Situated in the town of Wiarton, Peninsula Shores District School serves 580 students from junior kindergarten to Grade 12, with 295 students enrolled in high school. Seventy percent of the students are bused to school. The majority are English speaking. Aboriginal students who enter Grade 9 from Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation make up 10% of the student population.
Parent involvement and respect for the school and its programs are high. The school values the commitment of the parents and works hard to engage them in school activities. The school has many partnerships in the community and is an active participant in numerous events. Peninsula Shores is designated as a priority school and so receives funding to provide breakfast and lunch programs and an after-school sports program for its students. Two days a week, the school has the services of a First Nations education counsellor from the reserve who acts as a liaison, assisting the students with transportation and attendance issues, and providing programming and after-school tutoring sessions both on and off site. The counsellor also organizes trade shows and arranges visits to colleges or universities for students.
Peninsula Shores has demonstrated continued success in both the academic and applied levels on the Grade 9 Assessment of Mathematics. The school team analyzes EQAO data over time, focusing on the Item Information and Student Questionnaire reports, using them as reference points to monitor students’ progress. Release time is provided so that teachers can examine trends and patterns and determine areas for growth in instruction.
Examining the attitudes and behaviour data from the Student Questionnaires allows teachers to understand how students feel about mathematics and the correlation between these feelings and the students’ success. The teachers discuss with their students the importance of answering the questionnaires carefully and honestly to give them insight into how they feel about mathematics and what they can do to help them become successful. They observe that although many students note that they do not enjoy mathematics, they know mathematics is valuable and they work hard at it. Guided by their understanding of the students’ responses, the teachers share resources and work collaboratively to plan their instructional and assessment strategies to meet the various needs of both academic and applied students.
Early in the year, teachers contact each parent and e-mail or call throughout the year to give information about assignments, tests or upcoming events to keep parents informed and involved. Interim reports go home early in the semester and staff call every parent to discuss progress. Vice-principal Leigh Morris states: “This early and ongoing communication with the parents keeps them involved and aware of their role in the success of their children. This positive relationship between home and school reinforces the high expectations the school has for each student and students work hard to meet these expectations.”
Weekly mathematics assignments modelling the EQAO format are given to all students. These questions are reviewed in class, and students have the opportunity to work on them throughout the week. Most students do not fear the EQAO assessment at the end of the semester thanks to their familiarity with the test’s format. Teachers use exemplars from the students’ work and give students an opportunity to solve each problem three or four different ways, using a variety of instructional techniques.
The Grade 9 math teachers and student success teacher have the opportunity to work very closely with the Grades 7 and 8 teachers in the building to provide a seamless transition into Grade 9, meeting regularly to share resources and strategies. Funding provided through the Ministry of Education Math GAINS initiative allows the team to meet with the feeder schools.
“Although using the data we have at hand is an important piece of the puzzle in our success, I believe that our relationship with the students and the parent community is just as important. Knowing the students and having that personal relationship motivates them to work to the best of their ability to meet the high expectations we have set for them. They know they have the support of the staff when they experience difficulty and readily ask for assistance.”—Dave Waddington, Principal
These regular meetings give them the opportunity to highlight areas of strength and weakness to build a profile for each student. If there is a significant difference between the parent and teacher input on the course option forms, parents are invited to meet with staff to ensure the student will have the best opportunity to experience success in Grade 9. Because of this communication, very few changes to timetables are necessary when the students enter high school.
The school also uses the “Take Your Kids to Work Day” in November to introduce the Grade 8 students to typical Grade 9 activities and run a shortened Grade 9 day to provide them with a better understanding of the expectations in high school. The three levels of mathematics are explained and sample questions are reviewed to highlight the differences. This better prepares the students to make informed decisions when choosing their options for Grade 9. The school also reserves the first day of the year for Grade 9 students only, allowing them to meet the teachers, set up their lockers and find their way around the building.
Building strong relationships with students and parents is an important component of the success of Peninsula Shores District School. Principal Dave Waddington states: “Although using the data we have at hand is an important piece of the puzzle in our success, I believe that our relationship with the students and the parent community is just as important. Knowing the students and having that personal relationship motivates them to work to the best of their ability to meet the high expectations we have set for them. They know they have the support of the staff when they experience difficulty and readily ask for assistance.”