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: 675
Principal: Alma Provenzano (Letizia Tremonti, Retired December 31, 2017)
- The school is made up of a diverse group of learners, 13% of whom self-identify as Indigenous.
- There is dedicated parental support both for the classroom and during school initiatives and events; at least 800 families attend the annual family picnic and after-school winter carnaval.
- Community service delivers non-perishable food items for students who do not have enough to eat.
- The Success by Seven intervention program and the Empowered Reading Program support students.
“Working collaboratively (at staff meetings, with grade partners, with special education teachers, with the principal and with community organizations) allows us to understand the whole child, what has worked in the past and where we need to go in the future. Digging deeper into the data, together with our professional judgement, gives each struggling student the best possible plan for next steps.”— Christine Traer, Teacher
St. Martin is a dual-track school that serves 675 students in Thunder Bay. The first St. Martin School (opened in 1910) was one of the oldest in the board and had strong tradition and a history of excellence. The new St. Martin School, built in 1998, is just down the street from where the old building stood. It is the newest school of the Thunder Bay Catholic School Board. The St. Martin Mustangs always bring energy, passion and enthusiasm to everything they do.
“Students who are flagged by classroom teachers as being poor decoders are screened. In a small group setting, the students are instructed in the Empower Reading strategies, to develop their decoding skills. Their goal is to be able to read at the same level as their classmates. The instruction is provided for both English students and French Immersion students (teaching them to read in English). The Empower Reading program has helped many struggling readers be successful.”— Adriana Filice, 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
“It’s easy to be disheartened by a lack of progress or low scores, but nothing dispels discouragement like a group of committed, hardworking individuals all moving in the same direction, with a common goal, knowing that their efforts will make a difference in the lives of the students in their care. It’s the celebration of the little things that inevitably amounts to some really big things happening. And if you want to do it right, it has to be done carefully and deliberately, with loads of patience and many course corrections. In the end, it is the students who have everything to gain from even the smallest actions. St. Martin staff believe that everything they do on a daily basis, no matter how small, truly matters. Holding on to that belief is the power of hope.”— Letizia Tremonti, Retired Principal
How have the results improved?
EQAO data are woven into professional development and conversations throughout the year at St. Martin. All staff are involved in the analysis and interpretation of EQAO’s academic, behavioral and attitudinal data, and these data are used in conjunction with those from diagnostic classroom assessments and surveys. Specifically, EQAO attitudinal data (e.g., about responses to the statements “I like to read” and “I am a good reader”) are used to identify IEP students’ engagement and belief in their learning abilities. Having this information allows staff to build the students’ confidence. The EQAO reporting tools allow staff to look at subsets of students (e.g., those with IEPs) and to examine trends and patterns over time in their data.
“The iPad helps me with all my reading assignments and tests, because I can take a picture of my work and it reads it for me. It helps me with spelling words. Teachers have helped me with figuring out strategies out like helping me reread the questions and sounding words out.”
“The school gave me a laptop that helps me and the teachers be able to read my writing. EMPOWER Reading taught me how to sound out words and help me read. Sometimes my teachers help me read the questions on my math tests (or any work at all), and this helps me to understand the questions and then I do an awesome job!”
“I get to use my laptop for assignments. I type my answers and use Google Docs, and it’s easy to share my work with my teacher and I can work on it at home too. My teachers are very useful and help me with reading and writing. When I was in Grade 2, I did Success by Seven and it helped me learn to sound out words. In Grade 3 and 4, I did Empower Reading and it helped me learn strategies so I can read books and novels.”— Students
What initiatives have contributed to this improvement?
Working as a Team
At St. Martin’s, special education teachers move with the cohort they are teaching from year to year, allowing a deep relationship to form between student and teacher, as well as a deep understanding of the student’s academic abilities and learning styles. There is minimal withdrawal of special education students; instead, students are monitored closely in group settings in the classroom. The special education teacher and the classroom teacher both have extensive knowledge about the students’ IEPs and fully understand the strengths and areas of improvement for each student. Working together as a team, they are able to use targeted, precise and individualized interventions.
Tutors in the Classroom
Every spring, Lakehead University teacher candidates apply to become tutors in the classroom to support small groups and individual students. Teachers and tutors work as a team to support students as they develop their academic skills, technology skills and self-confidence. The tutors develop a trusting and comfortable relationship with the students, which benefits all students during the assessment period.
Use of Data
Held early in the school year, EQAO data talks are the springboard for conversations about student achievement. Every teacher is provided a copy of EQAO’s provincial report, Item Information Reports and the June (Term 2) report card data for math and language. Staff disaggregate and review the data to set focused goals for the year, which are embedded in the school improvement plan. Each teacher focuses on a different EQAO question to gain an understanding of the gaps and misunderstandings students may be experiencing, and of what strategies could be implemented in the classroom to support student learning. EQAO data are an important part of the bigger data picture, which remains front and centre throughout the school year and which is viewed as meaningful and relevant.
“It’s the celebration of the little things that inevitably amounts to some really big things happening. And if you want to do it right, it has to be done carefully and deliberately, with loads of patience and many course corrections. In the end, it is the students who have everything to gain from even the smallest actions”— Principal: Alma Provenzano
How we analyze the data
Staff at St. Martin
- Analyze and interpret EQAO’s academic, behavioral and attitudinal data in relation to those from diagnostic classroom assessments
- Identify students’ engagement and belief in their learning abilities
- Use EQAO reporting tools to look at student group data and examine trends and patterns over time
How we put the data into action
- Work in teams to assist students on IEPs
- Bring tutors in the classroom
- Start conversations about student achievement
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