Holy Trinity Catholic High School is located in Kanata and has a population of 1400 students in Grades 7–12. Although the demographics of the school have remained constant and homogeneous over the past five years, there has been an increase in the French-speaking student population. There are also a large number of students with special education needs. The school has a tradition of excellence, and student success is the focus of all conversations and initiatives.
Under the leadership of the administration, staff members examine and analyze EQAO literacy results, student work, report card data and teacher observations to identify trends and make informed decisions about areas for development and improvement. Data are used extensively to influence and shape classroom instruction in order to provide meaningful learning experiences for all students. There is a strong focus on literacy skills for all students from the time they enter the school. Board-generated data that include results from the primary and junior EQAO assessments allow staff to identify at-risk students and begin timely and specific intervention as early as Grade 7. While staff members are conscious of preparing students for the OSSLT, they are also aware of the need to integrate skills and content authentically so that students see their real-world applicability in different fields. Students have the opportunity to acquire skills over time, practise the skills, receive timely feedback and apply that feedback to future tasks.
Many initiatives at Holy Trinity have contributed to its success. The school literacy committee plays an integral part in planning and facilitating the implementation of many effective teaching strategies in collaboration with teachers from both panels and all subject areas. Using triangulated evidence of student achievement from a variety of sources, teachers make decisions about programming and plan lessons. The literacy committee is also cognizant that teachers in all areas need support and appropriate materials. Grades 7–12 English teachers who were involved in a cross-panel grammar initiative received a package of grade-level resources containing lesson plans, assignments targeting specific skills and assessment instruments.
Preparation for the OSSLT includes a series of initiatives developed to ensure that students feel comfortable about the test and to provide the necessary supports so that each student can produce his or her best possible work. All Grade 10 students participate in a mock test early in the school year to ensure that there is ample time to collect the data, score the test using EQAO rubrics, provide feedback and put appropriate supports in place. The test is marked using a cross-panel and cross-curricular approach facilitated through the teacher moderation strategy, where teachers share and learn from one another using the EQAO rubrics. It is worth noting that teachers volunteer to participate in the scoring process, demonstrating a high level of commitment and dedication to student achievement. From the mock test, a list of students who are experiencing difficulty and need targeted intervention is generated, and those students are invited to attend an after-school program. Letters are sent home to keep parents informed. The achievement data collected from various sources are often shared with students and parents to stress the importance of attending the after-school program.
Students are prepared to demonstrate their learning when they write the OSSLT. A Grade 11 student interviewed indicated that students have the opportunity to practise many reading and writing strategies and that they use graphic organizers in many subjects. She also explained that teachers provide a lot of feedback and are always willing to give extra help. She found the mock literacy test very useful in lowering her anxiety, and the feedback she received after the test was very helpful. She stated: “I just did not feel as worried when I wrote the real test. I felt prepared.” Student voice is very important, and Grade 10 students are surveyed after the administration of the OSSLT to determine whether the current initiatives are effective in helping them or whether changes need to be made.
“We use data to bring our school improvement plan to life. Data sets the tone for all our meetings and helps us to roll out our action plan. We use data to help target students so they can be more successful. It has become the credibility piece for staff and shows us where we need to go. Every single year there is a team of caring people helping our students be successful. We cannot take our results for granted.”
— Jennifer Oake, Principal
Students also have the opportunity to participate in the Caring Adult Program. Each participating student is matched with an adult whose responsibility is to connect with the student and provide support, putting into action the consistent message “we care about you and want you to be as successful as you can be.” Students quickly realize that at Holy Trinity there is an entire community of caring adults who believe in them and are willing to invest time and effort in their success.
Parent-teacher interviews are held early in the school year so that parents and teachers can work together to provide the interventions and support required to ensure success. There is ongoing dialogue with parents regarding the OSSLT, and parents are also provided with information on the school Web site. Prior to the test, they receive a message with helpful tips to help their child prepare. Students are provided with a booklet that they can work through with their parents. This regular communication with parents and the sharing of resources such as a literacy preparation package, an essay guide and the EQAO Web site have resulted in a high level of engagement and support.
At Holy Trinity, data clearly play an important role in determining the focus for student achievement. Everyone is challenged to think critically about literacy strategies and how to best meet student learning needs. Embedding literacy in all subject areas has become a priority. The collaborative approach includes visionary leadership, a strong belief in professional development, teachers who hold themselves responsible for their own learning and a genuine desire to provide each and every student with the opportunity to succeed. There is also a strong belief that the work of providing a learning environment that embraces all students is never done. Principal Jennifer Oake states: “We use data to bring our school improvement plan to life. Data sets the tone for all our meetings and helps us to roll out our action plan. We use data to help target students so they can be more successful. It has become the credibility piece for staff and shows us where we need to go. Every single year there is a team of caring people helping our students be successful. We cannot take our results for granted.”
Dr. Bette M. Stephenson Recognition of Achievement, 2014 School Recipient