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: 470
Principal: Patrick Runstedler
- The St. Dominic Savio Catholic School community speaks 18 languages, and over 150 students speak English as a second language.
- The school, through the leadership of its Peace Tree team, fulfills its calling to serve others by nurturing its connections to local and global communities. It also generously supports a number of organizations, including Free the Children, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Canadian Red Cross and the David Suzuki Foundation.
- St. Dominic Savio places great value on the cornerstones of school, home and church. The school administration feels blessed to have a caring, talented staff, an active and supportive school council and the St. Mark Catholic Parish to support its students.
- A large group of parents and community members run a Nutrition for Learning program, volunteer in one-on-one literacy intervention programs (such as Strong Start and All-Star Reading) and fundraise to purchase technology for learning.
St. Dominic Savio Catholic School, located since 1999 in a western subdivision of Kitchener, prides itself on being a welcoming, faith-filled and inclusive community where the diverse gifts of its 470 students are shared, respected and celebrated. The school staff believe that their efforts to develop a growth mindset, use responsive instruction to support diverse learning needs and styles, and provide timely descriptive feedback to students as part of the learning process have resulted in the steady improvement they have seen over the past four years in the percentages of all Grade 6 students, particularly those with special education needs, successful on the EQAO assessments. Over 20% of the school’s junior-division students receive special education support. In 2014, 33% of Grade 6 students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) were meeting or exceeding the provincial standard in reading, and none were meeting or exceeding the writing standard; in 2017, the percentages for both reading and writing had risen to 73%.
“From teachers [to] support staff [to] parents to community volunteers, every person that walks through the door of the school is there to support and care for the students along their learning journey. In particular, students with IEPs are incorporated into all areas, and their programs [are] designed to fit their needs while maintaining the dignity of the child. My goal, and the goal of the school, is to have students believe in themselves and in their own abilities. Students feel like they have a variety of skills to build upon, and they are willing to try new things because they believe they can.”— Catherine Herzog, Teacher
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
How have the results improved?
Staff members at St. Dominic Savio find that their examination of the Grades 3 and 6 results through Web-based EQAO reporting tools, alongside evidence from classroom assessments and information from their system-level data portal, allows them to focus on individual students and their specific learning needs. This focus facilitates the development of deliberate interventions that can be assessed and monitored throughout the year. By comparing the school’s EQAO results with board and provincial results and analyzing the Item Information Reports, staff members identify their students’ relative strengths and gaps, which helps inform teachers’ instruction and the selection of strategies and activities for the school improvement plan. St. Dominic Savio staff also use the reading, writing and mathematics Item Information Reports to determine their school focus (problem of practice) each year; they identify targets in these subject areas using cohort analysis, three- to five-year trends and subgroup data (e.g., gender, students with special needs and English language learners). The staff cross-references EQAO results with information from classroom assessments and the data portal to track all students, discover strengths and learning gaps, systematically monitor achievement over time and determine the success of strategies from the school improvement plan that have been implemented in classrooms. For example, the school’s EQAO attitudes and behaviour data concerning student engagement in reading and writing has validated the school’s growth-mindset approach to learning and helped it tweak its plan.
“It is amazing to be witness to authentic learning. When we create an IEP and put the success plan into place, we give opportunities for growth. Every achievement, small or otherwise, lifts the child and the classroom. It’s transformative!.”— Anne Coelho, Teacher
What initiatives have contributed to this improvement?
Using Assistive Technology to Promote Learning
St. Dominic Savio staff attribute their success to the committed and systematic use of Read&Write for Google Chrome to promote deeper learning for students with IEPs, an initiative supported by two half-day training sessions that the Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) provides to students, classroom and special education teachers, support staff and parents. The school’s special education team, working with principal Patrick Runstedler, offers additional training on Read&Write during staff meetings and PD days, and it reinforces this learning through follow-up classroom visits to help teachers train their students. The use of Read&Write has had two main benefits: it enables students with IEPs to be increasingly more independent and show their learning in varied ways, and it allows teachers to be more purposeful in their instruction as they embrace co-learning with students.
Meeting in Teams to Assist Students with IEPs
Twice a year the special education and administrative teams meet formally with each classroom teacher to assist in working with students requiring additional support, monitor the progress of students with IEPs, discuss new referrals, develop intervention strategies in a timely fashion and celebrate student success. At each meeting the team (1) reviews the academic, behavioural, social and emotional needs of each student by examining samples of student work and the WCDSB’s Balanced Literacy Assessment Measures tracking sheets and (2) discusses teaching strategies, interventions and possible accommodations, including technology. Upon completion of these meetings, staff are confident that students with identified needs or learning gaps in literacy will participate in some form of focused intervention outside the classroom, in addition to the differentiated program they are already receiving in the classroom.
Monitoring Student Progress
The introduction of the WCDSB’s new Web-based data portal, Encompass, has allowed for timelier, more precise programming and monitoring of student learning. Through Encompass, teachers are able to analyze various data (including EQAO results and information from report cards and classroom assessments), identify the specific learning needs of students and determine classroom interventions that can be implemented and monitored. At the beginning of the year, teachers upload assessment-for-learning artifacts that reflect each student’s strengths, needs and interventions. They add new evidence and anecdotal comments and review interventions periodically throughout the year to create a timeline of growth and learning for each student. As students add to the portal examples of work that they feel best reflects their achievement, their self-reflection on their skills and strengths plays an integral role in monitoring progress. The school staff believe that Encompass allows them to collaborate with each other; look at data from multiple sources to ensure targets are thoughtful; share artifacts, effective strategies and interventions, and next steps; and showcase evidence of growth with ease.
“By instilling and fostering hope in our school setting, we believe that it has a positive outcome on a student’s perception of competence and self-worth, thus enabling them to open up pathways of learning, growth and positive well-being.”
“We are a vibrant faith community that takes pride in developing passion, patience and perseverance in our children. We believe that every student is a gem that has the capability of illuminating the world in their own special way. As a staff, we work tirelessly to create a community filled with laughter and hope to create opportunities for the children entrusted in our care. Students are encouraged to share their gifts, celebrate their uniqueness and be the best they can be as we develop the whole child (mind, body and spirit) through a commitment to high expectations and collaboration. “— Patrick Runstedler – Principal
How we analyze the data
Staff at St. Dominic Savio
- Examine EQAO results and evidence from classroom assessments to focus on individual students and their specific learning needs
- Determine their school focus each year by using a variety of data, including Item Information Reports
- Identify their students’ relative strengths and gaps by comparing the school’s EQAO results with board and provincial results
- Review EQAO results alongside information from classroom assessments to determine whether strategies from the school improvement plan have been successful in classrooms
- Identify goals in these subject areas using cohort analysis, threeto five-year trends and student group
How we put the data into action
- Meet in teams to assist students with IEPs
- Use assistive technology to promote learning
- Monitor student progress
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