In response to its demographics, Huntsville High School offers a broad spectrum of educational opportunities—including academic, applied and locally developed courses, as well as five Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) programs. Its student population is socio-economically and academically diverse and largely rural. Data indicating that 40% of Huntsville High School graduates remain and work in the area prompted a forward-thinking administrative team to forge mutually beneficial partnerships with the Town of Huntsville’s business community. This initiative secured co-op placements and career options for students, and provided them with hands-on training in skills appropriate to local trades through SHSM programs.
Students with special education needs perform well on EQAO’s Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT); this speaks to the collaborative force behind the school-wide delivery of The Ontario Curriculum and teachers’ determination to meet the educational needs of every child. EQAO data play a pivotal role in meeting these needs and providing areas of focus for Huntsville’s school improvement plan. Last year, for instance, OSSLT data illuminated troubling gaps in success rates for specific groups. This prompted staff to develop SMART goals to target the gaps. Using EQAO resources and a universal design model, they collaborated to create and implement anchor charts, quality tasks, high-yield strategies and common rubrics school-wide. “EQAO data help us to ensure that every student is reflected in our targeted strategies. Without data it’s a guessing game,” says Vice-Principal Trent Willett.
Huntsville’s Professional Learning Team views EQAO data globally, and intentionally uses it to zero in on instructional strategies that will increase student achievement. With support, each teacher is responsible for designing, implementing and assessing these strategies, which include the three-part lesson, authentic student talk and goal setting. Using EQAO’s Item Information Report to lead their intervention strategies, teachers consistently return to the data, reflect deeply on their instructional practices, gauge the impact of their strategies on student success and adjust their teaching to maximize student learning. This year, for example, when EQAO data showed deficits in reading skills, the Student Success Team launched a professional learning community composed of Grade 9 teachers with a focus on improving specific reading strategies. Another successful intervention used the workshop model, but this time for students. Staff embedded key EQAO literacy skills into their lessons and assessments—even systematically teaching students to use EQAO scoring guides to code their own work and understand how to improve. Similarly, EQAO’s Student Questionnaire data identified a need to increase student engagement in reading for enjoyment and, as a result, next year a “Huntsville High Reads” initiative will be coordinated with the board’s own Battle of the Books. It is clear that Huntsville teachers understand the importance of engaging students in their own learning and helping students visualize themselves as successful.
To reach this level of achievement, special-education team members begin their work even before students enter high school. They conduct a highly focused needs assessment of Grade 8 students and share cross-panel transition data, curriculum expectations and teaching strategies with their feeder schools. As a result, Huntsville’s special-education staff are able to identify students who are at risk, determine proper program placement, plan specific early intervention strategies and ensure that the assistive technology supports prescribed in their Individual Education Plans are in place to help them be successful. “This data helps us gain perspective into the lives of our students,” notes Vice-Principal Tanya Fraser.
“This data helps us gain perspective into the lives of our students.”—Tanya Fraser, Vice-principal
“EQAO data help us to ensure that every student is reflected in our targeted strategies. Without data it’s a guessing game.”
—Trent Willett, Vice-principal
Further facilitating a smooth and positive transition to high school, a trained student leadership team called the Link Crew works specifically with Grade 8 at-risk students, visiting SHSM courses for one day in the spring. Before school starts, these senior students organize an orientation day of games and activities for all incoming students, thereby building self-confidence, strong connections to the school and a resolve to achieve academically.
From the moment students enter Huntsville, a highly organized, compassionate team of professionals monitors their progress, personalizing assessment data, offering support and tracking at- risk students on a database. If students score below 60% on mid- terms, specific intervention strategies, including Credit Recovery, the Learning Strategies course and the contributions of well- trained educational assistants have a positive effect on credit accumulation. Strategic time-tabling of academic and applied compulsory courses allows for program placement adjustments throughout the semester.
Aligned with board initiatives and supported by its resources and professional development program, Huntsville has long made literacy a priority across the curriculum. Strong, visible leadership both guides and supports work at the school. Teachers make good use of EQAO resources to embed common language, assessment practices and literacy strategies into the curriculum. The support of a full-time literacy coach helps focus skill development and contributes to consistency in instructional evidence-based practice in all subject areas.
In this vibrant, collaborative school community, everyone has a voice and an investment in striving for excellence. Examples of staff enthusiastically taking the initiative to create new literacy- based tasks underline a caring and professional-yet-relaxed school culture where teachers, parents and students feel valued, informed and respected.