Meeting Notes - November 3, 2015

The Education Committee and Operations and Finance Committee had their public meetings tonight, beginning with Education.

Trustees were provided a presentation about the New Teacher Induction Program. The goal of this year-long program is to position new teachers for success by providing comprehensive orientation including a new teacher handbook, further professional development opportunities, and mentorship by experienced teachers. These components help promote effective teaching, learning, and assessment practices in order to ensure efficacy and confidence, and promote lifelong learning. New teachers also have two performance appraisals from their principals which helps them know where to focus. The program is very successful and we learned that the attrition rate for new teachers with our board is less than 1% which is lower than the provincial average. I have asked for the comparable provincial statistic to be brought forward at a future meeting. Here is some additional information about the program. 

Next, Superintendent Vicky Houston presented the Board’s EQAO scores for literacy and math. Due to the labour action, testing did not occur in grades 3 and 6, and the Board only has 2014/15 scores for grade 9 (math) and 10 (literacy). This is unfortunate because these scores help us know how we are doing at the Board level so we can understand system achievements and challenges. They also help schools and teachers understand how individual students are doing so they can support challenge areas. We also know that early learning predicts later learning and achievement, therefore missing scores for grades 3 and 6 means we have to find ways of helping these students without this information.

Scores on the grade 9 math EQAO assessment dropped by one point each in both applied and academic to 54% and 84%, respectively. Normally a one point decline would not be too concerning, but the board has been directing extra attention to math for a few years. I think this points to the importance of the Math Task Force. One piece of information that helps us start to understand what is going on is that in the academic math stream, 74% of students met the provincial standard in both grade 6 and grade 9 where as 19% of students in the applied stream met the provincial standard at both times. Clearly, the time between grade 6 and grade 9 is critical, particularly for those students who are already struggling. We also saw that boys outperformed girls by 7% in the applied stream, but there was only a 3% gap in the academic stream. There is also attitudinal and behavioural information collected from students taking the EQAO about homework completion, enjoyment of math, and so on. We know that girls like math less than boys do, and that neither applied group is particularly fond of it. This also helps the Board focus on specific areas.

We see the same pattern on the grade 10 OSSLT, which students must pass in order to graduate. Overall, the Board achieves 80%, but there is a very large gap between students in applied (52%) and students in academic (94%). It is clear that our applied students need our attention in both math and literacy. We do have student success programs in order to help students pass the OSSLT on further attempts.

Finally, Superintendent Dr. Clara Howitt provided a brief update on the Math Task Force. Unfortunately, teachers have not been able to participate due to the labour action. Teachers are a very important piece of the puzzle and we need their input from the ground up. We have extended the deadline of the final report to April rather than February.

At the Operations and Finance Committee, Superintendent Cathy Lynd introduced a request for a new permanent staff position. Administration is requesting a Board Planner which would “be able to lead community and municipal consultation processes related to partnerships, boundary reviews, and school accommodation reviews.” The new PARC guidelines require a considerable amount of consultation and administration is requesting a full-time position to be able work on these processes consistently. Throughout the recent PARC involving several schools I stressed the importance of working with municipal partners as much as possible. Many meetings and telephone conversations did occur, but I do think the presence of a dedicated position going forward shows the community as a whole that the Board believes these relationships are important. A costing was not provided, however, and trustees have asked for more information before making a decision.

The standing committees next meet in February, however, there is one more public board meeting on November 17 under the current configuration. New positions will be determined on December 1 when we elect our Board Chair, Vice Chair, and various other positions including Chair and Vice Chair of Education. I plan to stand for Education Vice Chair once again, so wish me luck! Before then, I will be attending the Remembrance Day ceremony at Southwood Public School to remember those who sacrificed their lives so that we could have freedom and our beautiful country could be what it is today. We are very proud that one of our own students, a senior at Vincent Massey Secondary School, Ines Fielder, won the Legion’s National Poetry Contest. Her poem, along with more beautiful poetry and visual art, is found here.

Jessica

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Jessica Sartori