Joseph Gould Public School serves 574 students in junior kindergarten to Grade 8. It is located in beautiful Uxbridge, across the road from Uxbridge High School. The teachers at Joseph Gould use the most current and effective practices to ensure that their students have a strong foundation for success. Focusing on ideas and organization, teachers work collaboratively on techniques to improve student learning, incorporating EQAO resources into their timetabled literacy blocks and using the language of the curriculum and success criteria for every activity. Over the last few years, teachers have made a shift in their practices and are now much more collaborative in the way they plan, teach, assess and reflect. According to Principal Gayle Gailits, “Staff members value the benefits of working together as same-grade partners as well as in their divisions, which has led to a better understanding of the impact of their actions on student learning. Use of EQAO and other data have played an important role in this shift.”
In collaboration with other area schools, staff members participate in sessions offered by the Durham District School Board on understanding EQAO data. The in-services help staff members to analyze EQAO data, such as those in the Item Information Reports as well as attitudinal and contextual data. This information is used to set goals for system initiatives as well as to inform school improvement planning.
A system-wide focus to come out of these analyses was problem solving in mathematics. During three-part lessons, with manipulatives always available, students are presented with the concepts and then given open-ended questions. These activities encourage hands-on exploration, risk taking and rich discussion. Language and mathematics lessons are integrated with EQAO sample problems and exemplars through real-life stories involving mathematical concepts.
At Joseph Gould the children understand how to present their work and give clear answers. They see themselves as “evidence detectives” and use their skills and knowledge in new situations. Students will try a variety of strategies to find a solution and then check to see whether their answers are reasonable and plausible. These learning behaviours are supported by EQAO questionnaire data that show that both male and female students at Joseph Gould say they think about problems before they start them and are confident because they understand the mathematics.
“We now have a greater alignment in our classrooms, which has resulted in a growth in our students’ confidence due to the predictability and fairness across the grades. Everyone knows what it takes to be successful. The same criteria are used in each room for the same grade,” says Principal Gayle Gailits.
Joseph Gould’s caring teachers are always trying to move their students to the next level. Diagnostic mathematics assessments are given, and then “focus groups” are created for intense instruction on specific concepts and skills. These very small groups of students work with their teacher three times a week for four to six weeks. In language, student achievement is tracked using tools such as running records. Effective teaching strategies help move the children forward.
“Staff members value the benefits of working together as same-grade partners as well as in their divisions, which has led to a better understanding of the impact of their actions on student learning. Use of EQAO and other data have played an important role in this shift.”
— Gayle Gailits, Principal
The teachers at Joseph Gould are eager learners themselves. Under board initiatives, they are involved in a wide range of professional development workshops and in-services with a focus on inquiry and quality questioning. The strategies learned in these sessions are then shared with the rest of the staff. The teachers embrace the use of technology and use it in the classrooms and for communication with parents and students. The school Web site offers many resources, such as instructional videos explaining mathematics concepts, success criteria and EQAO samples. The communication between parents and teachers plays a critical role in helping students succeed.
At Joseph Gould, there is a warm and inviting atmosphere for families. Parents are kept informed about what is happening in the classroom and appreciate the teachers’ efforts to involve them in their child’s learning. Regular review at home and school ensures student success with both the curriculum and on EQAO assessments. According to parent Colleen Baskin, “The school is open, and parents feel welcome and comfortable in the school. There is an effective communication system around the curriculum expectations, and the teachers make suggestions on how we can support our children at home. As parents, we are very aware that our children have been given the foundations that they need to be successful.”
Joseph Gould has a positive culture of high expectations within a caring environment. The principal is an instructional leader who models for her staff the value of staying current. The teachers work as a team, collaborate to provide effective instruction and clearly communicate the success criteria to both parents and students. The parents are welcomed into the school and are actively involved in their children’s learning. The students learn through problem-solving activities, which develop their confidence not only in understanding the concepts but also in clearly presenting solutions to open-ended questions. The entire staff takes ownership in helping all children celebrate success.
Dr. Bette M. Stephenson Recognition of Achievement, 2014 School Recipient