Longfields-Davidson Heights Secondary School, in Nepean, opened in 2009 and is the first Grades 7–12 school in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. The school’s population is made up of 700 intermediate and 1300 secondary students. It is richly diverse in language and cultural background and is expected to grow to 2500 in the next five years. Almost 65% of the students speak a language other than English at home. The school hosts a French Immersion program.
The effective use of data is crucial to the development of the learning environment at Longfields-Davidson, where the goals for school improvement planning are always based on EQAO data. Data informed the school’s decision to concentrate its efforts on increasing the number of students moving from Level 1 to Level 2. Staff members were then able to use the data to identify and implement various effective strategies to address specific needs. The comprehensive plan of action begins at Grade 7, where students write a diagnostic test at the beginning of the year. The instrument is designed to identify potential areas of need and allow teachers to put appropriate supports in place as well as to design lessons to address these areas specifically. The same process is repeated at the beginning of Grade 8. Based on research that indicates that textbooks do not foster higher-level and creative thinking skills, the decision was made not to provide a math textbook to intermediate students. Teachers worked collaboratively to design lessons based closely on curriculum expectations and supported by the most appropriate resources. Through professional development, teachers have become adept at delivering three-part math lessons and providing timely and consistent feedback to students. Access to shared lessons through Google Drive, common long-range plans and a variety of professional resources support teachers as they learn from one another.
Many other initiatives at Longfields-Davidson contribute to student success in mathematics in general as well as consistent improvement over time on the Grade 9 EQAO mathematics assessment. Technology plays a big role, and all math teachers have class Web sites that contain useful links to practice materials. There are data and document projectors in all math classrooms, which are used as tools to engage students in the learning process. Students at both the intermediate and the secondary levels can view math instructional videos through the school Web site. Teachers post current math lessons that students can access should they require review or additional practice, or if they have missed a class. Manipulatives are also available and used throughout the math curriculum at all grade levels. Students who are experiencing difficulty and/or who have gaps in their math knowledge are provided with the opportunity to receive additional support. During lunchtime every day, a math teacher as well as many peer tutors from the Grades 10 and 11 enriched mathematics courses are available to offer help, thus maintaining the culture of support for all students.
Grade 9 students in applied and academic classes write a mid-term assessment based on EQAO content and format. The test is administered in booklets and is timed, which mirrors the actual EQAO assessment. A student interviewed indicates that having the experience of the mock test was beneficial and that it helped to alleviate some of the stress attributed to an important assessment. She said: “Because teachers spend a lot of time reviewing concepts, providing ample opportunity to practise and talk about the answers, I felt adequately prepared. The teachers are very open and always willing to help during math classes. The most important factor for me was that I know my teachers love math and like teaching it.”
The Mastery Learning program used at the school allows students from Grades 9 to 11 in academic classes to test their basic mathematical skills through an electronic bank of multiple-choice questions. Students use response clickers to select their answers and are provided with immediate feedback. Teachers can then access the information to determine areas of need and plan accordingly. Student enthusiasm for and engagement in mathematics is evident in the participation of up to 180 students in more than 25 math contests throughout the year. Students are proud of their accomplishments and appreciate receiving awards of distinction, recognition and participation. Student math work is also proudly displayed in classrooms and hallways.
“ Data enhances the evidence gathered by teachers about student achievement and identifies groups of students who require targeted intervention. Data tells us that what we are doing is working and that we are achieving our goal of moving students from one level to another using a consistent approach.”
— Patsy Agard, Principal
Communication with parents is a priority, and many opportunities are provided for parents to become involved in their child’s learning experiences. Parent math nights are offered in Grades 8 and 9 to inform parents about new initiatives, clarify misconceptions about the “new math” and ensure a shared understanding of the importance of reaching the provincial standard. Parents are also provided with the math class Web sites as an additional tool. Parents value the communication, are very supportive and share the staff’s high expectations for all students. Principal Agard indicates that a culture of trust has resulted from working with parents as a team.
With the support of administration, the math teachers work collaboratively to provide meaningful learning experiences for all students. A deliberate approach to selecting math specialist teachers has resulted in a group of teachers who demonstrate passion and commitment to mathematics and to sharing their expertise with students of all abilities. Teachers have taken ownership of their professional development and participate in many initiatives that allow them to reflect on their practice and to determine which improvements will best serve the needs of their students. The collaborative approach has led to effective moderation sessions, close examination of data from various sources and the development of a plan that includes instructional strategies that are “necessary for some but good for all.”
Longfields-Davidson is a very busy school, where the focus is on reaching every student. Administration, staff, students and parents embrace the culture of learning and collaboration that is key to the positive school environment, and all students are encouraged to see themselves as successful learners. There is much evidence that the model in place is successful and that this is due in great part to having the right people in the right places. Teachers are knowledgeable, motivated and supportive of one another. Students are engaged, happy and want to come to school. Programs and initiatives to improve student achievement are developed on solid evidence. Principal Agard explains: “Data enhances the evidence gathered by teachers about student achievement and identifies groups of students who require targeted intervention. Data tells us that what we are doing is working and that we are achieving our goal of moving students from one level to another using a consistent approach.”
Dr. Bette M. Stephenson Recognition of Achievement, 2014 School Recipient