Nelles Public School

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

Nelles Public School, District School Board of Niagara

Student population: 242; Grades: K–8; Principal: Sara De Divitiis

  • School population has grown dramatically in the last five years, going from a population of 197 to 330 students
  • There were 26% of Grade 3 students and 17% of Grade 6 students that wrote the EQAO assessment who had special education needs
  • Many parents commute to work outside the community, and the staff carefully plans how to involve them; the staff ensures they make themselves available outside of school hours
  • Teachers use different technologies, such as the Remind app, D2L and Google Classroom, to stay in touch with parents and share what is happening.
Wayne Hodgson (Teacher), Shelley Schroeder (Teacher), Sara De Divitiis (Principal)

Nelles Public School is located in the growing town of Grimsby, which is situated between Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment. The school became a kindergarten to Grade 8 school (having been a K–6 school) when the previous school that students attended for Grades 7 and 8 became a French Immersion school. In order to impact the learning of each student, parents—through their active School Council—helped to equip every classroom with math manipulatives, thereby ensuring none were negatively affected by the swelling student enrolment.

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
Special education needs
English language learners
Born outside Canada
First language learned at home was other than English

How have the results improved?

The work in Niagara District School Board began with each area’s team of principals, along with superintendents, reviewing EQAO results together. By identifying commonalities, such as trends in elementary schools in a similar geographic area, they were better able to collaborate and coordinate efforts. Back at their schools, teachers and administrators considered the attitude and behaviour data on the EQAO reporting application, which allowed them to uncover a need for strategies for increasing positive student attitude through continued attention to developing a growth mindset in students. Then they followed up with classroom observations and conversations. The schools looked at the students coming out of Grade 3 and into Grade 4 with the Learning Resource Teacher and school team, and asked if the children’s needs were being met. In the junior division, more accommodations were put in place, and the results showed that special education students were successful in Grade 6.

“I teach all of my students that mistakes help us to learn and make our brain stronger.”
— Mrs. Janssens, Teacher

“I matter as an individual at Nelles because …when I play Dreambox, the math that I have to do, it will get harder'”
— Student

What initiatives have contributed to this improvement?

Instructional Leadership and Building Capacity

In the District School Board of Niagara, a lot of thought, time and resources have been put into encouraging leadership from everyone in mathematics to nurture learning math leaders throughout the system. It is a board where principals are lead learners. At Nelles Public School, the instructional coach models learning with teachers and is required to have at least Math AQ Part 1 and to work alongside principals and teachers when learning math, developing strategies and supporting the use of research-based math resources (such as VandeWalle). The board offers Math AQ courses at no cost to teachers. As a result, teachers are not only taking advantage of the opportunity, they are coming back to their schools and impacting the learning of all teachers in their buildings by sharing during collaborative work time, at staff meetings and during Professional Learning Days.

Helping Every Child Believe They Are a Mathematician

Through regular professional learning communities, which are determined by teacher learning needs, teachers asked for learning support through the principal and coach. The staff determined that the whole school’s focus would be math and that a growth mindset was a significant part of the math goal. As the school team explored creating a growth mindset, they realized they needed to embed that mindset in their everyday teaching. Students developed more confidence with their skills and were excited about learning math.

Mathematics Scope and Sequence

The entire school is using the board’s Math Scope and Sequence, which provides suggestions and support for teachers in planning effective learning and teaching. This resource not only creates conditions for collaboration between colleagues, it assists the principal, the coach and the Learning Resource Teachers in planning for professional learning and resource support, as well as helping teachers with planning for combined grade classes. As part of the use of the Scope and Sequence, each class has a 100-minute math block with a portion of each math class (approximately 20–40 minutes) spent on one or more of the following activities: developing computational fluency, playing games and doing activities that develop spatial abilities and reasoning skills and revisiting previously taught math concepts and vocabulary. Use of the Scope and Sequence also encourages collaboration, since everyone is talking about it and sharing ideas. It is timely, ensures that math teaching is effective and allows teachers to refine practice; the document provides suggestions for revisiting, as well as effective research-based resources.

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