Essex District High School

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

Essex District High School, Greater Essex County District School Board

Student population: 720; Grades: 9–12; Principal: Mike Hawkins

  • Collaborative work allows Grades 7, 8, 9 and 10 teachers to make connections with and identify needs across the mathematics curriculum.
  • The percentage of students in applied mathematics meeting the provincial standard has steadily increased from 39% in 2012 to 62% in 2016.
  • Over the past five years, the average percentage of students in academic mathematics reaching the standard has steadily increased from 70% to 91%.
Peter Phinney, Jana LePage-Kljajic, Mike Hawkins (Principal)

Essex District High School is located in the town of Essex, which extends from the hub of the county at Essex Centre to the shores of Lake Erie. As part of the plan for student success in mathematics, the school mathematics team has developed a Grade 8 diagnostic assessment administered at feeder schools in January before courses are selected; it provides important information to both Grade 8 and Grade 9 teachers. Additionally, students who did not meet the standard in the Grades 3 and 6 EQAO assessments are paired with a caring adult and a peer mentor as part of the Grade 9 transition plan.

Selection Criteria

To be considered, schools had to have

  • a program in applied Grade 9 mathematics, as this program was the focus of the selection;
  • a minimum of two sections of students in applied mathematics in 2016 (with a total number of students greater than 30);
  • results showing increases in five consecutive years in the number of students reaching the provincial standard in applied mathematics and
  • results in academic mathematics that were close to, at or above the provincial average and that improved or were relatively stable over the same five-year period.

What is the profile of this school community?

Profile of Grade 9 Students

English language learners
Special education needs
Speaks a language other than English at home

How have the results improved?

Using the EQAO reporting application, the school accesses information over time that helps identify trends in areas of concern and strength. Grades 3 and 6 achievement data facilitate the early identification of students who may require different levels of intervention to move up to the achievement standard. Both attitudes and behaviour and achievement data are connected to staff’s use of learning-goals-based assessment and evaluation and planned retesting.

What initiatives have contributed to this improvement?

Building Mathematics Success: Thinking Beyond Grade 9

When it comes to learning mathematics, there are many measures of success. Not only do Essex teachers consider whether students have independently demonstrated learning on the Grades 3, 6 and 9 EQAO assessments, they also take a broader view of the continuum of mathematical learning. Planning for success in high school begins after the junior assessment, when intermediate teachers from feeder schools and high school meet to consider student learning needs and related teacher learning needs. Student success is gauged by students’ continuing mathematics learning throughout high school and students’ feeling equipped for their chosen pathway after they graduate.

Learning-Goals-Based Assessment

At Essex, everything that is assessed or evaluated in mathematics is tied to learning goals. Descriptive feedback and reporting linked to learning goals show students their progress toward each goal. This enables students to reflect on and better articulate their individual learning needs. Reassessment opportunities tied to learning goals help to prevent students from shutting down and encourage them to continue learning instead.

Learning Through Mistakes and Why to Persevere

Teachers help students reframe how they talk about mistakes and their personal learning; this helps students develop the perseverance they need to overcome difficulties. Teachers provide students with a variety of resources, strategies and ideas, and these, together with a growth mindset, move learning forward.

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