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Reports
Secondary Program and Review Conversations (SPARC)



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Secondary
Program
And
Review
Conversations







SPARC the Imagination!



Final Report
and
Recommendations


December 6, 2005


SPARC the Imagination!

On April 30, 2005, Bluewater District School Board engaged the public in a conversation about how to best serve our future students. Secondary schools, as we understand them now, are the products of the political and economic thinking of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Much has changed. Parents, students, staff and community leaders gathered at Chesley District High School to collectively re-examine:

How and why students learn?
What is our definition of success for our children?
What makes a successful school?

Approximately 123 participants engaged in conversations about the future of secondary education and learning. They looked beyond school buildings to a community vision for education. The SPARC forum represented the beginning of a journey to capture the spirit of this new vision, in support of our students and communities.

The program for the day began with Barry O’Connor, a leading expert and inspirational speaker on Student Success. Barry O’Connor challenged the participants to go beyond their own experiences in school and see the needs of students into the future.  He discussed the characteristics and learning needs of students with regard to pathways and transition from school to work.  He shared statistics about destinations for students, such as workplace, college/university and school leavers.  He appealed to the participants to stretch their imaginations and not be bound by traditional barriers.  The keynote was followed by round table discussions involving local representatives of parents, students, community leaders, and educators. All participants were invited to share their ideas and comments.


Guiding Principles of SPARC
To keep our children’s education as the first priority
To support success for all students
To seek the community’s vision for the education of our children

The input into this consultation process and the subsequent themes that emerged will move Bluewater District School Board forward with defining secondary programming now and into the future. It will inform our dialogue during the secondary accommodation review process scheduled for the 2005-2006 school year.


Advisory Committee


Charlie Bell, System Lead Teacher
Ron DeVisser, Parent/Community
Blair Hilts, Principal, Grey Highlands Secondary School
and Chair
Joy Johnson, Principal, Chesley District High School
Alana Murray, Superintendent of Secondary Education
John Rodgers, Teacher, Bruce Peninsula District School
Jean Stephenson, Student Success Leader (current)
Sandra Stevenson, Event Coordinator and retired principal
Chris Thomson, OSSTF President TBU
Lori Wilder, Student Success Leader (former)


The committee members were responsible for the development of the guiding questions, website and support materials, and the organization of the SPARC Forum on April 30, 2005.  They were also responsible for the correlation of the input from the consultation process and the completion of the subsequent reports to the Trustees in June and December 2005.  


Participants
The following is a breakdown of the 123 participants that engaged in the SPARC forum:


Parents/Community/Business
50.5%
Students
6.5%
Staff
35%
Senior Administration (SAT, Trustees, Ministry of Education)
8%
                                                        

Consultation Process
“To prepare our children for their futures is especially challenging, because for the first time in history we cannot clearly describe the future for which we are preparing our children.” David Warlick

The participants were asked to take some time to reflect on the Conversation Guide questions prior to the forum. The questions included:
•       What basic and specialty skills do you want to see our secondary school graduates develop?
•       What is your definition of success for our students?
•       What role should technology and access to technology play in Bluewater high schools?
•       What approaches would aid in ensuring a higher percentage of students’ graduate?  
•       How do we balance the desire for local schools in our communities with the desire to give our children exposure to the areas of study that interest and engage them?
•       What is your vision for secondary education in Bluewater schools?
•       Please comment on any additional considerations – e.g. transportation, boundaries, alternate scheduling (full year, semester, year round, multi-track, distance learning).

Websitewww.sparcs.ca
A website was developed to share information and research on secondary schools and facilitate an electronic dialogue about the future of secondary school education in Bluewater.  Participants could register on-line for the forum and complete the Conversation Guide as well.  Please visit the website: www.sparcs.ca for updates.


Effective Schools Research – Secondary Schools

Effective Schools Research
Excerpts from:

Schools That Make a Difference:  Final Report
Twelve Canadian Secondary Schools in Low-Income Settings

By Norman Henchey with Muriel Dunnigan, Alex Gardner, Claude Lessard
Neal Muhtadi, Helen Raham, and Claudio Violato
November 2001
SAEE Research Series #6-D
SOCIETY FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION
ISBN 0-9685144-9-9

BACKGROUND
In 1999, the Society for the Advancement of Excellence in Education (SAEE), with funding from the Max Bell Foundation, commissioned a Canadian study to compare high and low-achieving secondary schools serving students in low socio-economic status (SES) areas. The purpose was to identify any differences in their practices and characteristics. In this report, the expression “low income” is generally used instead “low socio-economic” because it more accurately describes the communities studied.

Twelve secondary schools were selected in three Canadian provinces: Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia. The selection was based on total family income as a measure of SES and average marks in provincial school-leaving examinations as a measure of academic achievement. Researchers studied the schools during the school year 2000-2001 and prepared case studies for each school. This final report attempts to identify patterns across schools that seemed to contribute to student success.

It is hoped that the findings may provide guidance to Canadian educators and policy makers in developing and implementing practices that have a positive effect upon our at-risk student populations.


Executive Summary:
INTRODUCTION
This report is the analysis of a two-year study of twelve urban public schools in BC, Alberta and Quebec. The purpose of the study was to examine the inner workings of secondary schools in low-income settings that create high achievement for their students. The schools were selected on the basis of their achievement on provincial school-leaving examinations and their socio-economic status based on parental income and education. The sample included both high and low-achieving schools in order to identify the factors which appeared to contribute to or inhibit student success. The schools were very diverse, ranging in size from 540 to 2,000 students, and collectively they enrolled nearly 16,000 students. Using qualitative methods and a common framework, the research teams prepared case studies to illustrate performance-related practices within the schools. The case studies, contained in a separate volume, provide a rich portrait of each school.

FINDINGS
Each school was attempting to adapt to a rapidly changing, increasingly challenging environment.  Far from being static institutions, the schools were situated along a continuum of effectiveness and efforts to improve. They had many definitions of success and some were more effective in one dimension than another. The elements commonly associated with success were:
•       Positive attitudes and high expectations
•       Strong and vigilant administration
•       Focus on academic achievement and other indicators of success and student needs
•       Recognition of the need to be accountable for performance and to be innovative if the future of the school is to be assured
•       Regular analysis of results, and linkage of results to school planning and activities
•       Integrated planning and coordination of efforts to improve performance
•       Importance placed on good teaching and professional development
•       Sense of engagement and belonging among teachers and students and commitment to the basic mission and core values of the school
•       Respectful, secure school climate and warm relationships
•       Initiatives to motivate students and make learning relevant
•       Structured classroom instruction and “traditional” standards of behaviour
•       Assistance and support for both students and teachers
•       Variety and flexibility of structures, programs and services.
The practices in the successful schools in this Canadian sample generally affirm the principles of school effectiveness found in the body of international research literature.

OBSERVATIONS
The role of the secondary school is especially important for students from low-income environments. The case studies confirm schools can reduce social inequalities by stressing clear expectations and supportive structures and services. Their elements of their success are similar to those found in the research literature: a positive climate of order and security, active leadership, collaboration among teachers, supporting programs and services, high expectations for performance, behaviour and achievement for all students, warm personal relationships between educators and students and a wide range of learning opportunities and resources for all students. Schools appear to falter when one of these elements is missing or threatened.

A significant indicator of the efficacy of these schools is the degree to which they are able to motivate their students, adapt services and programs to attract new clientele, provide secure learning environments, link context and community, and create harmony amidst diversity. Educators in these schools seem to require special qualities, as many of their students come from homes on the margins of Canadian society. Educators must assume some parenting responsibilities, extend special efforts to reach these students both emotionally and intellectually, and be highly imaginative in the selection of content and teaching approaches. High expectations coupled with support and warm relationships are especially effective in schools serving at-risk populations. For these students, the school makes a significant difference.

IMPLICATIONS FOR POLICY AND PRACTICE
The report presents the following recommendations to policy makers and practitioners:
1.      Success for all students
Governments, school districts, teachers’ unions and school communities should commit to the goal of success for all students in obtaining a secondary education diploma or equivalent.

2.      Relevance of learning
Schools should make serious efforts to improve the relevance of learning and demonstrate this to all students, especially those from poor and marginalized backgrounds that may not value secondary education.

3.      Leadership in the institution
Principals should see their primary responsibility as fostering leadership beyond their office, in the teaching staff and students.

4.      Areas of excellence
Every school needs areas of excellence, sources of special pride and achievement that will revitalize other facets of the school.

5.      Balance of learning opportunities
Schools must offer a range of courses, programs, activities and services to provide at-risk students with a balance between challenge and ability, between academic and career programs, and between theory and practical experience.

6.      Integration of effort
In order to be successful and effective, schools must have unity of purpose combined with a unity of effort, linking knowledge, data, analysis, planning, expectations, results, processes, support, resources and implementation.

7.      Teachers as professionals
Schools need the freedom to analyze their needs, intelligently select and assign their teachers, establish professional development priorities, guarantee that teachers are available to students, and provide them with the support they need to do their job.

8.      Extensions beyond the school
Schools have the responsibility to extend themselves by providing expanded learning opportunities through information technology and involvement in the community.

ISSUES
Student Achievement
A major preoccupation of education systems is the quality of student learning – what they learn, how much they learn, how well they learn, how efficiently they learn, and how they are able to use their learning for further study, careers, and adult life. Achievement levels are often identified in terms of number of years of schooling, rate of dropping out prior to secondary school graduation, achievement in standardized tests, and rate of transition to post-secondary studies. In the knowledge society, the future quality of life for most people depends on the quality of their educational experiences and on their attitudes and skills of lifelong learning.

Challenge of Low-Income Environments
The learning achievement of a student is influenced by the socio-economic background of the learner, by such elements as family income, education of the parents, and family attitudes. As a generalization, schools with students from high-income homes tend to do better than schools with students from low-income homes. It is also true that family background need not be the major determinant of a young person’s success.

Role of the Secondary School
The secondary school plays a crucial role in the education system: it serves students during the often turbulent period of adolescence, it acts as a bridge between basic education and advanced studies, and it is involved in guiding students, and in some cases classifying them, in ways that have an important influence on their further educational and career chances. The role of the secondary school is especially important for students who come from low-income environments since the school may need to compensate for negative environmental influences outside the school, raise their expectations for their future, and provide services to students that may not be necessary in more affluent environments.

School Effectiveness
There is a large body of research and reflection on the meaning of a good school, the nature of school effectiveness, the features which distinguish a successful school from an unsuccessful one, and the factors which appear to lead to effectiveness and success. People often mean different things by the expressions good school, successful school, and effective school, yet the common objective is for all students to learn, to realize their potential and to prepare themselves for a fulfilling adult life.
Identifying successful schools involves three questions:
•       How good are the school’s goals and priorities according to some set of standards and criteria?
•       To what extent is the school achieving these goals?
•       Does the school foster high achievement and progress for all its students?

Measuring School Effectiveness and Success
There are two general approaches to studying schools, identifying success and analyzing the role of different factors which contribute to success. The first is sociological and quantitative and involves collecting data on achievement (usually relying on scores in standardized tests, attitude surveys, and statistical analysis) and studying the school as a complex institution of structures and functions. The second approach is anthropological (or ethnographic) and qualitative, and involves collecting insights from a variety of sources about multiple meanings of achievement and success and examining the school as a culture of expectations, norms, roles and relationships. Some studies attempt to use both approaches and one can complement the other.

Factors Affecting School Success
The important question for policy and practice is this: Are there some school practices which promote success and others which impede it? Why are some practices successful? Are some factors only successful when they work in combination with other factors? What is the relative importance of structures and organizational patterns? People and relationships? School climate or ethos and specific techniques and procedures? To what extent can policies and practices that appear successful in one school situation be transferred to other schools and other situations?

Literature Review
As part of this project, a literature review was prepared by Dr. Terry Wendel (Wendel, Terrence. (2000). Creating Equity and Quality: A Literature Review of School Effectiveness and School Improvement. Kelowna, BC. SAEE)

It surveyed the recent international research literature related to the effect of socio-economic status on student achievement, school effectiveness, and the links between school effectiveness and school improvement.

EFFECT OF SES ON STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT
It has long been recognized that there are a number of factors which affect student academic achievement. These include hereditary factors such as intelligence, home environment, parental attitudes, degree of wealth and poverty, health, cultural background, learning opportunities, school services and resources, and personal motivation and application. Which factors are most significant? Among different factors, how important is the school? Is there
a single answer to these questions or does the relative importance of schooling and home, for instance, depend on circumstances?

There have been three broad responses to the question: How important is the school? The first is the optimistic view that the school can make a major contribution, even a decisive one, to the academic achievement of students. This has been the ideology of the American public school, the general view of educators, and the assumption behind the development of policies related to schooling as investment in human resource development and the provision of publicly funded schooling to the entire population. This view sees the school as providing all young people with basic skills of literacy and numeracy, a broad general education necessary for citizenship, a set of values that will help them function in society, and a preparation for the world of work. Schools should provide all individuals with equality of social and economic opportunity as well as ensure the economic development of the society.

The second is a pessimistic view that the family background and social class of the student are more significant determinants of academic achievement than school. This view was presented in two influential American reports, James Coleman’s Equality of Educational Opportunity (1968) and Christopher Jencks’ Inequality (1972). These and other studies looking at the input and output
of schools suggested that the characteristics of entering students were the main factor in determining the level of academic achievement; other factors such as school policies and practices, resources and teacher characteristics were either secondary or irrelevant. This seemed to suggest that initiatives to promote greater social and economic equality in society would have to be directed outside the school in the broader social environment. Criticism of the assumptions and structure of these input-output studies of school drew attention to the nature and allocation of resources within a school and the estimation of family background influence. This led to further and more precise studies of school structures and procedures and the way students interact with school services and resources (Bossert, 1988).

A third approach to the question emerged in a body of research on school effectiveness which studied why some schools are more effective than others in promoting student achievement in a variety of areas. One of the first major studies using this approach was by Rutter and his associates in England in 1979. Rutter found significant differences among secondary schools in outcomes related to examinations, delinquency rates and school behaviour and that the overall climate of the school was an influential factor (Rutter, 1979). Subsequent research studies have attempted to separate family background from school effects and to concentrate on what an effective school looks like and on how at-risk students can be more effectively engaged by schools (Schonert-Reichl, 2000; Kovacs, 1998).

RECENT RESEARCH ON SCHOOL EFFECTIVENESS
In recent years there have been a variety of approaches to the study of school effectiveness. Some examples are:

OECD international indicators of education in three major areas: educational programs and processes, demographic and economic background; educational outcomes (Scheerens, 1995)
Case studies of exemplary Canadian secondary schools, sponsored by the Canadian Education Association and the Department of Human Resource Development looking at school success from an ethnographic perspective of school culture (Gaskell, 1995)
Sergiovanni’s distinction between school effectiveness (based largely on results in achievement tests) and school success (including broader but less tangible goals and processes) (Sergiovanni, 1995)
Lists of characteristics, qualities and factors related to effective schools, teaching and classroom activities, importance of the role of administrators, distinction between effective and ineffective schools, comprehensive models of effectiveness, and school ineffectiveness (Cawelti, 1994; Wimpleberg, Teddlie and Stringfield, 1989; Creemers, 1996; Levine and Lazotte, 1990)
Three views of school effects on achievement: (1) up to 50% of achievement based on school and classroom effects (Victorian Accountability Framework, 1998b); (2) 25% of variance coming from school factors (Kovacs, 1998); (3) 8%-14% coming from school factors (Stoll and Fink, 1996)
Value-added achievement based on longitudinal studies showing the major contribution of a school to student progress is the effectiveness of individual classroom teachers (Stoll and Fink, 1996; Sammons, Thomas and Mortimer (1997); Pipho, 1998)

These recent research studies underline a number of points:

1.
Stress on value-added concepts and equity of opportunity for all students;
2.
School failure not the mirror opposite of school success;
3.
Broader concepts of success, progress, context and district support;
4.
Importance of client knowledge and satisfaction;
5.
Need for schools to tackle those areas over which they have most control (e.g., culture, leadership, classroom practices);
6.
Importance of consistency in the quality of instruction and curriculum, grouping and teacher behaviour in relation to school mission;
7.
Accountability based on how much difference the school has made to its students; and
8.
Critical importance of teachers.

LINKING SCHOOL EFFECTIVENESS and SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT
Schools are not static institutions with a relatively permanent set of characteristics. They are dynamic institutions in constant change; they respond to changes in their communities and enrolment patterns; they react to the arrival of new personnel, administrators and teachers; they adapt to changing regulations and expectations from school districts and provincial departments of education; they react to crises and traumatic events; they cope with changing financial and human resources; and they evolve as their vision of their future shifts, dims, or comes more clearly into focus. School effectiveness or school success needs to be linked to efforts at school reform and school improvement.

The effectiveness literature offers four principles to guide improvement efforts:

1.
All students can learn under appropriate conditions.
2.
School effectiveness depends on the equitable distribution of learning outcomes across the whole student population (for example, higher order outcomes should not be restricted to select students).
3.
Effective schools take responsibility for students’ learning outcomes, rather than blaming students and their environments.
4.
The more consistent teaching and learning processes are within the school; the more effective it will be (Jacka, 1999).

Schools are not static institutions with a relatively permanent set of characteristics. They are dynamic institutions in constant change.

Examples of School Improvement: The State-Generated Approach
In Australia, the State of Victoria has focused on accountability as a method of improving school performance. It established an accountability framework which included school-based management, budget control, staff selection, identification of curricula and standards of achievement, and quality assurance through annual reports and three-year formal reviews. In short, schools were expected to manage for results.

Five broad indicators have been selected based on the effective schools literature: school leadership, instructional focus, orderly and safe climate, high expectations of achievement for all students, consistent and regular use of student achievement measures to measure program effectiveness.

Specific indicators have been developed in the key areas of curriculum, environment, accountability, management and resources (Victorian Department of Education (1998) Improving School Efficiency: Student and School Evaluation. p 15).
Among the list of initial results are:
1.      Shift in goals toward improved outcomes;
2.      Willingness to set higher expectations and specific targets;
3.      Monitoring and assessment more important;
4.      Shift to fewer, more clearly defined outcome-based priorities;
5.      Whole school approach to improvement;
6.      Importance of beliefs and school culture;
7.      Identification of improvement needs and strategies through analysis of performance;
8.      Use of standards to refer to level of difficulty and learning acquired;
9.      High standards in terms of challenging courses and extended learning;
10.     High standards in terms of high levels of skill and knowledge at graduation;
11.     Evaluation reviews which focus on curriculum, environment, management and resourcing; and
12.     Targeted interventions to improve the “trailing edge in student achievement”.

Examples of School Improvement: The School-Generated Approach
The Manitoba (Canada) School Improvement Program was a funded program which began in 1991 with 22 secondary schools. Key aspects of the improvement process were a strong focus on student learning, engagement of the school community, connection to the world outside the school, use of ongoing inquiry and reflection, coherence and integration among school goals and initiatives, and building internal capacity for change.

To classify school change, the project used a typology of Stoll and Fink (1996):
Moving schools: effective and adding value
Cruising schools: effective but not necessarily adding value
Strolling schools: inadequate rate of improvement; ill-defined and conflicting aims
Struggling schools: ineffective, know it, have the will but not the skill
Sinking schools: ineffective but not prepared or able to change.

Lessons from the project suggest that the necessary factors for school improvement include (Earl, Lorna M. & Linda E. Lee. (1998) Evaluation of the Manitoba School Improvement Program. pp.50-67.):
1.      Events that cause a sense of urgency;
2.      Mobilization of forces, especially teacher professional development;
3.      Right type and timing of intervention and support;
4.      Shared leadership of administrators, staff and students;
5.      Reflection and inquiry as essential components;
6.      Caring environment on behalf of students; and
7.      Belief that all students can succeed.

CONCLUSIONS
This brief review of the contemporary literature on effectiveness and improvement suggests some general conclusions:

SCHOOL EFFECTIVENESS AND IMPROVEMENT
Socio-economic status affects the degree of academic achievement which students attain in their school program. Researchers estimate schools can account for up to 50% of effect on student achievement. Schools do make a difference in addressing social inequalities when:
•       there are supportive, caring school environments that focus on students;
•       schools emphasize individual effort for all students;
•       improvement facilitates adaptive patterns of cognition, affect and behaviour;
•       students are engaged; and
•       teachers are effective.

A school is effective if it:
•       promotes progress for all of its pupils;
•       ensures that each pupil achieves the highest standards possible;
•       enhances all aspects of pupil achievement and development; and
•       continues to improve from year to year.

School improvement should be based on these principles:
•       all students can learn under appropriate conditions;
•       school effectiveness depends on the equitable distribution of learning outcomes across the whole student population;
•       effective schools take responsibility for students’ learning outcomes, rather than blaming students and their environments; and
•       the more consistent teaching and learning processes are within the school, the more effective the school will be.

Schools are dynamic and not static institutions.

Canadian Secondary Schools Case Studies
School 1: Elements of Success
1.      Strong professional development orientation among teachers
2.      Teaching as a priority
3.      Sense of urgency regarding performance in order to recruit students
4.      Regular analysis of achievement results
5.      School success plan which provides coherent goals and strategies to guide improvements
6.      Warm relationships and respectful climate
7.      Deliberate structure in the classrooms
8.      Carefully cultivated feeling of belonging
9.      Belief that students can succeed and a willingness to adapt to meet their needs
10.     Teachers’ efforts to motivate students and link their learning to the real world.

School 2: Elements of Success

1.
Creative and flexible use of time to ensure successful learning (individualized timetables, additional or extended modules for difficult subjects, experimentation with the length of instructional periods, continual refining of course content and sequencing to produce better mastery of course material)
2.
Coordinated planning and teamwork (departmental cooperation for planning and coordination)
3.
Self-evaluation (constant examination of results, search for ways of improving, encouragement of innovation for improvement and the inherent risks they entail)
4.
Orientation of professionals and students (assistance for students to help them meet social and academic needs and professional support for staff)
5.
Structured classroom instruction (traditional teaching styles, careful planning, high expectations)
6.
Insistence on a humanistic approach to teachers and students.

School 3: Elements of Success
1.      Recognition that the school is facing major academic and human relations problems and that its future is in question
2.      Improving lines of communication among teacher groups
3.      Attempts to create a unified vision of the school, a common philosophy and plan of action
4.      Efforts by the principal to transform the learning culture of the school.

School 4: Elements of Success
1.      Motivated students
2.      Teachers’ emphasis on perfection and educational innovations
3.      Close interactions between teachers and students
4.      Variety of educational structures
5.      Learning assistance program for students who struggle academically
6.      Strong principal, a vigilant and open administration
7.      Accent on cultural development and music as a vehicle of general education.

School 5: Elements of Success
1.      Teachers’ encouragement for students to do more than just enough to pass
2.      Positive relationships and good rapport between the students and the teachers
3.      “Traditional", "old fashioned" approach with emphasis on "time-honoured values"
4.      Teachers’ efforts to make course content relevant
5.      Primary focus on academic achievement
6.      Broad spectrum of courses and activities to give students greater opportunities to experience success
7.      Belief that the lower socio-economic background of students cannot be used as an excuse for low levels of achievement
8.      School choice, resulting in close affiliation of parents and students to its mission and expectations
9.      Small size of the school
10.     Hiring of teachers to fit the mission and mandate of the school.

School 6: Elements of Success
1.      Heightened expectations for everyone, recognizing the wide range of ability
2.      Principal as a catalyst for change
3.      High level of accountability for staff and students
4.      Recognition of the need for strong role models among both staff and students
5.      Conscious effort to engage students, staff, parents, and community at the personal level, stressing the importance of building personal relationships
6.      Recognition of the importance of rebuilding a sense of pride in the school.

School 7: Elements of Success

1.
Congruent expectations creating a high degree of trust among the students, parents, staff, and administration
2.
High expectations for everyone, adults and students alike, and a safe environment in which to operate
3.
Meaningful and healthy interaction and relationships among the various partners in the school, with teachers connecting on a human level with their students to optimize learning
4.
The principal as a pivotal influence, although not always front and centre, and the development of the sense of the power of team among the students and staff
5.
A strong planning process with clear vision and values driving the activities of the school and analysis of results used to drive ongoing planning and action
6.
High level of accountability for everyone with comprehensive monitoring practices and measurement tools in place
7.
Department sharing of strategies that prove to be helpful in improving the students’ learning and achieving the targets set
8.
Mutual caring and belief in the importance of personal relationships.

School 8: Elements of Success
1.      External expectations to improve achievement
2.      Vision and mission statements which set direction for the operation of the school
3.      Focus on the individual student and how to optimize learning, including but not exclusively achievement on examinations
4.      Staff commitment to personal growth and support by administration in their efforts
5.      Strong emphasis on safety; zero tolerance for serious or continuing inappropriate behaviour
6.      Staff deliberately and carefully chosen to reflect the vision for the school, with a mixture of expertise and youthful energy
7.      Support available to students at noon hour and after school
8.      Ongoing and consistent direction by the administration
9.      Increasing use of technology in instruction.

School 9: Elements of Success
1.      Common vision and congruency of high expectations, planning, goal-setting and training
2.      Institutionalization of the use of multi-dimensional data pertaining to student and school results to ensure continuous improvement
3.      Strong, caring, committed and experienced staff
4.      Emphasis on student safety and on high behavioural standards
5.      Collaborative leadership team focused on student and school success indicators
6.      Appreciation of diversity, ethnic and cultural differences
7.      Efforts of volunteers
8.      Focus on intellectual development.

School 10: Elements of Success
1.      Parental support and high expectations
2.      Student work ethic and commitment to learning
3.      Staff commitment to results and teacher modeling of expectations
4.      Excellent and supportive administration
5.      Appreciation of diversity and different cultures
6.      Rich and deep programs
7.      Stress on data, balanced assessment, and academics
8.      Quality feeder schools.

School 11: Elements of Success
1.      School’s vision, mission and goals and the strong traditions of the school
2.      Range and flexibility of program and extra-curricular choices available to students
3.      School’s international focus and appreciation of diversity
4.      Quality of students and their commitment to learning
5.      High levels of achievement in examinations, attendance, and low dropout rate
6.      Engagement of staff and students in school life
7.      Expertise, caring and competence of staff and their commitment to ongoing improvement
8.      Visibility and visionary leadership of administrators
9.      High level of parental support for learning
10.     Large number of students going on to postsecondary education.

School 12: Elements of Success
1.      Leadership and initiative of the new administration
2.      Ability of the school to adapt rapidly to a new mission, evolving from a junior high school to a full high school with greater attention paid to results
3.      School accreditation process that facilitated planning for improvement
4.      Successful responses to major challenges such as racial tensions
5.      Positive attitudes of teachers to improvement, professional development and service to students
6.      Expansion of programs to meet the needs of the students.

Patterns
CONTEXT
All of these schools share a characteristic: their environments and the communities they serve have undergone significant changes over the years, challenging the schools to meet new needs and develop new responses.

For the most part, these schools are creations of the 1950s and 1960s, a period of rapid expansion of secondary education, large comprehensive high schools, wide array of courses, and buildings that were referred to as, and looked like, physical plants. But in the 1980s and 1990s the environment of many schools changed. Populations moved out and other populations moved in. Policies of choice made boundaries and catchment areas permeable. Some schools lost students to other schools and found themselves in a competitive environment. In some school environments, these changes occurred rapidly, in a matter of a few years.

In an increasingly competitive environment, schools became more conscious of the need to market themselves, define their mission, and stress their distinctiveness from other schools in the local community or the city at large. They began to promote themselves, develop new programs and services that would attract new clientele and establish contact with prospective students in their “feeder” schools.

For some schools this meant relying on their reputation and promoting their traditions; for others it meant reinvention and transformation and a new mission: linguistic and cultural integration, “old fashioned” values, a shift from vocational to academic orientation, traditional academic expectations, or a safe environment. And for almost every school, changing external forces – in the community, in the city and school district, in the province, and in the structure of the education system – urged new preoccupations: security, academic achievement primarily in terms of test results, accountability, marketing, developing new programs such as the International Baccalaureate and Mandarin, and initiatives to motivate
and engage students. Schools are attempting to extend the range of communities that they serve and at the same time preserve roots in a distinctive and specific community tradition. Even a school with many problems is considered by the students and by the people in the local district as “their” school. At the same time, school populations and school communities are becoming pluralistic, with different values and aspirations.

All of these schools share a characteristic: their environments and the communities they serve have undergone significant changes over the years, challenging the schools to meet new needs and develop new responses.

ELEMENTS OF SUCCESS
There are a number of elements which seem associated with the success of these schools:

Positive attitudes and high expectations for success
Strong and vigilant administration
Focus on academic achievement but also on other indicators of success and student needs
Recognition of the need to be accountable for the quality of performance and to be creative and innovative, sometimes with a sense of urgency if the future of the school is to be assured
Regular analysis of results, and links between results and school efforts in assessment, program development, instruction, and innovation
Integrated planning and coordination by administrators, departments and teachers to improve performance and link goals, planning and activities
Importance placed on good teaching, good teachers as role models and the professional development of teachers
Sense of engagement and belonging among teachers and students and commitment to the basic mission and core values of the school
Respectful and secure school climate and warm relationships among educators and students
Initiatives to motivate students and make learning relevant
Structured classroom instruction and “traditional” standards of behaviour
Assistance and support for both students and teachers
Variety and flexibility of structures, programs and services
Strong support for the school from its geographic community or its community of choice

Reflections
Beneath these patterns, there are some underlying tensions in all schools that need to be analyzed.
These are:
1.      The links which the school makes between the larger context and the local community
2.      How schools try to balance a sense of tradition and the need at times for re-invention and transformation
3.      The shifting emphasis between social and economic values, and between values and skills
4.      The importance of having a multi-dimensional understanding of what constitutes school success
5.      The way in which testing alters the nature of the relationships between teacher and learner
6.      The infrastructure of the school as a system
7.      How different groups of participants – students, parents, administrators and teachers – can make, or unmake, a school
8.      The diverging demands placed on a principal for leadership and management
9.      The irony that the school, in the business of change, has difficulty itself as an institution facing change
10.     How the changing nature of learning is in the process of reinventing teaching.


BWDSB Secondary School Profiles


School Name:

School Year:

Address/Location:

Description of the Community in which the school resides – economics/demographics, etc.

School Type:    Composite

Administration:
Principal –
Vice-Principal –
Vice-Principal –

School Community Council Chair –

School Trustee –

Student Trustee –

Staffing Complement (F.T.E.)
Teachers –
Educational Assistants –
Office Professionals –
Custodians –
Other –

School Enrolment Capacity –


Enrolments (Actual and Projected – October 31)
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018

School Purpose/Values/Goals

Data    OSSLT % pass rate
Locally Developed
2002
2003
2004

Applied
2002
2003
2004

Academic
2002
2003
2004
        
Grade 9 Mathematics Assessment –% Levels 1 - 2 - 3 - 4  
Locally Developed
2002
2003
2004

Applied
2002
2003
2004

Academic
2002
2003
2004

Program Demographics    (% courses taken by students)
Locally Developed
Applied
Workplace
College
University
Coop
Technological Education
The Arts (music, drama, visual arts, dance)

Co-instructional Demographics (% student participation)
Non-athletics
Athletics

Student Success Programs and Pathways (brief descriptions)

Other unique programs offered (brief descriptions)

Number of Students in OYAP, types of apprenticeships

School Leavers Rate (number of students per school year who have retired from school, i.e. not entered another secondary school in Ontario, without meeting the requirements for OSSD) –
2003
2004

Pyramid of Interventions for Students–
All
Some
Few

Four-year Graduation Rates (number of students in a particular cohort who have met all requirements for OSSD in that time period) –
2003
2004

Four and a half year Graduation Rates –
2003
2004

Five-year Graduation Rates –
2003
2004

School/Community Partnerships –

Other:


BWDSB Secondary School Enrolments – 2002-2018

Secondary School Boundaries
(include boundary diagrams for each secondary school)Feedback
The feedback from the participants was thoughtful and thought provoking.  Their ideas are shared below:


Question #1:    What basic and specialty skills do you want to see our secondary school graduates develop?

The participants identified basic skills which included:
•       reading
•       writing 
•       math
•       computers

Their feedback also indicated that specialty skills were very important.  These included:

Life Skills:
•       communication
•       “work ethic”  (reliability and accountability)
•       parenting/meals/budgeting
•       conflict resolution
•       action/consequences/benefits
•       love of learning

Learning to Learn (Lifelong Learning):
•       resilience
•       initiative
•       “turning failure into success”
•       how to research
•       “expert thinking” – apply what was learned in school, outside school

Computer Skills:
•       exposure important

Arts and Physical Education:
•       part of balanced life

Cooperative Education:
•       integration with business world

The participants also discussed how to accomplish these skills.  Their input included:
•       offering technological shops and other hands on experiences and training
•       promoting art, music programs
•       exposing students to what takes place in other buildings in the community
•       engaging students in citizenship and community service
•       expanding cooperative education programs to include Grade 7 and 8 students
•       creating opportunities for students where their interests lie
•       identifying and helping students through “weak areas”
•       reexamining curriculum and determining if there is too much content in school
•       developing credits for extra-curricular activities or life experiences
•       building partnerships to expand opportunities for students
•       developing programs in schools for credit recovery



Question #2:    What is your definition of success for our students?

The definition for student success as described by the participants was as follows:

Students will:
Be engaged in school and in work:

engaged in school and engaged when they leave school in what they are doing
a student who is engaged throughout their secondary school experience and emerges with the motivation to pursue their personal vision of success.
a passion that has been encouraged within the structure of secondary education and supported so that on leaving/graduating they can apply their talents/skills with pride in their chosen field of employment
“To be able to do what I want to do”
“To be able to have a choice”
need more flexibility in how it is determined

Be intrinsically motivated, proud of themselves and sense of self worth:
•       students need to be proud of themselves, pursue their passions, and be motivated
•       intrinsic sense of high self worth and efficacy
•       ready for the next challenge – intrinsic measures, confidence, awareness, optimistic
•       happy with what they did, are able to do, product of their accomplishments
•       tolerance for self and especially others
•       self advocacy, identify self

Have happiness:
•       personal health and fitness and wellness for life as an ingrained part of lifestyle
•       positive attitude
•       happiness and true self esteem
•       it does not matter what you do – as long as you are happy doing it and make enough money to keep you in the style accustomed to.
•       happiness/self fulfilled/proud of their work
•       not discouraged
•       happiness and true self esteem is the real measure of success

Reach their full potential:
•       students need to work to their potential which needs to be supported throughout
•       a successful student reaches for and achieves his/her full potential to learn and contribute to their school and community
•       students need to develop concrete goals and then experience success achieving them
•       teachers and students need to understand different learning styles
•       students need to prepare for independent living
•       students need to demonstrate initiative

Have a sense of hope:
•       students need a sense of hope and optimism for the future
•       clearly define the value of a diploma
•       the value of a graduate needs to be relevant on a global basis

Be prepared to pursue their future:
•       students need to develop employability skills and the ability to make a contribution
•       students need to be aware of what they want to be and set realistic goals
•       students need to be able to successfully navigate the workplace
•       everyone is on a path to work – it takes different amounts of time
        we have to give students a number of experiences so they can find the right career paths
•       in what environment will most of our students work?
•       academic skills or life skills?



Question #3:    What role should technology and access to technology play in Bluewater high schools?

Technology and its use in classrooms was a recurring theme throughout the conversation guide responses.  Some of the specific ideas generated by the participants are described below:

Teachers must be trained to use and teach technology:
•       need for teachers to know how to use it
•       technology needs to be up to date
•       it upsets students that teachers do not know how to utilize equipment
•       every classroom needs to have video camera and lap top
•       teachers need to receive training
•       need to develop different ways of supporting students
•       creativity and innovation in a new manner

Online/distance education course offerings must be consistently offered:

complete one course during secondary school that is online in order to use the technology that gives them life long access to learning
a traveling specialist with software could go from school to school.  Mobile specialty unit, this could include other subject areas as well
more online credits to suit flexible schedule
use distance education to bring in programs to augment local programming
it must not resemble the Independent Learning Centre that is now in place
distance education can be a flexible, modular hub for learning opportunities in this geographically challenged board
Courses need to be consistently offered for long-range student planning.  Courses need to be modular so that students that drop-out or are ready to enter early are not prevented by semestered timetabling. Opportunities need to be teacher-mediated (perhaps via technology) to not only trouble-shoot technological issues but also to negotiate meaning and validate learning progress.  These courses need to be designed for all learners, all subjects, with year-round entry.

Partnerships with business/industries/community must be developed:
•       school goals need to tie into the goals of the community
•       active community partnering
•       we need to learn from one another and tolerate different thinking
•       important to partner with business and industry
•       any technology in wider area they will meet (look for business partnerships, look for community partnerships)
•       work very hard to elevate the status of the workplace
•       policies must address cutting edge in industry

A web page for every school must be developed:
•       each school needs a Web page for communication

Students require a basic level of “working knowledge” of technology to be successful in the workplace:
•       can students take advantage as opportunities present themselves
•       need to make certain students have daily access to computers/internet – many still do not have any at home
•       need to explore other uses beyond research for projects
•       technology and its potential should be introduced at the secondary school level
•       technology should not take the place of basic skills, i.e. computers are a great tool, but students still need to know how to add, subtract, multiply, divide as well as write.  It is expensive to try to keep up with emerging technologies so likely better to maintain a basic level of working technology and encourage students who are really interested to gain further knowledge through co-op placements or self education
•       more hands on the better
•       school should be flexible
•       technology is only a tool
•       use for critical thinking
•       world is smaller as a result

Specialized Programs:
•       improved understanding of the impact of globalization
•       need to reduce wait times especially for special education, recognition of actual and ongoing costs involved
•       diminish bureaucratic barriers
•       need to consider school to work transition
•       specialized technology – Kurzwell dragon to assist reluctant readers to keep a wider number of students and to have it more available
•       Ministry can help out by looking at less costly programs comparable to Dragonspeak – which can be cost effective



Question #4:    What approaches would aid in ensuring a higher percentage of students’ graduate?

The approaches identified by the participants as most effective were:
(a)     Ensuring flexible and individualized programming (e.g. credit recovery) is available for all students:
•       timetable alternatives with flexible structure
•       individualized program and flexibility within pathways
•       credit recovery
•       opportunity to complete ¼ credits and then add them up over time
•       more student input with more choices
•       make magnet schools available with choice to go, including transportation
•       “It’s not a race to the finish – if kids need to take 5 or 6 years to finish high school that’s OK”
•       “We have lost programs like “candy stripers” where kids could earn credits
•       need more hands on apprenticeships, farming programs

(b)     Delivering cooperative education programs:
•       coop programs – pick up credits that aren’t academic
•       continue and expand coop program
•       summer coop
•       co-op transportation
•       earlier coop, job shadowing
•       more hands on apprenticeship opportunities, including farming programs

(c)     Developing focus programming that builds specific sets of skills:
•       can we send students to specialty programs out of area?
•       magnet schools – choice to go with transportation
•       arts need more attention – magnet school would allow for this
•       focus programs also offer great potential.  Perhaps some study should be put to how education is done in other parts of the world. In Europe, for example, they have basic instruction in all areas up to about Grade 10, and then have students specialize in areas of their interest in different schools in preparation for university, college, trades, technology or work force.

(d)     Focusing on transition programming for grades 9/10 – full year courses:
•       grade 8 opportunities to look at job opportunities or early credit
•       find ways to ensure success in Grades 9 and 10
•       strong transition from Grade 8 to Grade 9
•       grade 8 Math – end of strong unit and then pick up again in September in Grade 9
•       look at Grade 9 differently – give them different choices – curriculum not so strict
•       grades 9 and 10 are crucial – “if kids can only get through them and get to Gr. 11 where they can start to make choices they will be OK”
•       focus on the transition years – not just academic but social and emotional
grade 9 and 10 – not semestered but 1 teacher for certain part of day – easier to timetable, less overwhelming for kids.



Question #5:    How do we balance the desire for local schools in our communities with the desire to give our children exposure to the areas of study that interest and engage them?

The recurring themes of focus programs and technology were expressed through the feedback for this question.  Community partnerships and flexibility of programming were cited as points to consider for focus programming.  Higher engagement, flexibility and distance learning opportunities were cited for technology.

(a)     Focus Programs
•       find ways to promote innovation - i.e. share programs between schools, share students back and forth – no penalization for funding, sport teams, etc.
•       schools able to focus on special programs that are funded to a higher level
•       need to partner with community, businesses, and community agencies
•       ability for students to easily go to other schools and have other kids come to the home school – this also helps to build the skills students require to leave home, or succeed at college or work.
•       flexibility for local initiatives
•       motivate staff – give some freedom to “run with it”
•       rotate specialty program teachers – go to schools
•       specialized focus in individual schools i.e. arts/ technology/ health and sciences/ agriculture
•       Again, should we look at smaller composite schools up to a certain age and then more focused magnet schools in the upper grades with more hands-on/ technology/ academic/ workplace skills concentrated in larger centers.  If it could be administered that students could travel to these larger magnet schools yet still are associated with their local school it would make it more acceptable.  Most people in local communities want their children to graduate from their local school. Give students the opportunities (if they want them) for advancement in magnet schools but still have them graduate from their local school.

(b)     Technology
•       determine how to use technology to unite students from different communities and to engage students in their learning
•       offer other options i.e. E-courses, coop placements, independent learning, and link with colleges / businesses.



Question #6:    What is your vision for secondary education in Bluewater schools?

The feedback for the vision for secondary schools focussed on three areas:
•       improved communication with parents and the community
•       success for all students, identify learning needs and focus on technological and vocation education
•       support for a broad range of extra-curricular opportunities for students

(a)     Improved communication:
•       need to find ways to improve communication and increase parent involvement
•       engage parents, as a priority
•       outreach activities
•       more open teachers
•       nneed opportunities to use community expertise in the school
•       stronger links with business and community to offer coop education opportunities and in class instruction

(b)     Success for all students:
•       we want success for all students.  School should be an enjoyable experience for all students.  Recognize that success varies for all students
•       everybody – school, home, community – has to believe that every child can learn
•       all students need to be engaged in their learning
•       allow all students success in their interests to continue learning throughout their lives
•       need more opportunities for kids who learn differently
•       put their learning in the real-life job connection context
•       increased options for achieving credits in high school
•       learning needs to be relevant to the lives of the students
•       need opportunities to use community expertise in the school
•       need equitable opportunities and programming for all students
•       technical and vocational opportunities that are accorded the equal esteem of “purely” academic opportunities.
•       paths which are available to students that will actively engage their interest and inspire a commitment to learning and education.  Academic opportunities for those high achieving students to ensure they are challenged to achieve their potential within a publicly funded environment, specifically access to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program.
our students deserve a lot more money so that there are more technological opportunities, broader coop opportunities

(c)     Extra curricular:
•       extra curricular activities make up an important part of a well rounded education and should be encouraged.
•       provide lots of extra curricular opportunities in schools



Question #7:    Please comment on any additional considerations – e.g. transportation, boundaries, alternate scheduling (full year, semester, year round, multi-track, distance learning).

Several additional areas were discussed in the feedback from participants.  Many of the comments referenced issues identified in other questions as well as new issues.  The additional considerations included:

Technology and Distance Learning:
•       integrate technology into the classrooms and utilize distance learning

Transportation:
•       develop flexible, alternate methods to transporting students
•       transport students to focus programs
•       take programs and teachers to the students; rotate programs around the district

Academic Program:
•       be flexible
•       provide lots of choice
•       develop focus programs
•       create alternative credits, let students earn partial credits
•       continue to offer a wide range of technology and cooperative education programs

Scheduling:
•       develop alternatives to regular scheduling, e.g. late start, distance learning
•       schedule programs outside the regular school day
•       consider full year or year-round schooling

Partnerships:
•       build multiple partnerships with business for cooperative education and apprenticeship opportunities

Boundaries:
•       have open boundaries
•       “students don’t belong to a school”

Extra-curricular Experiences:
•       develop more opportunities and equitable access
•       alternative credits for students

Teacher Qualities/Qualifications:
•       utilize non-teacher experts
•       all teachers should care about kids


SUMMARY:

Students need hope for the future.  The need for a comprehensive education remains strong. All students need to be provided with a well-rounded selection of courses, which engage their interests and meet the requirements of their destination pathway. Programming in Grades 9 and 10 needs to focus on a common comprehensive curriculum. Grades 11 and 12 need to enable specialization in both academics and vocational training.  It is critical that students be able to see a clear pathway to their future, and that they be able to acquire and apply skill sets for their chosen destination. Students need to study in their areas of interest which lead to a successful transition to work, apprenticeship, college or university.  There are not clear paths to all of these destinations.  This is due in part to the over allocation of resources to the university bound stream in each school.

Focus Programs need to be sustained.  Schools that develop focus programming based on the strengths of the staff and the community must proceed.  Destination pathways need to be developed and offered throughout the district.  Accessibility to these programs is critical.  Most life skills that are taught are transferable.  Community involvement with the delivery of programs and co-operative education placements will ensure continued relevance and effectiveness of these programs.  These programs would also provide the “hook” to keep students in school and taking other courses required to help them succeed.  These programs must remain current and flexible to adapt to changes in the staff, students and community.  Community partnership is the key to the success of these programs and the children in them.  Further benefits of these programs would include the fostering of the attitude that there are opportunities for our young people in their home towns if they desire them. Bluewater students need access to education in their community and benefit from the social and emotional education provided within a school setting. We need to educate students to stay in Bluewater.  Focus programs will help to balance enrolment shifts within school zones, and may be targeted to develop our future workforce. With support from community partnerships, we can encourage students to stay or return to this area to work.

Fair does not mean equal.  Success for every student looks different.  Our job is to strive for excellence, and inspire success.  We must provide equity in access to quality and effective instruction, with a focus on problem solving, and relevance. The feedback from the forum participants aligns with the Image of the Learner in Foundations for Learning. Recognition needs to be given to the observation that: success for every student looks different. The distinction between equal and equitable needs to be made. Board goals should be supported to ensure success for all students in any community in the Bluewater district.  This may require pressure on the provincial government to differentiate the funding formula, as some students will require more resources than others to be successful.

These resources should come with a requirement of accountability.  Should extra resources be applied to bussing?  Technology? Teacher/student ratio?  This becomes community specific.  Effectiveness of the dollars spent could then be compared to other communities in the province who are in similar circumstances.  This evaluation would also be a useful tool for these communities to utilize in planning future spending in the most effective way possible for their particular community.

The funding formula must be re-evaluated.  A “per student “allotment of money to boards of education is equal - but not equitable.  It does not recognize the differences between and among students nor the inequities between urban and rural communities.  More flexibility is required in the deployment of these dollars at both the board and the community level.

Technology will become increasingly central to the process of learning and to the worlds of work and leisure. All students need access to computer technology and many students need access to broad-based technological programming. The use of computer technology provides greater flexibility and differentiation in programming for all students. Specialized assistive technology needs to be readily available to assist those students with learning difficulties.

Classroom instruction and teacher isolation need to be addressed.  When students are engaged they learn more effectively.  When teachers are engaged in professional dialogue and sharing they teach more effectively.  Student learning and graduation rates will be improved through:


Effective instruction methodologies which maximize student engagement (e.g. problem based learning, cooperative learning, blended e-learning);
Programming which is meaningful, relevant, flexible and provides individual students with the education they need for academic and vocational pathways;
A continuum of interventions for student success programming (e.g. credit recovery, supported co-operative education); and
Enhanced staff wide development in special education and differentiated instruction.

Blended Learning holds much promise for the future - especially in rural and smaller high schools.  Teachers need to focus on the integration of technology into their instruction.  One on one or small group teaching which utilizes technology will engage students and enhance the learning process.  The integration of streams or grades would become much less important as long as there was at least a small group working on the same items.  There could be more collaboration among teachers at different schools as they work together to deliver one or more courses. Web-based instructional management systems, such as Moodle, could be a large part of this.  Virtual classrooms, lectures delivered by satellite, and online courses could make up part of this blended learning.  Two areas we must focus on are teaching teachers to teach in this different environment and every child involved must have access to a computer in the class for the duration of the class, and access to a computer in the evening is also important. Teachers must also have regular access to technology to refine their skills and facilitate the learning.

School Zones will broaden choice for students and build in economies of scale. Local schools are part of the foundation of communities.  Declining enrolment will continue to challenge the viability of broad programming in small schools.  School zones for program planning should be developed. This would offer economies of scale for the development of specialized focus programming. Each zone would contain two or more secondary schools, which would share students in senior years. The intent would be that schools in the zone would each offer focus programs, which would balance off differentials in enrolment. In grades 9 and 10, students would receive a comprehensive program similar in all schools. Senior students would be able to attend a different school in order to access a focus program, and still graduate from their “home” school. Schools in the same zone would work to align daily schedules to allow students flexibility in their attendance.

Timetables and schedules must be common.  There must be a move to a common schedule - especially within a school zone if two or more schools are going to work together with one course calendar to provide the children of the region with a wider range of courses/focus programming.

Technological Education and Arts programming for all students.  Within a school zone every opportunity would be provided for students to access a variety of technological and arts programming.  Focus programs in specialized areas would be developed for grades 11 and 12.  The Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium, retired trades people, and community artisans could be utilized to help in the delivery of these programs.  

Bluewater students need continued access to education in their community, and need to be able to benefit from not only academic and vocational programming, but also the social and emotional development that is nurtured within a school setting. In this sense vocational and extra-curricular programming contributes significantly to the health of a community, and to the bond between a school and its community. A continued focus on further developing relationships with local employers and seeking continuous community input is needed.

Magnet schools may not be a viable option for Bluewater secondary schools.   Bluewater is geographically large. Time spent on the bus is very unproductive and starts to erode a child’s leisure and family time.   Equity of access becomes an issue for outer regions of the district.  The viability of some schools is also brought into question if students are transported away from their local community to a regional centre. A wider range of choices could be offered as long as the schools are within reasonable proximity to each other.

Boundary and transportation issues need to be addressed.  It is time to re-evaluate the catchment areas for elementary and secondary schools.  Bussing could then be rationalized.  Moving to a school zone organizational structure will equalize enrolment and provide a much greater opportunity to coordinate and broaden program choices for students.  A policy of not transporting students outside of their home zone catchment area would be much more operational.  Students and parents must be assured equal opportunity for success in their home school zone as they would in a neighbouring zone.  

School size makes a difference.  Inherent in these recommendations is that the size of the school matters less than the fact that the high school is in the local community.  Small schools have greater levels of involvement in extra curricular activities and a greater sense of community - both things we want our children to have in helping them grow into well rounded, successful members of society.  Larger schools offer a broader range of programming but opportunities for student involvement in extra-curricular activities may be more limited.  The proposals listed above would mitigate the programming challenges of smaller schools while maintaining all the components to make every student successful.

Viable curriculum is necessary for effective learning.  We have the need to reduce the quantity of material taught in an overcrowded curriculum yet enhance the retention, manipulation and application of the material learned.  We must work to create a viable curriculum where learning is the focus and the pressure to cover the content is minimized.  

Declining enrolment and excess space must be addressed.  In recognition of declining enrolment (approximately 3000 excess spaces by 2018) and the proposed implementation of focus programming and secondary school zones, boundaries and transportation policies should be reviewed. Additionally, models of blended learning (in-class instruction and e-learning) need to be pursued to offer students differentiated instruction and programs.

The following recommendations are presented as part of a long-range plan to revitalize secondary school education in Bluewater.  A specific five to seven year timeline for their implementation needs to be developed.


Recommendations:
THAT:
Effective Instruction and Student Learning (by September 2007):
1.      A focus on effective, data driven instructional practice, assessment for learning, and differentiated instruction be maintained.
2.      A continuum of interventions be articulated in all school program plans and individual education plans.
3.      Increased opportunities for secondary and elementary school staff to collaborate and share data and best practices be created.
4.      Programming in Grades 9 and 10 focuses on a common comprehensive curriculum.
5.      Programming in Grades 11 and 12 enable specialization in both academics and vocational training.
6.      Focus programs be developed by teachers in partnership with community experts and offered within school zones throughout the district.
7.      Focus programs not magnet schools be created in Bluewater.

District Organization and Transportation (by September 2009):
8.      School zones be created to share students, scheduling, programming, and staff expertise.
9.      The school zones be created based on the current number of high schools.
10.     Students be transported to focus and specialized programs within the school zones.
11.     Out of boundary transportation be very limited between school zones.
12.     Boundaries be revised within the school zones.
13.     Boundary and transportation policies and procedures be reviewed and revised on the basis of secondary school zones.
14.     Each school zone ensures that a broad range of technological and arts education is available to their students.

Technology (by September 2007):
15.     A blended learning plan be developed, including virtual classrooms, lectures delivered by satellite, and online courses.
16.     Web-based instructional management systems be implemented and supported.
17.     All students have regular daily access to technology and assistive technology where required.
18.     All teachers have regular daily access to technology.
19.     All teachers integrate technology into their instructional practice.

Declining Enrolment and Excess Space (by September 2007):
20.     A long-term plan to address excess space in secondary schools be developed.
21.     Every opportunity be explored to provide input to the government about the need for equitable not equal funding.
22.     The SPARC committee continue to function, in order to analyze data in a declining enrolment, dynamic, environment.  

Community Consultation (by January 2007):
23.     We hold a follow-up SPARC forum for dialogue about the recommendations.
24.     We hold a Student Summit on Secondary School Education.


Conclusion

There has been such tremendous support for the SPARC the Imagination public consultation.  Parents, students, staff, trustees and business/community members were engaged in a thoughtful process of dialogue and conversation about the future of education in Bluewater secondary schools.  A numbers of themes, as identified in the recommendations above, emerged through the dialogue. Above all, one thing was very clear - student engagement in a caring learning environment that prepared them for the world beyond secondary school was at the heart of all the conversations.

As a final observation, it needs to be noted that the Ministry of Education is itself in the early stages of revisioning secondary education. Bluewater is a reflection of much of rural Ontario, and forums, such as SPARC, provide useful feedback to the Minister and government officials. Ongoing dialogue is needed not only within our district, but also across our province, and internationally, to help inform the policy making process.

The SPARC committee must continue to function, in order to analyze data in a declining enrolment, dynamic, environment.  We need to continually involve our community in the decision making.

The process of reviewing secondary education and making recommendations for the future is complex and difficult.  The structures of secondary school education are institutionalized and the barriers to change in secondary schools are formidable.  Programming must be flexible to provide individual students with the education they need, while living within the structural efficiencies of a cost-effective public education system. We must continue to work with our federation partners, and our school administrators, in planning for the future.  Addressing concerns related to staffing, and program offerings, sooner, rather than later, will afford us the opportunity to build a sustainable Bluewater vision for the future. We must dialogue on an on-going basis with students, teachers, parents, community, and government to truly make an impact on student learning in Bluewater secondary schools and create equitable access to high standards, effective instruction and flexible programs that meet the needs of all learners now and in the future.

© 2013 - Bluewater District School Board