St. Bernadette Catholic School

2017 School Recipient of the Dr. Bette M. Stephenson Recognition of Achievement

School Profile and Reports
St. Bernadette Catholic School is presented with the Dr. Bette M. Stephenson Recognition of Achievement from Norah Marsh and Dave Cook, respectively CEO and Chair of EQAO.

Selection Criteria

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.

St. Bernadette Catholic School

Student population: 631
Grades: JK-8
Principal: Susie Lee-Fernandes

  • School administrators have created an inclusive environment, with 13% of the school population on Individual Education Plans (IEPs) placed in regular classrooms with same-aged peers.
  • The school is located beside St. Bernadette Catholic Church and has an ongoing partnership with the parish.
  • Breakfast and snacks are available every day for all students.
  • The school has an on-site child care centre (P.R.Y.D.E Learning Centre).

“I strive to foster a culture of hope within the school by always recognizing that every individual has a gift to contribute to the school community. With the mindset that places a priority on asset orientation and an open-to-learning stance, St. Bernadette Catholic School is a safe environment for all learners—students and staff. The adult learning environment mirrors the classroom environment, where each individual is celebrated for their strengths and talents and, with a growth mindset, is encouraged to take risks to move from being great to being excellent.”

— Susie Lee-Fernandes, Principal

St. Bernadette Catholic School is an elementary school located in downtown Ajax. It has two full-time program support teachers (PSTs) who specialize in coordinating programming and support for students with special needs. Other personnel who work at the school include a numeracy facilitator (1.5 days/week), an English as a second language (ESL) teacher (four days/week), a social worker (one day/week), a child and youth counsellor (2.5 days/week), a speech and language pathologist (one day/week) and a Settlement Workers in Schools (SWIS) representative (available every Thursday afternoon).

Many programs are run through the school, including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada, Rainbows Canada (peer-support group for students dealing with separation and loss), Elephant in the Room (mental health initiative), Quiet Club/Recess Success (peer-support programs for primary students) and Recess Buddies (peer-leadership and mentoring program).

“The school has taught me to share and help others so we can be safe and learn.”
“They teach me. I like how the teachers are patient and push me to do my best.”
“Having study sheets for tests, the support of teachers and the encouragement to read has helped me to be more productive and a better student overall.”

— Students

What is the profile of this school community?

Profile of Grade 3 and Grade 6 Students

Grade 3
Grade 6
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

“‘When you change the way you look at things, then the things you look at will change.’ This quote exemplifies the role we play in the lives of students, and how important it is for us to always seestudents and their strengths first in order to move them forward in their learning.”

— Lucy Castellano, Educational Assistant

“A culture of high expectations for all students creates the right atmosphere for students to strive for their personal best.”

— Amanda Simcoe, Teacher

How have the results improved?

Top: Emily Gazley, Mandi Simcoe, Nicole Lawlor, Linda Rehill, Judy Zwegers, Andrea Graham-McGrogan Middle: Kristen Canning, Susan McCaughey, Nancy Archer, Shannon Rooney, Michelle Noble, Candace Lavoie Bottom: Ashley Valera, Kathleen Frederick, Susie Lee-Fernandes, Karen Condon

The EQAO online reporting tool has enabled staff members not only to track cohorts but also to put a name to the number; they can identify students with IEPs, personalize their programs and track their progress from Grades 3 to 6. The attitudes and behaviour data help educators understand student perceptions and tailor teaching and learning approaches to increase student engagement. All teachers from Grades 2 to 8 are given a “students to watch” list (students who achieved between 1.9 and 2.9). Teachers then select one to three students to focus on, using EQAO data alongside information from school climate surveys, attendance records, parent-input surveys, diagnostic assessments, report cards, the Wechsler Fundamentals: Academic Skills assessment, speech and language (S&L) assessments and psychoeducational assessments.

“Providing ongoing technology support and training for students using assistive technology has strengthened students’ abilities to effectively use AT to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding.”

— Michelle Noble, Teacher

“Peer leadership in literacy activities gives students the confidence and multiple opportunities to practice reading in meaningful ways.”

— Julie Alty and Jeff Prior, Teachers

What initiatives have contributed to this improvement?

Response to intervention

Educators at the school effectively use psychoeducational assessments to understand their students’ strengths and challenges, as well as to appropriately accommodate them or modify the program to meet their needs. Teachers work with the school psychometrist to plan learning opportunities that focus on understanding psychoeducational assessments, and they apply this information to accurately create a learning profile for each student with an IEP.

Two learning sessions ran in 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 and both were open to all educators. In 2017, 14 educators participated, representing all three divisions. Each participant brought a relevant assessment on one student, and together they discussed learning profiles and effective strategies that would take these students’ strengths and challenges into account. They also explored accommodations to both instruction and assessment.

Direct instruction

School staff has had success using small-group instruction to address specific challenges. Teachers implemented small-group instruction using structures such as Daily 5 and Daily 3. Fifteen educators signed up for this session. This opportunity was led by two teachers who effectively use Daily 5 and Daily 3 structures on a regular basis. Participants were able to observe this learning in two classrooms, ask questions and consider how to adapt to meet the needs of their students.

In addition, using data from EQAO and report cards has allowed educators to determine which challenges and students to target.

Student-teacher relationships

All staff members are encouraged to use the two-by-ten strategy to build meaningful connections with students. This strategy involves speaking with students for two minutes a day for 10 consecutive school days about personal issues affecting their lives. Afterwards, participating staff fill out “Know Your Impact” statements to share what they notice about student behaviour and achievement. This strategy builds positive student-teacher relationships by letting students know that their educators care about them as people.

“As a collaborative learning team, we use our data to assess individual students’ knowledge and areas of need in order to personalize instruction for greater student success and achievement. . . . Our EQAO data for students with special education needs confirms that we have created a safe and welcoming environment where all students can be successful.”

— Susie Lee-Fernandes, Principal

How we analyze the data

Staff at St. Bernadette

  • Use the EQAO online reporting tool to track cohorts
  • Use EQAO attitudinal and behavioural data to tailor teaching approaches and increase student engagement
  • Increase monitoring of students who achieved between 1.9 and 2.9 on EQAO assessments

How we put the data into action

  1. Work with school psychometrist to plan learning opportunities
  2. Implement small-group instruction to address specific challenges
  3. Use the two-by-ten strategy* to build meaningful student-teacher relationships

*A strategy in which teachers spend two minutes per day for 10 days talking with students individually about anything they want to discuss

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