Gregory Drive Public School in Chatham, which offers a “balanced day schedule,” draws from an urban population, and half of the students are bused. The school’s demographic representation has changed over time; the student population has declined as students from families in local neighbourhoods graduate, and recently, its socio-economic and cultural representation has become more diverse. Gregory Drive has actively welcomed and embraced this diversity and has pursued opportunities to celebrate the cultures represented in the school. Teachers empathize with the challenges faced by their students and differentiate instruction to meet their needs.
Gregory Drive teachers use EQAO data to align instruction and assessment. Each fall, assessment results are unpacked and information is analyzed in great detail. Teachers look at patterns of strengths and weaknesses, and check predictions for student performance. The school improvement plan is then revised accordingly. Learning goals are developed around clustered curriculum objectives. Teachers collaborate to design explicit strategies for specific literacy and numeracy expectations. They develop engaging lessons that are interactive, productive and accountable for student progress.
Gregory Drive staff also access information gathered from the board’s common assessment of reading and mathematics, administered twice a year in Grades 3 and 6, along with DRA. These data are used to identify individual needs and classify groups of students for focused support. Principal Lynn Sulman states: “By addressing the data that is provided by EQAO and the board, we select those strategies that were successful, discard those that were not and narrow our focus even more to target and provide support. Collaboration around the table allows us to put a face to a name, and allows all teachers to have input on possible strategies. The data for those students who were targeted is tracked through their final results.”
EQAO results indicated a need for focus on multi-step problems in mathematics. To address this, the board has initiated a practice of delivering curriculum expectations using three- part mathematics questions. Teachers at Gregory Drive find this practice to be valuable and effective in several ways. Each student’s progress and needs are recorded and specific strategies are implemented. Teachers collaboratively develop relevant and challenging open-response questions to illustrate the “big idea” they wish students to understand. Students are engaged and have input into the success criteria. A variety of resources are used and may be grouped for individual needs. Teachers facilitate exploration, and the results are shared to consolidate learning.
The board provides a framework for initial reading and writing assessments. Specific writing forms are assigned. An example from the writing continuum is a “cold piece,” assigned without prior teaching. This piece is used to zero in on a student’s specific needs. Using the cold piece, staff and students work to construct the learning goals and success criteria. Students receive effective written feedback and clearly delineated next steps in a “Glow, Grow and Go” statement. This statement gives them something to celebrate, something to work on in future assignments and something to do immediately. Students keep their work in a writing portfolio that travels with them throughout the grades.
The staff at Gregory Drive uses high-yield strategies and consistency in language and practice. Teachers model using levelled questions, clearly articulating expectations. Children learn at an early age about success criteria, learning goals and anchor charts. Lessons are designed to break down learning into accessible chunks, and students are given effective feedback to improve the level of their work.
Teachers recognize multiple intelligences and plan across the curriculum based on individual strengths. Students with special needs are given accommodations throughout the year. The staff embraces technology and has increased student engagement with the extensive use of Smart Boards. Pupils are given the skills to critically review their own work and are encouraged to be accountable. Student-led conferences include self, peer and teacher assessment.
“By addressing the data that is provided by EQAO and the board, we select those strategies that were successful, discard those that were not and narrow our focus even more to target and provide support. Collaboration around the table allows us to put a face to a name, and allows all teachers to have input on possible strategies. The data for those students who were targeted is tracked through their final results.”
—Lynn Sulman, Principal
Gregory Drive is supported by a strong parent voice. Parents feel comfortable and needed at the school. They volunteer in classrooms, with teams and for special events. They support fundraising and the school council. Newsletters, curriculum- focused bulletin boards and daily planners keep them informed. Parents support their child’s academics at home through reading programs and by reviewing the daily planner. Principal Lynn Sulman adds: “The data that has been provided by EQAO has allowed us to be much more prescriptive in what we do. It has helped us to make the instructional and assessment process more transparent. Through timely and accurate communication of the data and the next steps, we encourage parents to assist their children by acting on the recommendations.”
The caring and safe learning environment that promotes student success at Gregory Drive has been instrumental in the achievement of its students. Children are recognized for their academic, athletic, learning and social skills. Students’ work is acknowledged both for meeting expectations and for demonstrating how to reach the next level. The board’s pillars of literacy, numeracy and character development strongly support the students’ learning experiences.
Gregory Drive has a strong reputation for excellence. Students are nurtured by a dedicated and collaborative staff, which reflects on practice and ensures consistent instructional and assessment strategies are implemented to meet individual student needs.
Dr. Bette M. Stephenson Recognition of Achievement, 2012 School Recipient