Laggan Public is a balanced-day, dual-track French Immersion school in a beautiful rural setting close to the Quebec border. Some of the students come from the nearby town of Alexandria, and all are bused. The students are from a mix of socio-economic backgrounds, and almost 25% have special education needs and are given support in the classroom. Inclusion and differentiation are key elements of the school’s culture.
Success strategies at Laggan include the use of EQAO data and resource materials when developing the school improvement plan. When analyzing EQAO’s Detailed School Results, teachers noted a gender gap and began to focus on literacy for boys. As the gender gap decreased, they reviewed the EQAO and school-based data for other areas of need and introduced new teaching strategies to support and improve their reading and writing programs. As Principal Silvia Speck notes: “By looking at the evidence from EQAO, school and classroom data, we know where we need to improve. We build our school’s success plan around that. We know the children, what is happening in the classroom and the kind of teaching strategies being used, so rich data is more than just numbers on a paper. Common instructional practices are the key.”
Teachers find the EQAO Item Information Report a useful tool in their collaborative process for developing high-yield strategies. The data in this detailed report inform their teaching and facilitate remediation and differentiation for clusters of students in specific areas. Using the data as their guide, teachers work tirelessly to implement the strategies for improvement.
Once an academic focus is chosen for the school improvement plan, there is a whole-school approach to implementing change. Teachers work collaboratively, and the same framework is used throughout the grades. For example, through the Teacher Learning and Leadership Program, the staff found research that suggested “accountable talk” as a gateway to learning. In this strategy, students are encouraged to talk about what they are learning, to contribute ideas and to listen to the ideas of others.
Accountable talk has proven its worth and is now part of the school improvement plan in all subjects. This focus sees students use talk in mathematics and when deconstructing problems, sharing and analyzing. Children work in pairs and small groups, trying to build on each others’ ideas and to improve their answers. This process encourages students to see other pathways to solutions. To enhance their delivery of the curriculum, teachers often go to the EQAO Web site to find sample problems to use with their current focus in the classroom. Now on the EQAO questionnaires, Laggan students report that they enjoy mathematics and are confident that they are using their cognitive strategies wisely.
The blending of the French and English streams during the English portion of the day aligns with the child-centred and inclusive atmosphere of the school. The culture of caring encourages collaboration and communication with students and staff.
“By looking at the evidence from EQAO, school and classroom data, we know where we need to improve. We build our school’s success plan around that. We know the children, what is happening in the classroom and the kind of teaching strategies being used, so rich data is more than just numbers on a paper. Common instructional practices are the key.”
—Silvia Speck, Principal
“Data helps us to decide where our resources should go. It helps us share information about learning and about students’ needs.”
Laggan has many students with special education needs. They are all given the accommodations and the support necessary to achieve to the best of their abilities. Through programs such as the Eastern Ontario Health Units’ Words in Bloom, they receive intense literacy and language support. From the early grades, everyone uses technology. The Upper Canada District School Board sponsors the “Soft-Where to Learn” program, and all staff and students are taught and use the programs together.
There is also a strong partnership with parents. The school Web site offers newsletters, calendars and a link to the EQAO Web site. Parents are invited into the school and are active as volunteers and on the school council. According to the school council chair, Iris Clark, there is an open-door policy at Laggan and effective communication among teachers and parents. Parents are invited to visit classrooms and talk to the teachers at any time. Parents receive much information, and teachers share the strategies they use so that parents can use them at home with their children.
At Laggan the standards are high and use of data is an important strategy. “Data helps us to decide where our resources should go. It helps us share information about learning and about students’ needs. We all have to have a voice and we move forward as a team,” says Principal Speck. “Everyone works hard and does their best. These expectations have produced positive results, as the children do exceptionally well on EQAO assessments.”
The inclusive atmosphere, culture of openness and ongoing communication at Laggan invite parents, students and teachers to connect. The school improvement plan and staff development evolve from looking at EQAO data. Collaborative and consistent teaching strategies, such as accountable talk, improve student understanding. Differentiated instruction, based on individual needs and abilities, coupled with high expectations, are a recipe for success. That success is evident in the confidence that the students demonstrate in their own abilities, and in the EQAO assessment results.