What’s happening in Rainbow Schools?

Sudbury Secondary School recognized provincially for success in mathematics

Sudbury Secondary School has been recognized provincially for student success in mathematics, earning a 2018 Dr. Bette M. Stephenson Recognition of Achievement from the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO).

“Each year, EQAO recognizes schools in Ontario that have effectively used data to support student learning,” said Norah Marsh, Chief Executive Officer. “This year, the Dr. Bette Stephenson Recognition of Achievement is being presented to schools that have nurtured students’ passion for math and led to academic success.”

Sudbury Secondary School’s Grade 9 applied math scores increased by 25 percentage points while Grade 9 academic math results increased by 20 percentage points in the 2017-2018 school year.

“It is evident that this school’s students have demonstrated their fulfillment of curriculum expectations on EQAO assessments during the last three years, as well as an interest in math,” said Norah Marsh. “It’s important to recognize the tremendous work of school staff to foster positive attitudes and their use of strategies to support students.”

“Reviewing concepts over time and building on prior knowledge, what we call spiralling, has proven to be an effective strategy in math,” said Director of Education Norm Blaseg. “Sudbury Secondary School used the spiralling approach with tremendous success. We are delighted that they are being recognized provincially for their purposeful work and that their journey of learning is being shared with schools across Ontario.”

Sudbury Secondary School has adopted a whole-school approach to education. The school prides itself on working together to foster great relationships with staff and students.

“The programming changes that we made, with a focus on student needs, really made a difference,” said Principal Heather Downey. These changes included linear timetabling, wrap around support with staff and special education resources, spiralling the curriculum, and collaboration and supports for feeder schools and transitions.

It all began when staff attended a Renewed Math Strategy conference and returned home ready to implement what they had gleaned from the experience. They dove deeply into data to
learn more about their students, reworked the curriculum to integrate units, adopted a collaborative approach to teaching, and incorporated new ideas into their practice.

Three Grade 9 math classes were offered at the same time. Some classes paired students in the applied program with students in the academic program, to encourage modeling and mentoring and inspire students to achieve higher goals.

The Special Education Resource Teacher became an active participant in the classroom, ensuring students received appropriate supports, including technology and one-on-one
assistance. The focus was on consistency and stability to maximize results.

EQAO Fridays were introduced with a focus on vocabulary and terminology. Teachers used a spiral curriculum design where “key concepts are presented repeatedly throughout the
curriculum, but with deepening layers of complexity.”

Moving away from unit-based instruction to a model that brings all units together gave students an opportunity to grow in their learning.

“We pretty much pulled everything out of the garden and planted it in different spots,” said Principal Downey. “As each spiral unfolded, you could actually see students making the connections.”

Repetition and spaced practice led to automaticity. “The more you do something, the more it gets ingrained in your knowledge base,” she said.

She added: “We are really listening to students as we implement student based instruction. We are also reviewing many data sets to know we are reaching them. Students are
enjoying it because they are telling us. We continue to talk to them and engage them in the process, so they have ownership in their learning.”

Students gained confidence in their math skills. Many said math taught through spiralling helped them retain and recall.

In 2017-2018, a total of 81 per cent of students in Rainbow Schools achieved at or above the provincial standard in Grade 9 academic math, an increase of four percentage points. Grade 9 applied math increased by six percentage points, the highest result in the past five years.

“We have been very intentional in our professional learning,” said Director of Education Norm Blaseg. “We have focused on spaced practice, automaticity, vocabulary and comprehension. These are foundational skills for learning in all subject areas, including mathematics.”

EQAO results provide a measure of how well students understand the expectations outlined in The Ontario Curriculum. Student assessment is most effective when data is interpreted in context, examined over time to determine trends in performance, and used to inform professional dialogue and school improvement planning.

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Media Contact:

Nicole Charette, Senior Advisor,
Corporate Communications and Strategic Planning,
Rainbow District School Board, 705-674-3171, ext. 7217.