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: 680
Grades: 6, 7 and 8
Principal: Maria Kalantzakos
- The school’s use of EQAO data has increased and evolved.
- Special education teachers focus on a few classes to provide more intensive support.
- Staff focus on ensuring students understand their learner profiles.
- There is a strong connection between the school and the parent community.
The goal of staff at Sir William Gage Middle School was first to understand the strengths and needs of all students. They created a support model to allow special education teachers to focus strategically on a few classes to support students more intensively. To engage the community, staff organized various events for families regarding EQAO, literacy and numeracy.
“I didn’t feel nervous walking into the EQAO test, because when I wrote the test in Grade 3, it wasn’t very difficult. My teachers used a lot of visuals so the concepts were easy to remember. In math, it helped that we were constantly going over important vocabulary (e.g., “justify,” “difference,” “prove,” “main idea”), which made understanding some of the questions less difficult. The teachers also had a way of explaining everything very clearly. The teachers also planned lessons so that the work started out easy and got more complex as we moved along, making it much easier to learn.”— 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
N/D: “No data available” is N/D: “No data available” is used to indicate that there were no students in the grade, subject or course for the group or year specified
“So, although I struggle with the efficacy of standardized testing, I think it is important to imbue a mindset of success and excellence in students. So that being said, the most important part in preparing the students for EQAO was two-fold: 1) test-taking tips and strategies; 2) in math, problem-solving steps. To that end, and instrumental to meeting the needs of our students, being released in our grade teams for school success days provided additional tools to differentiate instruction and made it easier to reach the learning needs of all of our students. For example, having PD that showed ways to use manipulatives for students to explain their math thinking along with various technology (apps) that captured student work and made assessment easier are some of the ways teachers and students ended up benefitting from release time.”— Caroline Roman. Teacher
How have the results improved?
Staff look at EQAO achievement data and then examine the Item Information Reports to gain a better view of the areas of need. Staff take a strength-based approach, and by understanding student performance on individual questions, they come to a deeper understanding of the students’ strengths. For the last two years, the primary focus has been to use the disaggregated data of English language learners and learners with special education needs, and to help students understand their own profiles, so they know how they learn and the accommodations they require to be successful.
“I felt ready for EQAO and confident that I would be successful on the test. My teachers took the time to make sure I understood all the work and were patient with me. The ideas my teachers used to teach us helped a lot. Especially when we had to go through the problem-solving steps to solve math problems. It is so important that we are good at subjects like math and English, because these are super important for us to be successful later on in life.”— Student
What initiatives have contributed to this improvement?
Knowing the Learner
Sir William Gage staff focused on better understanding the strengths and needs of students who presented with significant learning difficulties. Students were explicitly taught how to communicate their thinking when completing various tasks. Opportunities to work on authentic tasks allowed students and teachers to focus on critical thinking and reasoning.
Parent and Community Engagement
Parents were invited to an information session to learn about EQAO assessments, their organization and the assistive technologies available for all learner profiles. Families walked through several carousels, led by older students, who demonstrated how literacy and numeracy are connected to the work they do in class each day. The sessions also identified authentic learning opportunities in board games and everyday activities inside and outside the home, to strengthen the connection between home and school.
Special Education Support Model with Clustered Classes
Staff strategically place students in classes so that intensive support can be provided to those with special education needs, as well as to ESL students. The goal is to use all the supports in the building, including teachers and board personnel, to personalize the learning experience for students. Importantly, staff developed a common approach to support language development, the learning process and ultimately the success of all students.
“With our collective efforts and dedication to student success, we focused on making every aspect of our students’ learning experience accessible and barrier-free. Our students were given an opportunity to understand their learner profiles to unpack their strengths to better advocate for themselves. Staff, parents and students worked together with an asset-based mindset that allowed success to be accomplished by all learners.”— Maria Kalantzakos, Principal
How we analyze the data
Staff at Sir William Gage
- Use EQAO data in conjunction with other types of data to understand the strengths and needs of all students better
- Organize events for families on EQAO numeracy and literacy to facilitate a better understanding of the testing process and goals
- Examine EQAO achievement data and Item Information Reports to gain a better view of students’ strengths and areas of need
How we put the data into action
- Create and use profiles to help students understand how they learn and the accommodations they require to be successful
- Hold information sessions for parents to help them identify learning opportunities in everyday activities, strengthening the connection between home and school
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