The Ministry of Education has directed all school boards in the Province of Ontario to focus on students who are deemed to be at risk in Grades 7-12. The focus of this initiative will be:
On the most recent Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test, a percentage of the students in the applied courses failed. Statistics show provincially that about 25-28% of students are at risk of failing. This can translate to non-success at school and, in many cases, to student frustration, giving up hope and dropping out without ever reaching their dreams.
A Ministry of Education grant will be annually available to the Board to support these students. This allocation may be used for inservice, books and materials, collaborative time for teachers and other activities that will not involve extra human resources (unless short term contracted work).
The Ministry has provided team leaders and staff with several inservices following the work of the two provincial expert panels on literacy and program pathways (the combination of courses and supports that will guide a student towards their intended education and career destinations). Mathematics literacy has been added for the 2004-05 school year.
Project Structures and Results
A Board steering committee of over 30 people has been established. This committee has representation from key stakeholder groups. The steering committee has decided, with the further addition of several teachers, to establish two sub-committees (literacy and Pathways) from this membership.
The literacy sub-committee has been discussing professional development programs for all Grades 7-12 teachers. Their discussions have centred on research, the characteristics of a student at risk, the types of interventions to support this student, the type of resources needed and how collaborative teams can work effectively to ensure quality dialogue on literacy themes.
The Pathways sub-committee has been developing an infrastructure to help ensure professional dialogue. This model will form the basis of the “family of schools” yearly collaborative structure. Other themes that are being discussed include data gathering strategies to help set educational priorities and the development and/or expansion of Pathways opportunities for students.
Because the funds must be expended each school year, there is a need to move into action quickly. The steering committee also felt that short-term results were essential. It is crucial to begin the process of meeting these students’ needs now!
During January-June, 2004, several events took place that directly supported our 'at risk' learners:
...for the 2004-05 school year include:
To date, 5 Program Resource teachers have been hired to support teachers and schools. Also a data programmer/analyst has been hired to support schools with current and relevant data so that staff may make changes in students programs and pathways as needs dictate.