A recent influx of students, precipitated by the closure of a nearby rural school, alleviated the challenges of declining enrolment at Englehart Public School. Because the two school populations shared cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, and because Englehart was proactive in hosting welcoming events during the previous year, staff members were highly successful in seamlessly blending the schools. Of the 229 students in this small English-speaking JK–8 school in Northern Ontario, 50% are bused from the surrounding townships.
Identified as a Turnaround School in 2003, Englehart used available data and embraced the challenge to grow professionally through participation in the Early Primary Collaborative Inquiry program. Ministry and board support with data warehousing, instructional materials, literacy and math coaches and skill- building workshops allowed teachers to amass myriad balanced- assessment strategies and laid the groundwork for the collaborative culture that characterizes the school today. Initially Englehart used EQAO data to determine overall achievement levels, but teachers soon began digging deeper into other EQAO results. For example, by using Item Information Reports, they tracked student performance on specific types of EQAO questions requiring students to make inferences and connections beyond the text. This focused analysis of the data helped put faces to the numbers and to facilitate the formation of precise instructional groupings. Throughout the improvement process, teachers gradually added other data and proceeded to peel back the layers of information for greater understanding. “Data collection has to be purposeful,” says Principal Keri Shepherdson. “You need to be clear about why you’re collecting the data and what you’re going to use it for.”
“Research tells us if and where we can close the gap. Data helps us have concrete evidence to back that up.”
—Keri Shepherdson, Principal
Englehart is also particularly interested in the qualitative data from its EQAO Student Questionnaires. Focusing on attitudes toward learning, self-perception and parental engagement, these data personalize the school improvement plan. Use of Tell Them From Me survey data also helped teachers to measure students’ attitudes toward quality of instruction, as well as their feelings about being included, valued, cared for and safe in their learning environment.
Using EQAO data as a baseline, Englehart aligns them with report card information to determine overall student achievement and establish realistic teaching goals. Similarly, staff considers results from the Primary Literacy Assessment Battery (PLAB) for JK–2 students and the Benchmark Assessment System for JK–8 along with EQAO results to develop a complete picture of student progress school-wide. Moreover, PLAB allows staff members to set next steps for instruction and individualize programming by referring to its highly focused binder of intervention strategies. Again addressing primary needs, the school uses Leveled Literacy Intervention to target Grade 1 students who are operating just below provincial standards. “Research tells us if and where we can close the gap. Data helps us have concrete evidence to back that up,” states Principal Shepherdson.
Should discrepancies between school and EQAO data surface, staff members reflect on their personal and collaborative instructional practices and strive, through the implementation of high-yield strategies, to cultivate a culture of learning and encourage students to identify their strengths and next steps. Indeed, reflection is such an integral part of this school’s success that staff members challenge students to access their own thinking and teach them to use EQAO exemplars to level their own work and set personal improvement goals, ultimately helping students assume ownership of the learning process.
Once teachers input all this data, they can access the results and post them with school assessments on their school-wide performance walls. Serving as a living colour-coded document, the walls provide a quick visual record for tracking student progress. Recognizing the process as a powerful motivational tool, teachers hold instructional professional learning community sessions in front of these walls (they call these sessions “learning walks”), celebrating successes and building capacity.
Beyond the classroom, Englehart has employed data to understand its parent community by tracking parent participation in school functions. Aiming for 100% attendance, teachers adopted the strategy of having students write personal invitations with an RSVP request. The data showed a dramatic surge in parental engagement.
High expectations for both staff members and students account for many of the school’s effective strategies. As an extension of the biweekly divisional meetings, teachers share work related to their Pathways initiatives. The resulting cross-divisional discussions give teachers a school-wide perspective on student work. Additionally, cross-panel dialogue sessions among Grades 7–9 math teachers provide further examples of collaboration on intervention strategies to address student needs.
Cognizant that assistive technology has a huge impact on student learning, Englehart makes it accessible to all students. With technology built into the culture of the school, special needs students are readily able to access the curriculum.
The school improvement plan directs budgetary investments in technology dedicated to capacity building and optimizing learning conditions school-wide.
Maximizing instructional time through strategic timetabling is another organizational hallmark of this school. Back-to-back planning and preparation times facilitate co-planning and co- teaching, while pre-recorded video announcements ensure large uninterrupted literacy and numeracy blocks. Special education teachers and literacy and math coaches collaborate with regular classroom teachers, noting needs and developing solutions.
Englehart’s achievements are the result of hard work, perseverance and a clear vision centred on the collection and use of focused and purposeful data. Collaborative analysis, common instructional strategies and daily dialogue are among the many contributions of this school’s talented and dedicated staff.
“Data collection has to be purposeful. You need to be clear about why you’re collecting the data and what you’re going to use it for.”
Dr. Bette M. Stephenson Recognition of Achievement, 2013 School Recipient