Tottenham Public School in the village of Tottenham serves 325 students from junior kindergarten to Grade 8, with the majority of students walking to school. The school population has remained stable, with the parents of many students working in Toronto or employed at Honda Manufacturing in nearby Alliston or at other local automotive companies.
During the past five years, the school team has promoted a positive learning environment by focusing on student success and encouraging parents to become more involved in the activities of the school. The school council is active and uses every opportunity to encourage school participation in local community events.
The EQAO results and other information are important to the development of the school improvement plan. To identify the school’s strengths and areas for improvement, the school team analyzes the EQAO data over time in conjunction with classroom, board and School Effectiveness Framework data. Using the Item Information Reports, the staff members determine how the students scored on specific questions. They review the EQAO assessment items to find trends in the wording and formatting of the questions. The staff also examines the curriculum expectations and develops rubrics to be used in all grades so that students will experience consistent language and expectations. The teachers collaborate to develop instructional strategies to share across the grades, and they use moderated marking. In addition, they review board assessment and report card data to monitor student growth and determine next steps.
Early in the school year, teachers review their students’ third- term report card marks together with their EQAO and diagnostic assessment results. Based on the evidence collected, small literacy and mathematics groups are formed to reinforce certain skills. These groups are provided with instruction specific to their needs. Formative and summative assessment strategies are then developed collaboratively by the staff to help them better understand the expectations for each grade level and better assist their students. Principal Evelyn Alban explains: “Data is our compass. It provides the facts at a given time and allows us to see our successes and gaps. It guides our programming and assists us in delivering quality instruction to our students and in targeting those students at risk.”
Teachers frequently examine and discuss their instructional strategies to ensure that they are effective in improving student learning. They discuss success criteria and provide descriptive feedback to students. They also share EQAO exemplars and levelled work with students so that they have a clear understanding of how to improve. The teachers believe it is important for the students to have many opportunities to show what they know and to hone their skills before moving forward. As a result, students frequently practise, edit and redo their work. They are asked to focus on fewer questions and to explore them more deeply and with more understanding. With the entire staff committed to this philosophy, students are enjoying their learning more and becoming more confident.
Writing has been an important area of focus for the staff and students at Tottenham. Three years ago, after examining the EQAO data, the staff collected school-wide writing samples and decided to focus on procedural writing. Together with the students they began by examining the EQAO anchors. The students then submitted writing samples three times a year, and with these in hand, the teachers used moderated marking to create exemplars at all levels so that the students could understand how to improve their writing. To further encourage students, a “Writing Wall of Fame” was created in the main hall, where samples of students’ writing from each grade level are posted. This has been a great inspiration for students to enhance their writing skills.
“Data is our compass. It provides the facts at a given time and allows us to see our successes and gaps.”—Evelyn Alban, Principal
The EQAO data are also examined to determine the school’s strengths and weaknesses in mathematics. As with literacy, math is assigned a 100-minute block every day. Teachers work together to develop math lessons focused on the problem-solving approach and the use of manipulatives and student-generated algorithms. They also use the EQAO sample assessments and scoring guides to design their formative and summative assessments. Various opportunities for extended learning in math are provided, and many students voluntarily attend a Saturday morning math program supported by the board. After-school programs are also offered to students in Grades 6, 7 and 8. In addition, the teachers participate in ongoing professional mathematics learning and work collaboratively to implement strategies across divisions. Their goal is to provide consistency and an opportunity for students to experience success in all math strands.
“The staff members at Tottenham Public School set high expectations for their students and themselves and share the belief that all children can learn and achieve success with the right supports in place. They also share the belief that EQAO is a culminating, whole-school effort that spans across the grades.”—Evelyn Alban, Principal
The school has found that technology is an effective tool to engage and assist students at risk. Assistive technology is used from kindergarten to Grade 8, and it helps these students to become more independent in their learning. Document cameras are used by all teachers for modelling and demonstrating EQAO questions. Students also use the cameras to show their own work, dissect their responses and give feedback to their peers. The staff believes that early intervention is the key to giving students the opportunity to succeed and, at Tottenham Public School, intervention begins with the Activate Early Learning strategy in junior kindergarten and the Early Success in Reading strategy in Grades 1 and 2.
Principal Alban believes that Tottenham’s success is the result of a whole-school effort. Everyone is on the same pathway. She states: “The staff members at Tottenham Public School set high expectations for their students and themselves and share the belief that all children can learn and achieve success with the right supports in place. They also share the belief that EQAO is a culminating, whole-school effort that spans across the grades. They are primary and junior assessments, and all teachers have ownership and work together to provide the best academic and social environment for their students.”