Canadian Martyrs Catholic School, in Toronto, serves 300 students from kindergarten to Grade 8, with approximately 40% of students bused from neighbourhoods beyond the immediate vicinity of the school. Recently, the school’s neighbourhood has experienced a demographic shift, with many younger families moving into the area, thereby increasing kindergarten enrolment. Canadian Martyrs has a diverse population drawing from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds. Many programs such as Reading and Computer Buddies encourage the close co-operation of students from different backgrounds, which supports an inclusive school environment.
Canadian Martyrs has an active Catholic School Advisory Council, which works collaboratively with the administration, meeting regularly throughout the year to support programs and engage parents in the various activities of the school. Using Parents Reaching Out funding through the Ministry of Education, the Council has organized parent information nights with speakers on various topics. The school has also organized Teaching Learning Critical Pathway (TLCP) information sessions for the parent community. Robert Majkut, Grade 5 teacher, states: “Parents choose to send their children to Canadian Martyrs because of its high achievement and high expectations of the students by their teachers. Teachers lead by example and willingly give up their time to provide extra assistance to the students and participate in extracurricular activities. We use agendas from Grades 3 to 8 and parents communicate with the teachers on a regular basis. The parents appreciate the time teachers give and we have a very good relationship with them.”
The school improvement team reviews the “over time” EQAO data as well as school and board data to examine trends and identify areas of strength and those that need improvement. For the past five years, they have examined the Item Information Reports and identified open-response questions as an area of continuing focus. The teachers collaborated to develop strategies to help students understand what open-response questions require and how to demonstrate learning effectively.
The teachers believe that EQAO data provide invaluable information that determines the direction for changes to instructional practices. As a team, they have developed strategies to help students answer EQAO open-response items. Teachers in Grades 1 through 8 have incorporated these strategies into their practices. As a team, when engaging in moderated marking, the teachers develop exemplars for each achievement level. Students know and understand what quality work looks like and can strive to meet the expectations. Opportunities are provided for the students to demonstrate and synthesize their learning using strategies such as accountable talk. Students are given many opportunities to initiate conversations relating to the text, and discussions on the topic help refine their thinking process. Students learn to focus on their assignments and can reflect purposefully. Teachers believe that by using this holistic approach, they are building a culture of achievement in which students will be better prepared to meet the expectations of each grade.
Teachers use EQAO’s sample student responses to demonstrate what work looks like at the various levels and use moderated marking to create their own exemplars. Throughout the grades, teachers develop a variety of graphic organizers to help students make connections and to give them a framework to support their learning.
As the students move through the grades, they become confident with the language of the curriculum and are encouraged to use the teacher’s descriptive feedback to reflect on next steps. They share their responses with one another to demonstrate and refine their skills. For example, to improve their writing skills, students are encouraged to use their five senses to add descriptive details to their writing. Teachers and students are growing more comfortable with the process of discussing the collaborative creation of the success criteria that measure attainment of a learning goal. Tammi Upshaw, Grade 3 teacher, states: “Students are encouraged to participate in the creation of learning goals and success criteria, and so take considerable ownership of their own education.”
Schools in the Toronto Catholic District School Board use TLCPs as part of their professional learning. The administration and staff at Canadian Martyrs Catholic School use TLCP sessions to create common strategies and assessment tools. This dialogue and sharing of resources and strategies also takes place when teachers meet informally during the school day. Kelly Waywell, Grade 6 teacher, states: “Teachers meet informally or in their divisions to examine the data and develop strategies that will refine and improve their daily practice. They share their expertise willingly to provide better learning opportunities for their students. Teachers believe every student can be successful if they differentiate for students’ individual needs. Sharing resources and working together as a team is the key to our ongoing success.” Teachers attend professional development sessions led by board personnel and share information with the other teachers when they return to the school. They adjust the students’ learning goals as they monitor their progress. They revise success criteria to meet their students’ changing needs. Success criteria are used as the basis of feedback and peer and self-assessment for the students.
Principal Luigi Pennacchio states: “We use the data provided by EQAO, as well as school and board data, to build our school improvement plan and guide our progress. We determine our needs and set our focus for the year. I am very proud of the staff at Canadian Martyrs Catholic School, who works together creating a very positive learning environment for our students.”
“We use the data provided by EQAO, as well as school and board data, to build our school improvement plan and guide our progress. We determine our needs and set our focus for the year. I am very proud of the staff at Canadian Martyrs Catholic School, who work together creating a very positive learning environment for our students.”
—Luigi Pennacchio, Principal