L’Amoreaux Collegiate Institute serves 845 students in Grades 9–12. There is diversity in the socio-economic and cultural backgrounds of the students, and all heritages are honoured and celebrated. Of the 845 students, 38% require special education assistance and services and more than 80% are English language learners. At L’Amoreaux, where student needs are complex, a dedicated, cohesive and committed team of professionals are constantly working to maintain a learning environment that supports improvement in student achievement. EQAO data indicate impressive results over time in Grade 9 mathematics at the applied level. It is also worth noting that the results do not show a gender gap. L’Amoreaux has been identified as an Urban Priority High School by the Ministry of Education, and so has received additional funds to support student achievement.
Working together as a team, the staff examines and analyzes EQAO as well as all other available data to identify and prioritize academic concerns and to develop strategies to address them and influence programming. Teachers who apply for Urban Priority funding for their department or classroom must submit a proposal that includes data showing how their initiative will support students and academic achievement. The Assistant Curriculum Leader of Mathematics and Literacy/Numeracy uses EQAO data extensively to identify challenges, trends, strengths and appropriate strategies to meet the needs of all students. For example, when the EQAO Individual Item Report showed that students at the Grade 9 applied level had difficulty with open- response questions, all teachers in the math department met to develop a plan of action that included modelling by teachers, use of EQAO-type questions, breaking down questions and providing ample opportunity for students to practise and receive feedback. They also ensured that students understand the vocabulary of the curriculum used during the assessment. These words are posted in the classrooms and reviewed regularly. All teachers of Grade 9 mathematics meet regularly to co-plan and prepare assignments and assessments, ensuring consistency in the delivery of the curriculum and of standards for students. Any teacher new to the mathematics department has access to binders with lessons, with detailed units laid out. These efforts offer extensive support to teachers in the English as a Second Language and Special Education departments. This collaborative approach is essential. Principal Valerie Nelson states: “We have a collaborative culture of success. No problem is taken on by one person. There is a series of interventions.”
“We are not afraid of data anymore. It informs and strengthens our decisions. It helps us understand where our students are and helps us make decisions about how to help each one reach their potential.”
—Valerie Nelson, Principal
The after-school program also contributes to student success at L’Amoreaux. Students who are experiencing difficulty or simply need additional support are welcome at the after-school program all year long. In keeping with the school’s collaborative approach, students are encouraged to seek assistance from any of the available math teachers. In a purposeful approach, teachers also integrate the use of technology, such as Smart Boards, to engage students and enhance learning during math classes, as they believe that many students need to be active participants in the learning process. Grade 9 mathematics classes are scheduled simultaneously to allow students to move from one instructional level to another. Teachers monitor the students closely to ensure they are at the correct level.
Transition planning with feeder schools is important for staff at L’Amoreaux. There are many opportunities for rich conversations with Grade 8 teachers. Together, teachers from both panels work to align the curriculum, share common methodology and identify common language and assessment practices to ensure a smooth transition to secondary school. Teachers from L’Amoreaux visit all feeder schools to gather information on student learning styles, any supports already in place, achievement on the Grade 6 EQAO assessment and any special needs that need to be addressed. This cross-panel dialogue is important to staff at L’Amoreaux as they strive to implement the resulting recommendations and ensure a successful four-year journey for all students. In addition, Grade 8 students participate in a series of transition workshops offered in August. Moving On Up, sponsored by the Continuing Education Department, is a program designed by the Assistant Curriculum Leader and delivered with the help of colleagues. It offers workshops on organization, getting to know the school and character development. Through this experience, students begin to make connections with teachers, become more familiar with the physical environment and therefore feel more comfortable when school begins in September.
Communication with parents is a priority, and the staff is often creative in their efforts to encourage parental involvement. Parent-teacher interviews are an opportunity for the school to share their students’ successes through art displays and drama presentations. At the same time, parents have the opportunity to receive information and ask questions about the co-op program, apprenticeships and the different pathways available. Parents of Grade 9 students receive a letter guiding them to the EQAO Web site and are encouraged to make use of the resources available there. Report cards and progress reports for Grade 9 students are mailed to parents, and teachers follow up with parents of at-risk students to offer assistance to the student or make suggestions to the parents so that they can be more actively involved in their child’s learning. Principal Nelson indicates that there are generations of siblings at the school, and there is a culture of trust with parents.
“We have a collaborative culture of success. No problem is taken on by one person.”—Valerie Nelson
At L’Amoreaux Collegiate Institute (“the Jewel of the North East,” according to its Web site) the administration and staff work diligently to provide many meaningful and varied learning experiences for students in a culture of caring adults. Consistency and continuity in the delivery of the curriculum are hallmarks for this team. The collaborative approach includes visionary and innovative leadership, a strong belief in professional development, teachers who hold themselves responsible for their own learning and a genuine desire to provide each and every student with the opportunity to succeed. Data are an integral part of the informed decision-making process, but it is the relationships between teachers and students that complete the picture and allow the school to sustain consistently strong EQAO Grade 9 mathematics results over time. Principal Nelson states: “We are not afraid of data anymore. It informs and strengthens our decisions. It helps us understand where our students are and helps us make decisions about how to help each one reach their potential.”
Dr. Bette M. Stephenson Recognition of Achievement, 2013 School Recipient