Improving fundamental math skills
March Mathness: In March 2019, more than 250 Limestone elementary teachers participated in “March Mathness” professional development sessions. Over one week in March, 12 sessions were offered on topics such as fractions, number talks, understanding early numeracy development and thinking routines in hopes of reaching teachers who hadn’t had the opportunity to participate previously. The sessions were selected based on teacher feedback on what specific learning would help them in their school.
Vertical Surfaces: Working with British Columbia mathematics professor Peter Liljedahl, secondary math teachers received learning on what is called “Thinking Classrooms.” This approach supports students to become resilient problem solvers by assembling students in random groups to work together on a problem using vertical non-permanent surfaces (white or black boards, chart paper, windows etc.). By getting students moving and thinking at the beginning of a class, instead of focused on a teacher/textbook lesson, teachers can see where students are struggling and allows them to better tailor teaching and learning to support student success.
Count on Me: The Count on Me math and robotics summer program provides targeted intervention for students in Grades 3 to 5 related to proportional reasoning and mental math strategies. The locations of the program were chosen to help students with significant achievement gaps, and who would not otherwise have the opportunity to attend a summer camp. Over the three weeks of the program, 85% of students experienced growth.
Pathways Planning and Supports
DELF: The Diplôme d’études en langue française, or DELF, is a life-long certification of French proficiency and is based on the international standard used in 164 countries (the CEFR). For the first time, students in Limestone were offered the opportunity to be evaluated on their oral and written expression and comprehension in pursuit of DELF, which is an official document that is recognized internationally and enriches the candidates’ school or professional portfolio. Twenty-two Grade 12 students participated in the review.
Women in Trades: Students in Limestone have an opportunity to participate in our Dual Credit program which allows them to earn high school credits while studying at a local college or taking apprenticeship training; gain experience that will help them with their post-secondary education or apprenticeship; and get a head start on learning and training for their future careers. Recently, Limestone has expanded this program to include a Women in the Trades component featuring opportunities in the skilled trades such as carpentry, millwright, electrical, welding, masonry and plumbing. The program has been highly successful in engaging female students in the trades, and allowing previously struggling students to finish high school and, in many cases, continue with post-secondary studies. In addition, the Board hosted its second annual Women in the Trades event in partnership with St. Lawrence College where female students in Grades 7-12 had the opportunity to meet with female trades people and learn about the various career pathways.
Equitable Schools and Classrooms
Exposure to Indigenous Voices: During the 2017-2018 school year Limestone began preparations to offer the Grade 11 English Course (NBE): Understanding Contemporary First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Voices as part of the Board’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action (2015). As of September 2019, all secondary schools and alternative centres will only offer the NBE course to fulfill the Grade 11 English credit requirement. Feedback from students, staff, and community members has been positive, and this work is an important step in ensuring education supports the Reconciliation process.
Autism After School Skills Program: Limestone, in collaboration with Algonquin Lakeshore Catholic District School Board and Maltby Centre were one of 22 school boards provided funding to support After School Skills Development (ASSD) programs to enhance skills in students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The After School Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) Program offers free autism skills groups to children/youth between the ages of 3 to 21 who are diagnosed with ASD. The groups focus on teaching a variety of skills including social, communication, behaviour/emotional regulation, social/interpersonal, school/group readiness and activities of daily living. All curriculum goals and new skills are taught using the principles of ABA. Progress is monitored through data collection, direct observation and family completion of a pre and post assessment. An analysis of this data suggests 87% of participants have shown an increase in their skills while 12% of participants remained stable throughout the program. The success of this partnership pilot serves as a model for the province. The Ministry of Education has extended funding for all school boards to offer this program for the 2019-2020 school year.
Gender Sexuality and Diversity Conference: This full-day conference in the spring of 2019 included workshops, speakers, activities and resources designed specifically to empower gender diverse Grade 9 to 12 students and their allies to build more inclusive, accepting, and compassionate school cultures. The conference, however, involved more than skill-building on an individual level. It focused on creating sustainable, vibrant, safe and caring school communities that promote respect for human diversity, equity and inclusion.
Culturally Relevant & Responsive Pedagogy: J.G. Simcoe Public School continues to participate in a Culturally Responsive and Relevant Pedagogy (CRRP) Project to identify how learning can be made more relevant for students. Staff participated in various professional development days, staff meetings and CRRP training. The work has been multifaceted: performing classroom audits of the learning environment to create a physical space that is more responsive to learner needs; collecting student voice that explored insights and attitudes towards learning; collecting parent voice and their perceptions and insights for learning for their children; visiting other school sites to glean and share ideas; and completing curriculum and instructional planning. Early observations from the project demonstrate more positive engagement by students in their learning. This work will continue.
Data Driven Responsiveness Project: Two Limestone elementary schools and a secondary school came together to reflect on their school data journey and culture to help inform system processes and practices. The school data teams include a variety of roles including principal, vice-principal, educator, educational assistant, office manager, adolescent care worker, and student success teacher. They were provided time as a team to dig deeper into their school-based data, and in collecting student and staff voice, to create a plan for improving student achievement, well-being and equity. All data teams engaged in collecting student and staff voice. Teams presented a final product to their students, staff and families.