Another very important strategy/resource at Bur Oak has been the use of our alternative education program. The alternative education program is a really personalized program for students that may be struggling in the mainstream program. Here, the timetables are very individualized. The students may be in class for one day and may be involved in a co-operative learning experience for the rest of the week. They may be in the mainstream program for three of their classes and only be in the alt. ed. program for one of their classes. In this way we can meet the individual needs of the students and help support them. The classroom environment is smaller, and there’s a connection with one teacher that often helps them establish a very effective relationship.
The students involved in the alternative education program are not necessarily special education students; they can be, but they’re often our mainstream students who have struggled. We’ve tried other strategies with them; we’ve tried to support the student and the teacher in many ways, but we yet find it not to be effective—it’s not meeting the needs of the student.
All of these students are working towards their diploma. This is just another strategy to help them be successful in school, and often math is one of the areas that they’re struggling with. So, we can support them in the smaller, more personalized environment. We strategically will place one of our mathematics teachers in that program when we create our timetable, so they may be teaching, you know, two of their classes in the mainstream mathematics, and then one of their classes could be in the personalized, alternative education program. This is very important to address the numeracy needs that we have in that program. We could have students that are a little bit older, that are recovering their Grade 9 mathematics, for example. So this is a way that we can support them and help prepare them for the EQAO test as well.
Students in our alternate education program can be both academic and applied. It’s open to all students.
So part of our multi-faceted, you know, approach to student success and to mathematics at Bur Oak has been the use of our student success team, and on that team we have our student success teacher; we have our administrators; we have our literacy teacher; we have our ELL student success teacher; we have our guidance head; we have our special education head—we have a whole team that can look at students, take feedback from all of their teachers to really determine where the student is struggling, why are they struggling. Perhaps it could be a social-emotional issue; it could be a mental health issue. How do we best support them?
Through the recommendations of the student success team, it could be a recommendation from alternative education; it could be many, many other alternative programs to ensure that the student is successful.