Our initial Action Plan for High Priority Schools focusses on four key areas: school leadership, resources, learning and community partners. We are embarking on this work as we improve how we determine our high priority schools.
School Leadership: School improvement studies show that school leadership contributes significantly to student outcomes. Our first step in the High Priority School’s action plan was to review the school leadership fit for each school, looking at SOSA notes from visits, School Council leadership profiles as well as self-identified preferences of administrators. Our Executive Council then undertook a systematic matching of Principals and Vice-Principals with High Priority Schools. Administrative changes announced in Spring 2017 allowed for transition time prior to the start of the 2017-18 school year.
Resources: In addition to differentiated classroom staffing, we allocated to High Priority Schools other key resources including: a Reading Specialist, consideration for Vice-Principal allocation, additional office assistants and Learning Resource Teachers, a teacher and DECE in each Kindergarten class, Public Health Nurses, biweekly SOSA visits and a Kindergarten average class size of 26 students.
Learning: In year one of our plan, we are learning more about factors impacting student outcomes at High Priority Schools. Each SOSA is responsible for at least three of these schools; this helps share learning from school visits. SOSAs and Learning Services staff meet weekly to share observations and develop strategies. SOSAs are spending more time in High Priority Schools compared to past years. We will adapt Leithwood’s Strong Districts rubric (characteristics and school conditions) to measure key variables twice a year, looking at high priority and non-high priority schools.
Community Partners: Trustees directed staff to add a Community Steering Committee to our High Priority Schools plan, which is being co-ordinated through existing relationships with Hamilton Public Health (HPH). Our next steps are a data-sharing agreement and committee expansion. Community partners will help us learn about the social determinants at play within High Priority Schools. We are revising the way we designate high priority schools to better use demographic information.
Our current list of 20 High Priority Schools considered factors including: Prior designation as a high or moderate needs school; Low student achievement (Grade 1 reading, primary/junior EQAO); Early Development Instrument (EDI) scores; Census data (2006); and Superintendent of Student Achievement data collected through school visits. We will be adding factors such as: 2016 Census data; updated immigration, unemployment and education rates; as well as population data capturing vulnerabilities in physical health and well-being, social competence, emotional maturity, cognitive and language ability, and communication/general knowledge ability. A high proportion of students with multiple vulnerabilities would help us understand needs and, when identified, help us track progress over time.