Student population: 536; Grades: 9–12; Principal: Dwayne Brunet
Cardinal Carter is a relatively small school with a diverse range of student learning needs. In order to support students with IEPs (about 23%), the staff is learning how to work with students’ strengths to overcome areas of challenge and bridge gaps. Teachers regularly participate in cross-panel professional learning cycles with feeder schools to create a deeper understanding of the curriculum, instruction and assessment strategies that support and improve learning for all.
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Each year, the school looks at class profiles alongside EQAO primary- and junior-assessment results and cohort data trends, including in attitudes and behavior data. At the beginning of the school year, in meetings with other math departments in the board, staff members analyze the data and determine areas of need and improvement. As part of their work with the School Support Initiative, and now Achieving Excellence in Applied Courses, teams monitor student learning in response to evidence-based instructional strategies used in classrooms.
Having an experienced teacher who is driven and who uses creative teaching approaches is critical to maintaining or improving scores. Teachers have high expectations for their students and attempt to motivate them to do better. The staff believes that everyone can improve, and this message is communicated loudly and clearly to parents and students.
Speaker — Dwayne Brunet, Principal
Staff, students and parents have worked very hard and together to create a healthy and safe learning environment that builds on our gospel values here at Cardinal Carter Catholic Secondary School. We have a team approach at Cardinal Carter—from senior administration, board consultants, teachers, support staff and administration, who have strived collaboratively to create a culture of high expectations where all students can learn, achieve and progress, across all grades and subject areas.
In the math department, we want every student to meet or exceed the provincial standard … but that is not our only measure of success. We want to move each student forward at least one level on these large-scale assessments—something we have taken delight in over the last five years.
Staff in the mathematics department pride ourselves on giving every student many opportunities for independent and collaborative learning to improve their critical thinking skills. Staff provide open-ended tasks that build on the students’ strengths and allow for creative thinking and practice to move students away from the “there is only one way to get the correct answer” way of thinking to one of a deeper understanding of mathematics concepts.
Our math teachers make our students feel comfortable and a part of the learning process, using strategies like individualized math journals, exit cards and co-created learning goals to name a few. Staff analyze EQAO data to help guide their instruction and develop strategies based on it. Our feeder schools have worked diligently with board consultants and our secondary math teachers over the last number of years, which has helped us make positive strides in mathematics. Staff, however, are not satisfied with their results and continually look for ways to improve their teaching strategies, and the students see and recognize this.
I am extremely proud to be involved with the Cardinal Carter Catholic Secondary community. It is a great school with outstanding and hard-working teachers and support staff. Together with the support of our parents, and Christ as our guide, we will continue to create a healthy and safe environment where improved student achievement is at the forefront of all we do.
Grade 9 math teachers think carefully about how they use differentiated instruction and technology to supplement classroom instruction to reach and engage multiple types of learners and learner profiles. Math games, individual white boards, iPads, computers and manipulatives are just a few of the high and low tech tools found in every Grade 9 and 10 math classroom. With the incorporation of these instructional tools, more students become interested in learning math.
Speaker — Sue Latour, Department Head – Mathematics
One of our school’s initiatives for improving student learning in math is to use differentiated instruction and technology. Different students come to us with different ways of learning. To keep them engaged, we try to incorporate concrete materials in our way to teach a concept. For instance, algebra tiles are used to help students learn how to add and subtract polynomials; geometric solids are used to help students develop the formulas for a cone or a pyramid. By using these materials, students have an easier way of remembering the concepts. We also use dry erase boards and vertical surfaces to increase student participation. When the dry erase boards come out, students know they are to try every question that we pose.
In my classes, I find that using technology has been an effective way of teaching a concept. I use Smart Boards with interactive activities for students to show their understanding and to form investigations. This is a welcome change for some of the students. Lastly, I have access to a class set of iPads, which are used for online practice and math games. The iPads also show my class Web site; the class Web site helps keep the students and the parents informed of what goes on in the classroom. I include learning goals, homework and online practice on my class Web site. I also find that sometimes we don’t have enough time in our class to finish our lessons, so to ensure that they get enough examples, I use my iPads to create math videos which will show students how to solve a problem step-by-step. This is especially handy for students who are absent for that day. At the end of the semester, I use math videos to show students how to solve EQAO open-response questions and include exemplars. Students have really appreciated seeing these extra examples, and it does prepare them better for their test. They can access the class Web site and watch math videos at home or on their smartphones.
As you can see, differentiated instruction and technology give our students ample ways to learn, and sometimes, they have fun doing it!
Teachers use ongoing and deliberate formative assessment through journals, exit cards, vertical surfaces and Google Forms to help them identify student strengths and areas of difficulty and to help them provide well-timed responses. Students co-create learning goals and success criteria with their teacher. They are given multiple opportunities to demonstrate their understanding and, through descriptive feedback, are able monitor their progress without feeling as though they are always being evaluated.
Speaker — Denise Sauve, Teacher
One of the strategies that we like to use at Cardinal Carter is using our formative assessments on a quite regular basis. We like to use things like exit cards and Google Forms, and one of my favorites are the journal books that I give my students. I may give them a question to do inside their journal book. They’ll hand it in and, at a quick glance, I can usually check and see if a student has really understood a concept or not. If they haven’t, it gives me an opportunity to visit that student, go through the problems with them, maybe do another additional problem with them to try and reinforce the concept for them. For students who just make minor mistakes, or had a really good understanding of the problem, I can just write some general comments. We also like to do practice open-response questions with some formative assessment as well, and with those we can use some descriptive feedback that we can use to try to push each student forward, whether it be a Level 2–type response towards a Level 3, or pushing a Level 3 to a Level 4, and those types of things.
Some of the challenges that come with this type of formative assessment is the time. If you have a big class, it can be hard to go through 30 different journal books on any given day, so that’s one of the challenges we see with this. But overall I think it’s been really good for moving our students forward.
School Profile and Results