secondary school; a secondary student enter an apprenticeship, college, community living, university or the workplace; adults complete a high school diploma and pursue personal and professional goals. Because each student has individual needs, we use tiered intervention and support to ask: ‘What do all students need? What do some students need? And what do a few students need?’

Related reports: Student Achievement ReportSecondary Program StrategyEarly Learning Strategy.

Goal: Prepare all elementary students to be ready for success at the secondary school level.


Click to read, Grade 8 Student Forums Help to Smooth Transition to Grade 9.

The consistent hard work of our students, teachers and support staff is leading to steady, sustainable gains in reading and writing – and that is worth celebrating. Like the province, however, we are experiencing challenges in math and we are responding to this challenge through the development and implementation of a comprehensive math strategy.

HWDSB was stable or higher than 2011-12 results on five out of six elementary EQAO tests; we saw year-over-year gains in Grade 3 reading (+3%), Grade 3 writing (+2%) and Grade 6 writing (+2%). We do, however, strive for sustained, long-term improvement. In the past five years, Grade 3 gains were in reading (+8%) and writing (+12%) and Grade 6 gains were in reading (+8%) and writing (+9%).

Student learning is the overall goal of the assessment. This is why HWDSB is encouraged by data that tracks the same student cohort’s achievement on Grade 3 tests in 2010 and Grade 6 tests in 2013.

The reading results for 3,304 students tracked from their Grade 3 to Grade 6 assessment show that 18% (597 students) did not meet standard in Grade 3 but met it in Grade 6. For writing, 15% (490 students) made this same improvement. For math, 5% (165 students) made this progress from grades 3 to 6 EQAO. It is also encouraging to see progress from grades 3 to 6 for students who were at Level 2 on their first EQAO assessments.

Of the 3,304 Grade 3 students who wrote the tests in 2010 and met Level 2 in reading, 58% were at Level 3 or 4 by Grade 6; 46% of students at Level 2 in Grade 3 writing met provincial standard by Grade 6; and of the students who met Level 2 in Grade 3 math, 16% met standard by Grade 6.

Longterm Gains EQAO

Click to read, HWDSB Strategies Yielding Long-term Gains on EQAO.

Our supports in this area include:

K-2 Early Reading Strategy
This year’s EQAO results represent the first assessment completed by a full cohort of students who benefited from the HWDSB Kindergarten to Grade 2 early literacy strategy. This strategy involved a suite of programs, resources and supports working toward the goal of ‘every student reading by Grade 2.’ HWDSB saw significant annual gains on Grade 3 reading (+3%) and Grade 3 writing (+2%) this year and longer-term gains in Grade 3 reading (+3%) and Grade 3 writing (+5%) since we began this strategy in 2010.

The K-2 strategy included partnerships between kindergarten classroom teachers and speech-language pathologists to build early literacy capacity; the development of specialized kits to serve small groups of students requiring more assistance in developing linguistic skills; a leveled literacy intervention for selected Grade 2 French Immersion students and selected English Language Learners; and a multi-strategy reading program for Grade 2 students, developed by Hospital for Sick Children researchers in Toronto.

Prodigy: Learning Through Gaming
Many elementary schools have been using an innovative gaming-based math program called Prodigy to consolidate skills and knowledge. The program is created for students in grades 1 to 6, based on the Ontario curriculum; it has also been used in higher grades and in special education. Using a gaming interface, students can pick up where they left off at school. Teachers can assign specific questions in the game and then monitor a student’s progress and usage. In the game, students can design their own wizard, adopt pets and compete in math against monsters. This has the potential to completely change a student’s impression of learning math in a safe, social online space. The game is meant to supplement effective classroom instruction and the game manufacturer responds to input from school board math consultants and coaches. While its use is now a school-based decision, we are examining results from participating schools to determine our next steps across the system.

Leaps and Bounds: A Math Diagnostic
In 2012-13, all classroom teachers and learning resource teachers from every school with grades 3 and 6 did job-embedded professional development on math instruction that included the use of the diagnostic tool, Leaps and Bounds. Teachers assign students a question and use the Leaps and Bounds resource to analyze responses in a way that reveals strengths and gaps in a student’s understanding. With this diagnostic information, teachers can tailor their teaching according to each student’s understanding and gaps in understanding. For example, teachers may use this for fractions, an area many students struggle with. In this way, teachers are building their capacity to individualize math instruction using data, which is an approach supported by academic research. Leaps and Bounds is one of the diagnostic tools for schools to use to know their students’ mathematical needs.

New Learning Technologies
One elementary school saw Grade 3 students make substantial gains in reading (+17%), writing (+13%) and mathematics (+7%). The school believes one factor behind these gains was their teachers’ ability to use different instructional strategies to meet the learning needs of all of their students. Throughout the year, teachers communicated clear learning goals to their students with success criteria that clearly demonstrated what successfully meeting those learning goals looks like. Small group guided practice was used to ensure that all students met their learning goals. To support effective teaching and learning, Grade 3 classrooms helped lead the way toward school-wide implementation through the use of computers and iPads in each classroom as well as the use of data projectors by teachers to provide visual support. As well, beginning early in the school year, students with Individual Education Plans received learning support in the use of software packages that helped develop reading and writing skills and allowed them to better access classroom learning. When it came time for the EQAO assessment, these students were comfortable and able to use assistive software to demonstrate their learning.

Blending Approaches
One school in the lower city has seen its Grade 6 results increase substantial over the past three years: +7% in reading, +16% in writing and +24% in math. School staff attribute the gains to a variety of strategies including academic optimism – the belief that all students can learn and achieve at a high level. In addition, the school balances inquiry-based programming with mastery of fundamental concepts in math, such as using real-world, authentic math tasks (e.g. financial math) that are meaningful to the student. Students are active participants, working with their teacher to develop criteria of what success will look like; from here, students examine the work together with feedback from their teacher and peers to see how the work can be ‘bumped up’ to a higher level. Finally, the school feels that blending these approaches with the use of technology such as interactive whiteboards, tablets and assistive technology engages students and supports their learning.

Knowing our Students
One school saw substantial annual gains in Grade 3 reading (+22%), writing (+46%) and math (+24%) as well as gains in all three Grade 6 assessments. In addition to crediting K-2 early literacy interventions and assistive technology, the school made a conscious effort to know its students. The school created class profiles in consultation with a team that include its Learning Resource Team, English as a Second Language team, administrators, educational assistants and classroom teachers. This multi-dimensional profile enabled staff throughout the school to understand the learning needs of individual students, and to determine appropriate support and programming.

Longterm Gains EQAO

Click to read, HWDSB Strategies Yielding Long-term Gains on EQAO.

Our next steps in this area include:

EQAO results provide one of many data sources that Board educators use to address the learning needs of students. HWDSB will continue to focus on oral language and early reading at the primary level, problem-solving in mathematics across all divisions, and the use of professional learning teams in which staff work together for student achievement.

Like the province, HWDSB continues to have challenges.  We are focusing our efforts on new math initiatives across all schools to support students with mathematical fluency and problem-solving.  One of these initiatives is web-based gaming math resources to engage our students at school and at home. Another resource is an assessment (diagnostic) resource that supports teachers and students in knowing their strengths and areas for improvement. With this information, teachers can provide more precise instruction for the whole class or small groups with a focused student task.

In 2013-14, we plan to continue to provide full-day kindergarten teams support with oral language and literacy skills. We plan to expand professional learning opportunities with Affiliated Services for Children and Youth (ASCY, a community-based professional resource centre). We also plan to continue to provide targeted literacy interventions as well as our support that enables staff to transfer skills/strategies from primary tiered interventions to the regular classroom environment.

Among the anticipated outcomes of this work we expect from these next steps are: improved oral language acquisition of students entering Grade 1 as measured by diagnostic assessments and by report card oral communication mark; continuing and sustained improvement of student reading levels as measured by diagnostic assessments and report card reading marks.

Goal: Prepare all secondary students to be ready for success in their chosen pathway: apprenticeship, college, community, university or workplace.

Student working  at Landmart construction site

Click to read, HWDSB Students Help Build a Landmart Home, and Their Futures.

The graduation rate within HWDSB at the end of June 2013 was 81% (the Provincial rate in 2011-12 was 82%). Please note: this graduation rate includes the students who were at our alternative education sites in 2011-12(e.g., Crestwood, James Street and King William). If we remove these students from the cohort (as we did in the 2012 report), the graduation rate becomes 83%.

Students who officially leave and register in another school board are not counted in this cohort. There are approximately 1,603 students who have left HWDSB since they began in Grade 9 to complete their credits in other school boards outside our Board, province or country.

Schools staff continue to reach out to students individually and provide them with the types of programs that motivate them to successfully complete their diploma requirements so that they can realize a destination beyond high school, particularly those students in Grade 12 and beyond that are at risk of leaving secondary school before they have completed their diploma requirements.

Our supports in this area include:

Secondary Program Strategy
Our Secondary Program Strategy is revitalizing our secondary schools by examining how best to meet all students’ needs with the most effective programs and facilities for the 21st century. Our goal is to have all secondary schools be great schools, where students experience choice, access to specialized programs and can achieve their full potential in local school communities. This discussion came as HWDSB concluded the extensive accommodation review that culminated in Board decisions to close seven secondary schools, build two new secondary schools, renovate one secondary school and upgrade remaining schools. The program strategy represents a way to stabilize secondary enrolment across the system, address transition planning and diversify our secondary school communities by providing all pathways at each school.

HWDSB 2019 – Digital Learning Project
HWDSB is committed to creating a personalized, collaborative, inquiry-based learning environment for each student as the world continues to change rapidly. We want classrooms that encourage creativity, critical thinking, invite students to ask questions, search for answers, apply their learning and communicate what they have learned. Teachers have a vital role in this, and we are augmenting this by putting one-to-one technology such as tablet computers into the hands of students and teachers. This will engage students, give them tools to collaborate with classmates and teachers, and expand our classrooms beyond their walls. (See more in Student Engagement section, Next Steps.)

Students reading and writing at a table.

Click to read, Grade 12 Students Sample McMaster University Life.

Experiential learning
Secondary students continue to participate in cooperative education and experiential learning opportunities that are linked to their chosen pathway. Dual credit and Ontario Youth Apprenticeship (OYAP) opportunities gave students the chance to explore possible post-secondary destinations.

Specialist High Skills Majors
SHSMs provided personalized programming linked specifically to an employment sector, while students earned credits towards their graduation. SHSMs also provided a connection to community employers and organizations and sector-specific certification.

Mohawk College and HWDSB have entered into a partnership which allows our students to experience, prior to their secondary graduation, a variety of post-secondary avenues (see Appendix F).

Early leavers
HWDSB staff have reached out to re-engage early leavers via individualized timetables, after-school credit earning opportunities, links to alternative and continuing education (night school, summer school, e-Learning) and credit completion programs.

Turning Point
Experiential learning programs linked to specific pathways provide more personalized learning opportunities for students who might otherwise not consider some post-secondary destinations. The Turning Point program has allowed some students to complete their OSSD requirements who might otherwise not have done so in a regular high school environment. We have been successful in re-engaging many students who had left our system prior to graduating. As a result, our early leaver rate has decreased and this has contributed to our higher graduation rate.

Student working  at Landmart construction site

Click to read, HWDSB Students Help Build a Landmart Home, and Their Futures.

Experiential learning programs are designed to provide students with opportunities to explore the workplace and although this is good for all students on pathways to all destinations, it is essential to meet the needs of HWDSB students who intend to go from school to work or apprenticeship. Providing more personalized pathways for some students encourages them to complete their diploma requirements. The partnerships with Mohawk College need to continue. Reaching out to early leavers to re-engage students is an effective practice when coupled with personalized programming to meet their needs.

Our next steps in this area include:

  • A Math Strategy that focuses on Comprehensive Math Program, uninterrupted math blocks, specific content, tiered approach and parent engagement.
  • To support all students with improved learning environments by learning through our Digital-Learning Approach.
  • Continue to support the learning needs of students with a special education designation within all environments.
  • Continue to reach out to potential early leavers to encourage graduation diploma completion.
  • Continue to create the conditions for the adult learner to be successful.
  • Develop a strategy to support aboriginal student achievement.

Goal: Prepare all adult students to be ready for success in their chosen pathway: apprenticeship, college, community, university or workplace.


Click to read, The World Comes to CCE.

Community and Continuing Education (CCE) staff continue to examine the profile of the adult learner as part of their school improvement planning process. This process seeks to identify barriers to engagement and to define the optimal learning environment.

In 2012-13, CCE undertook projects in four areas:

  • Barrier removal: create conditions for success through intake and guidance
  • Advantage Adult Day School
  • Prince of Wales Adult Day School
  • Hybrid Math Initiative

Click to read, The World Comes to CCE.

Our supports in this area include:

Advantage Day School
Part of the impact of this work has seen the Advantage Adult Day School program at Sir John A Macdonald Secondary School (SJAM) become a satellite CCE program. Designed for students whose families immigrated to Canada when they were in their late teens, these English Language Learners would not be able to complete their schooling in a traditional school before age 21. Located at SJAM in response to community need, this site created equity of access for these students. In 2012-13, eight students graduated from Advantage.

CCE Satellite Class
Expanding on our learning from Advantage and building on our Tier 3 parent engagement work, CCE opened a satellite class at Prince of Wales Elementary School. This class was open to parents/guardians/caregivers of students attending Prince of Wales. A group of 18 students participated in term one; they earned 13 credits and two students graduated.

Senior Level Math
To address the academic barriers affecting the retention of some of our adult learners, CCE staff reviewed their achievement data to identify patterns of concern. Staff determined that student success rates in senior level math, a requirement for many post-secondary programs, was a concern.

Hybrid Math
HWDSB staff engaged Ministry staff and CESBA partners in a discussion around this need (and whether the need was local or provincial). In early 2013, CCE entered into a partnership with five other school boards to study the following theory of action (Hybrid Math Project): adult learners will be more successful at bridging into higher level math if they have access to a combination of direct instruction and independent study supplemented by remedial support that provides just-in-time feedback so students persevere when they encounter challenges.


Click to read, The World Comes to CCE.

Our next steps in this area include:

  • CCE must continue to be responsive to the learning needs of our adult students so that we continue to create the conditions for the adult learner to be successful.
  • Ensuring equity of access by locating programs closer to our learners has resulted in stronger engagement and student retention.
  • In August 2013, CCE launched the first Math Prep course as part of the Hybrid Math Initiative and two classes began in September.
  • In addition, CCE is offering the only blended learning (eLearning and face-to-face) math program in the province.
  • Initial feedback has indicated the additional interventions provided are appreciated by the students and retention at this initial stage is high.