2017 School Recipient of the Dr. Bette M. Stephenson Recognition of Achievement
Equity and inclusion is a priority for EQAO and, this year, the agency sought to highlight the work being done by schools to address equity-related challenges. School recipients of the 2017 Dr. Bette M. Stephenson Recognition of Achievement saw an increase in the percentage of students with special education needs meeting the standard on either the reading or writing component of provincial assessments from 2014 to 2017, and these schools clearly demonstrated that their analysis of EQAO data helped inform decisions about initiatives to support student learning better.
Student population: 180
Principal: Jo-Anne Giertuga
- The Biwaase’aa Program enhances cultural awareness, learning and peer mentorship in the school. As part of this program, the Indigenous youth outreach worker provides mentoring, cultural teaching, education support, counselling and lunch for students.
- The McKellar community has a large population of Indigenous students (approximately 90%), with 5% being English language learners whose first language is Oji-Cree.
- Staff are provided with significant professional development in culturally responsive practices, cultural sensitivity and Indigenous ways of knowing and being.
- Support from Elders and knowledge keepers are fundamental to the school’s encouraging environment.
McKellar Park Central School serves students from junior kindergarten to Grade 8 and has an enrollment of approximately 180 students. It is one of 23 elementary schools in the Lakehead District School Board. From the moment students step onto the property, they can feel what the school values: children and their success. Visitors are greeted by beautiful learning gardens created by parents, students, staff and community members, while the handprints of the students and the adults in their lives lead the way.
“Everyone is welcome at our school. We are taught to respect each other’s differences. We learn about First Nation culture and get to participate in pow wows. My school makes us all feel like we are a family.”— Student
What is the profile of this school community?
Profile of Grade 3 and Grade 6 Students
Number of Students
Number of Classes
English Language Learners
Students with Special Education needs (excluding gifted)
First Language Learned at Home Was Other Than English
Born in Canada
In Canada Less Than One Year
In Canada One Year or More But Less Than Three
In Canada Three Years or More
“I like to use the iPads because I can play math games like Math Prodigy, and it helps me to get better in math. The computer helps me with my reading and writing. Using the Smart Board is a fun way of learning, too. My teacher is teaching us how to play Minecraft. That is really cool”— Student
How have the results improved?
“In math we all get to use the small whiteboards to show our thinking. When we think we have solved the problem, we all hold up our whiteboards at the same time. Even if we don’t get the right answer, our teacher tells us it’s okay to make mistakes, because this is how we learn. Then we share and explain our answers with the class or with our elbow partner”— Student
EQAO cohort data—including achievement, behavioural and attitudinal data—was used with Item Information Reports and classroom and school data to guide next steps for professional learning based on student needs. Trends and patterns in the data revealed a need to continue focusing on school-home connections and parental engagement while also building student self-efficacy. Regular monitoring of literacy and students with Individual Learning Plans (IEPs) revealed that many students struggled with reading and lacked confidence in their abilities.
What initiatives have contributed to this improvement?
Building Relationships with Parents
Building community connections and a welcoming environment for student and their families is a priority. Staff work alongside families to encourage regular attendance. McKellar Park Central School also takes a unique approach to teacher interviews: parents are invited to share a meal with staff at feasts and then to visit the classrooms so that their children can showcase the work they have been doing. Building closer relationships with families provides a stronger foundation for students who might otherwise be at risk academically and emotionally.
“Targeted instruction that meets the needs of all learners, allowing multiple entry points for the wide variety of learners”— Kris Sandberg, Teacher
Knowing the Learners
A continuum of learning that identified the learning needs of students with IEPs also revealed that many of these needs were similar or related to those of other students. Staff recognized that many students had difficulty making connections between texts and themselves. These students did not know how to relate to what they were reading, so staff members used experiential learning to help them develop their personal schemas. As well, culturally relevant books were purchased to start home-reading and reading buddies programs. As a result, students were able to make meaningful connections with the texts.
“The most important thing is to meet kids where they are at, not where they are supposed to be. It’s when we target each student’s specific learning strengths and needs are we able to move them forward. We’ve really developed a mindset that everyone can learn and that as teachers, we need to believe in all students and find what it is that moves them forward.”— Tanja Coghill, Teacher
Building a Positive Growth Mindset
Through the analysis of EQAO and school data, staff discovered that many students did not perceive themselves as learners, so the creation of a growth mindset became the school’s most critical need. Teachers were intentional about developing perseverance and a positive growth mindset in their students by promoting the value of learning through making mistakes and reviewing and retrying actions. Consequently, students are not only taking more risks in the classroom but also believing that they are capable and that their personal experiences make them stronger.
“A culture of hope is fostered when students, staff and parents feel supported, welcomed, included and valued. As the school leader, it is important to take the time to listen and to understand the needs of our school community and provide and create positive opportunities and experience to help break down barriers. By fostering trusting relationships, we build a better and stronger school community so that we can move forward in the spirit of healing and reconciliation.”— Jo-Anne Giertuga, Principal
How we analyze the data
Staff at McKellar Park Central
- Examine data trends and patterns to focus on school-home connections, parental engagement and student self-efficacy
- Regularly monitor literacy and students with IEPs
How we put the data into action
- Build relationships with parents
- Provide culturally relevant learning materials
- Build a positive growth mindset
- Guide teacher professional learning based on student needsaaaaaa
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