E. J. James Public School

2016 School Recipient of the Dr. Bette M. Stephenson Recognition of Achievement

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2016 School Stories

Halton District School Board

Student population: 514; Grades: K–8; Principal: Colette Ruddock

  • Single-track French Immersion School; 50% instruction in French and 50% instruction in English
  • Growing community of English language learners; however, still low: 16% and 9% in Grades 3 and 6 respectively
  • High level of student engagement in activities inside and outside of the school (athletics, arts, etc.)
  • Most students move into the school in Grade 1 and remain for the balance of their elementary schooling
Colette Ruddock (Principal), Kaja Louis (Teacher), Jacqueline Ramier (Teacher), Alyssa Dixon (Teacher)

Located in a suburban community 30 minutes to the west of Toronto, E. J. James Public School is a place where teachers have a strong collegial and collaborative culture that allows for risk-taking in their learning and their practice. When teachers expressed a desire to examine their math instruction and invest in more innovative resources, the school developed an intensive plan to implement high-yield mathematics instructional strategies. This work was enriched by sharing their vision for instruction and school improvement goals through School Council, and supporting parents in their understanding of the Math Strategy at a Community Math Night.

“We developed a strong implementation plan where we built teacher capacity — because we know teacher capacity really is the best way to improve student achievement — and then we’ve done the learning alongside our teachers, myself and my vice-principal.”

Colette Ruddock, Principal

Selection Criteria

EQAO considered schools that:

  • had a significant proportion of students who did not meet the provincial math standard in Grade 3 but who improved to meet it when they were in Grade 6 and
  • maintained or increased the overall number of students meeting the provincial standard in math.

What is the profile of this school community?

Profile of Grade 3 and Grade 6 Students

Grade 3
Grade 6
Female
58%
42%
Male
42%
58%
Special education needs
4%
3%
English language learners
16%
9%
Born outside Canada
9%
9%
First language learned at home was other than English
7%
8%

How have the results improved?

E. J. James has embarked on “an amazing learning journey” by setting a clear direction and identifying goals using data to determine the best course of action. Their collaborative work, reflective dialogue and learning was kicked into high gear a few years ago when they looked at EQAO attitude and behaviour survey results in relation to student achievement results and their board’s student engagement survey. Their actions and learning, which provided richer learning experiences for all students, is now at the full-implementation stage where teachers are confident and seeing a rise in student achievement.

What initiatives have contributed to this improvement?

Solving Questions in Different Ways

Students at E. J. James Public School develop skills in using models and strategies through a variety of open-ended and open-routed questions that promote critical thinking and problem solving. Using rich learning experiences, such as Math Congress, students are exposed to multiple ways of solving a problem. This has resulted in a more engaging application of mathematical concepts, beyond the textbook, and students using their own language to express their thinking as they engage in collaborative thinking processes with peers.

Developing a Culture of Risk Taking

The deliberate and sustained development of student voice in the mathematics classroom has encouraged open metacognition of mathematical learning. Students are asked to reflect upon, clarify and expand their ideas and understanding of mathematical relationships and mathematical arguments. This has allowed them to develop effective strategies and habits for communicating mathematical thinking and has promoted student reflection.

Building Math Confidence Through Talk

Teachers at E. J. James Public School wanted to help students develop a strong understanding of Number Sense as a foundational skill and flexible thinking in mathematics. Explicit daily teaching of common language for models was reinforced through an engaging online tool, Dreambox, which provides visual representations of student thinking and many entry points for all learners. The end result has been an emphasis on process rather than answer, and value being placed on thinking over remembering.

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