(eligible to write the test for the 1st time)
A.Y. Jackson Secondary School, situated in Toronto, serves 980 students in Grades 10–12. The school population is very diverse and has a large English-language-learner component. One of the greatest challenges is declining enrolment. With the loss of 20 to 30 students annually, the administration works hard to maintain course sections. Since 80% of A.Y. Jackson students plan to attend university and only 15% make college their goal, one of the biggest challenges is to create pathways for college- and work-bound students.
A.Y. Jackson has an active school council that collaborates with the administration to encourage students and parents to participate in various activities throughout the year. The council is very supportive and has worked with administration and staff on various projects, such as improving the school Web site. The council has also provided input on the purchase of resources for students and on technology upgrades in the school library—an effort to make it more relevant to student needs.
Early in September, the school team reviews its year-to-year OSSLT data to determine areas of strength and places for improvement. The educators deconstruct the EQAO data, looking for patterns in Item Information Reports to best determine their focus areas. For example, in considering the large English-language- learner population, the school team decided to focus on the concept of making inferences; the educators built a six-week-long unit targeting English-language-learner classes and Grade11 applied students. The teachers modelled their assignments on EQAO-type questions, and the scoring criteria from EQAO rubrics were used as part of their daily practice in all subject areas.
Improving literacy is a shared responsibility at the school, and every department actively participates in the implementation of rich literacy programming. Students recognize that literacy is a part of every subject and not just important for the OSSLT. Teachers, through their observations and assessments, report that students now make connections and links more effectively.
The school team meets with feeder schools throughout the year to share information about incoming students, especially English language learners and those needing special education programs. Students with an IEP are discussed, and appropriate supports are put into place. To ease the transition from elementary to high school, students from feeder schools are invited to events such as the Science Olympics, where they can participate in planned activities. These events give student leaders from A.Y. Jackson the opportunity to showcase the school and answer questions from incoming students.
A strategy used by the Literacy Team is an assessment unit created specifically to identify areas of need and to generate data for a cohort of students. Using The Ontario Curriculum and EQAO resources as a framework, the team creates its own assessment for its Grade 10 students. Teachers use moderated marking to review student work and to generate the data. Frances Handlarski, Assistant Curriculum Leader (ACL) of Library and Literacy, states: “As a result of this assessment unit, we discovered many students had gaps in their learning and needed assistance, not just those identified as ESL or special education.”
“I am very proud of our success at A.Y. Jackson Secondary School. EQAO data is a critical tool used to guide our progress. It reveals what needs to be done and shapes our next steps to provide quality instruction for our students. Using the data provided by EQAO, the school and board, we continually develop strategies and adjust our daily practice to meet the ever-changing needs of our students. I am fortunate to work with teachers who believe that literacy is important and an integral component of all departments and work together to ensure that all students will experience success.”
—Boyd Bugden, Principal
Students were given descriptive feedback on their results. They met individually with teachers to work on areas that required improvement. The students were also directed to the EQAO Web site, where they could access resources, questions and answer keys. Abby Kwan, ACL of Special Education, states: “Providing descriptive feedback to the students is one of our greatest achievements and the best use of our time and efforts. Students feel valued and work hard to improve their skills.”
A PowerPoint presentation about the OSSLT was developed and presented to Grade 10 students. The presentation gave students an overview of the test and broke it down so they would know what to expect. Students were encouraged to use the Reading and Writing Achievement software to enhance their skills. Natasha Satyanarayana, ACL of Modern Languages and Literacy, states: “We have a lot of technology infused into our classrooms. The technology we have available assists our students and contributes to their success. We have portable labs where students can independently access practice exercises and receive immediate feedback.”
Each year, after the OSSLT is administered, a survey is conducted with Grade 10 students to determine how prepared they felt when writing the test, which support strategies worked and what could be improved. The results of this survey are used to further inform classroom practice.
Another offering to Level 1 and 2 students is an after-school literacy program that provides one-on-one assistance. Any other students wishing to receive assistance are also welcome. The school has piloted a program with its English language learners that uses a modified version of the EQAO primary and junior assessments to provide examples of question style and format. Before March break, parents are invited to the school; teachers demonstrate the various types of questions on the test and how it is scored, and a booklet is provided to each parent for additional support.
A.Y. Jackson also runs a Saturday morning program for English language learners from October to May. Tutors from the school population run various activities, which include games, presentations and excursions, to enhance students’ language acquisition. This program is very popular, and the school receives many requests from students in other schools who want to attend.
Principal Boyd Bugden states: “I am very proud of our success at A.Y. Jackson Secondary School. EQAO data is a critical tool used to guide our progress. It reveals what needs to be done and shapes our next steps to provide quality instruction for our students. Using the data provided by EQAO, the school and board, we continually develop strategies and adjust our daily practice to meet the ever-changing needs of our students. I am fortunate to work with teachers who believe that literacy is important and an integral component of all departments and work together to ensure that all students will experience success.”
Dr. Bette M. Stephenson Recognition of Achievement, 2013 School Recipient