Meeting Notes - April 7, 2015

Tonight marked the second of our Standing Committee meetings: the Education, and Operations and Finance Committees.

Trustee McKinley and I led the Education Committee in our Board-elected roles as Chair and Vice Chair, respectively.

Superintendent Dr. Clara Howitt presented data on EQAO (grade 3 and 6, grade 9 Math, and the OSSLT) and indicated where we are with the 2014/15 Board Improvement Plan for Student Achievement (BIPSA). The information showed:

  • We put in a concerted effort and have experienced sizeable increases in Literacy achievement in the last 10 years.
  • In the same time period, we have experienced notable decreases in Math in grade 3 and grade 6. Grade 9 Academic Math is strong, however, Grade 9 Applied Math performance needs improvements – although we consistently perform above the province.
  • New effort has been made in the past 3 years to improve our Math performance, including focusing on a Growth Mind Set.
  • The Board has aggressive targets for the next couple of years. 

It’s important to have measurable targets and goals. However, we have not been able to turn around the trend in the grade 3 and 6 Math scores, and in spite of our increased efforts in the last three years it still hasn't happened. I indicated during my campaign in the fall that I place great importance on education quality and I value our performance on the EQAO in that. I said that I would do what I can to make a difference.

In the interest of having a clear mandate to focus on improving Math achievement, I made a Notice of Motion last night that the Board establish a Math Task Force. Here is my full (somewhat paraphrased) statement:

“I want to acknowledge that I see a lot of positives and some very good action happening around improving Math EQAO scores. I saw it in Superintendent Howitt’s presentation tonight and I had the opportunity to visit two schools last week to see first-hand the amazing work that some schools have been able to put into Math.

What I’d like to see is a comprehensive multi-year plan about how we’re going to reach the aggressive targets presented tonight, with outreach and involving all stakeholders to tie all of the work together, identify any gaps, anything we’re missing, to ensure success for our students.

I’m bringing Notice of the following Motion:

That the Board convene a Math Task Force to formalize a plan and a process to address improvement in Math performance.

I’ve been researching EQAO and I found that another school board had a Task Force that just completed a report with 28 recommendations to improve Math scores. I’ll be sharing it with all of you so you have a sense of what I’m talking about. 

I think it’s important that we do this in order to formalize the work being done and to acknowledge the priority that it is.”

I believe that as the EQAO is the most comprehensive measure of the quality of education in Ontario that we have right now, it’s important for our Board to turn around the long-term downward trend in grade 3 and grade 6 Math performance. We need a concerted effort to turn over all the rocks, identify what’s working and not working, and close the gaps. It concerns me that we can’t say “when” it’ll happen.

Some might say this is an impossible feat, citing our community's unique challenges. Well, I believe it is possible. The gains made in literacy at GECDSB over the last 10 years are something to celebrate – and if we can do it with literacy, we can do it with math. In fact, some of our schools have been highlighted by EQAO for improving performance. If we think we can’t improve our board-wide scores, then we’ve already failed.

My Motion will be brought to debate on May 5.

The next board meeting is April 21. Before then, trustees will be participating in strategic planning sessions and discussing priorities for the next four years. Please send me your input and ideas!

Jessica

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Jessica Sartori