St. Francis Xavier High School

Map of Ontario displaying the City of Gloucester

2018 School Recipient of the Dr. Bette M. Stephenson Recognition of Achievement

Data and Schools: A Journey of Learning

Student population: 1818; Grades: 7–12

  • St. Francis Xavier is a large suburban high school with a diverse student population. The school will become a centre for English as a second language programming in September 2019.
  • The St. Francis Xavier High School catchment area includes Riverside South, Finley Creek and South Hunt Club.

“Basing assessment questions on past EQAO questions both increases confidence in the assessment and reduces students’ anxiety as they approach EQAO at the end of the semester.”

— Grade 9 Teacher

“[I] enjoyed working from the whiteboards (vertical). It helped to get out of the seat and move around, and [I] enjoyed working with other students like that.”

— Grade 10 Student


  1. Goal Setting: At the beginning of the school year, a numeracy goal is created for the school improvement plan. The goal is based on both EQAO success rates and pass rates for math courses.
  2. Pathway Selection: Parents attend information sessions and are invited to discuss course selection with teachers as part of the high school transition plan. Teacher suggestions about Grade 9 course selection are based on anecdotal and achievement data from Grade 8.
  3. Available Support: Although this is a Grades 7–12 school, many students arrive in Grade 9. All Grade 9 students are given diagnostic assessments. Students encountering difficulties are invited to attend after-school numeracy sessions for extra help.
  4. Building Confidence: The after-school program focuses on students who are grasping ideas but need help with computations or calculations. The curriculum content is a blend of the Grade 9 academic and applied programs. The after-school program’s effectiveness is evaluated based on students’ confidence in the regular classroom and their marks from both mid-term and final reports.


Distributed Learning (Spiralling)

When examining EQAO achievement data, math teachers noticed that students often performed better on topics covered later in the course. Students were not retaining the information taught on certain topics and consequently left questions blank on the EQAO assessment. By spiralling the curriculum, teachers could cover topics more broadly and authentically throughout the semester.

As a result, student engagement and enthusiasm increased, and by the end of the course, most students understood the essential learning goals very well. Students were also more confident when attempting rich tasks. Furthermore, there were improvements in the results from the EQAO assessment and in the overall marks from term and final assessments.

Vertical Non-Permanent Learning Surfaces

Based on Peter Liljedahl’s method, students are randomly grouped and assigned tasks on vertical surfaces such as whiteboards or blackboards. This allows teachers to easily monitor student thinking. It also allows the groups of students to learn from each other’s approaches to a problem. The ongoing use of vertical non-permanent surfaces encourages students to take risks and develop confidence as they learn through trial and error. Students also get opportunities to work with more of their classmates due to the random groupings. This has the secondary benefit of helping students develop social and leadership skills.

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