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schools StTeresa StTeresa 6673124E-A020-4D59-97C6-3F12C4794239 5704
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Toronto Catholic District School Board

Academics
Lighthouse   
answer the question

St Teresa School has been recognized by the Ontario Ministry of Education and Training's "Schools On The Move" initiative as a Lighthouse School.
 
 
"Many Ontario schools have developed effective practices to help improve student achievement. The Schools on the Move initiative celebrates schools that are making significant and sustained progress in student achievement, and connects them with other schools that have similar backgrounds and challenges. The goal is for schools to share effective strategies and learn from one another.
 
Schools on the Move began in 2006 with 23 schools from across the province. New schools have joined every year and as of June 2009 there are over 140 schools in the network.
 
Student Achievement Officers from the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat work collaboratively with school boards. Together, they select schools that have used data and evidence to significantly improve student achievement over three years."
 
 
About The School
 
St. Teresa Catholic School is a small Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8 school located in southwest Toronto. It is home to a multicultural student body of approximately 200 students and a diverse staff working to involve parents and community in meaningful ways. Families in this community benefit from extra support and practical strategies offered by teachers. Students are motivated by a variety of extracurricular activities, with lots of support for social and emotional needs. The school prides itself on a family feeling and “we can do it” attitude. The launch of a full-day Senior Kindergarten program four years ago is credited, in part, for the ongoing growth in student achievement. The entire school community has planted boxes of flowers in the tiny schoolyard to establish an inviting urban environment.
 
Approach and philosophy
 
A learning school in a learning board.
 
The family of school’s superintendent has organized schools into hubs with a specific focus and opportunities for sharing sound pedagogical practices. Teachers and principals find that working with a common focus within a professional dialogue has had a profound effect on their excitement level, their work as professionals and, in turn, on student learning. St. Teresa hosts the hub and credits this learning environment with helping them sustain the momentum in student achievement.
 
A focus on teaching and learning: Teachers make a difference.
 
The principal credits human resources as the key to school success. The junior literacy intervention teacher, for instance, works with other teachers, modelling lessons and attending cross-divisional meetings. Learning is reciprocal; teachers work and learn with and from each other. Teacher moderation has served as a vehicle to bring staff to a common understanding. The principal is the lead learner and works with the team to deepen his knowledge.
 
Monitoring student learning and setting direction: Timely Interventions.
 
Data inform all decisions about classroom instruction and teachers monitor student progress carefully. Teachers are flexible in their approach and start with the needs of the children. The team uses the board’s Data Information Platform and their own classroom assessment for learning to create a complete picture of every child. Staff members believe timely interventions are important and through the use of targeted support, specific groups
of students have made substantial gains.

High-yield strategies
 
A progressive discipline model is part of the school culture. This approach develops leadership in students by promoting accountability, independence and engagement in the school community. As students work independently, in pairs and in small groups, some of the high-yield strategies that support learning are:
Cross-curricular integration.
 
Starting with links in math and writing, teachers have moved to using writing across curriculum areas. In all learning, accountable talk plays a vital role. By threading topics across curriculum areas, learning becomes relevant and meaningful in the day-to-day lives of children. Lengthy learning blocks enable students to engage in inquiry and practise skills across curriculum areas.
 
Graphic organizers.
 
Graphic organizers are used in all grades to help students activate prior knowledge, organize their thinking and create charts for further learning. After children have the opportunity to practise using organizers, they are given choice in the use of which organizer best meets their needs.
 
Building skills for higher-order thinking.
 
Teachers use a consistent mnemonic device to support students in extending their thinking and to help them better frame their answers. They also use a think-aloud strategy to model the higher-order thinking process for students. The children’s growing ability to provide in-depth answers is evident both orally and in their writing.

Success after struggle …
 
Starting with “making connections.”
 
Staff wanted all students to be able to use reading strategies in an integrated manner. Working as a team, teachers deepened their own understanding of the use of reading strategies and developed an initial focus. Across divisions, they began with “making connections.” As staff developed common vocabulary and a coordinated approach, they noticed that students began to experience more success. In particular, the opportunity for daily practice resulted in definite learning gains for students having difficulty. Anchor charts, developed and displayed throughout the school, are used on a daily basis by students as they read.
 
Linking learning to life.
 
St. Teresa, a school with diverse learners from many different backgrounds, has worked to engage everyone in learning. Concrete materials and hands-on learning have helped students make connections
to curriculum expectations (for example, teachers have the children bring in live insects rather than pictures to science class). Teachers work continuously to find a variety of rich texts in which children can see themselves and link new learning to their own lives.
 
Performance on provincial assessments has shown remarkable improvement. In 2004–05, performance was below the provincial standard in all assessment areas. Two years later, mathematics scores in Grades 3 and 6 put the school well above the provincial standard, with writing scores closing in on the standard in both grades. Grade 6 reading scores indicate an amazing 93 per cent of students reaching the standard, up from 59 per cent two years earlier. While scores in Grade 3 reading are not yet at the level of other areas, nearly twice as many students reached the provincial standard in 2006–07 as had two years earlier.
 
What we would like to learn with and from others …
- how others are motivating and engaging children from a variety of backgrounds
- how to focus precisely on literacy instruction for students experiencing challenges
- practical ways to differentiate instruction for students experiencing challenges
- more effective practices in mathematics
 
Networking for learning …
 
School staff members credit much of their academic success to the following learning opportunities made available through networking and partnering within the Toronto Catholic District School Board:
- participation in hub meetings that enable connections with other staffs with a common focus
- links and communications between all schools in the area
- partnership with board personnel who help meet the needs of children in challenging circumstances

Moving Into The Future
 
- continue to provide professional dialogue through hub learning communities
- implement SMARTBoards and related software in all divisions
- strengthen our EQAO scores through target setting and the use of assistive technology
- create a central numeracy room to facilitate consistent use of resources to inform teaching practices and differentiated instruction
- continue developing and implementing the Teaching-Learning Critical
Pathway within the school, based on evidence provided through the Data Integration Platform and ongoing student self-assessment
 
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