School Name: Lake Trail Community Middle School
School District: SD#71 Comox Valley
Inquiry Team Members:Gerald Fussell: Gerald.Fussell@sd71.bc.ca, was the lead on it and it was a whole school inquiry project.
Inquiry Team Contact Email: Gerald.Fussell@sd71.bc.ca
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Intermediate (4-7), Secondary (8-12)
Curricular Area(s): Other: School Change
Focus Addressed: Community-based learning, Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Differentiated instruction, Experiential learning, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Flexible learning, Formative assessment, Growth mindset, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Inquiry-based learning, Land, Nature or Place-based learning, Self-regulation, Social and emotional learning, Transitions
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? How can we make each child’s life better?
Scanning: Our building is 62 years old and considered the lighthouse of our community despite suffering considerable ambiguity about purpose over the past 13 years. In 2017 our Board of Education decided to move students registered in grade six into our school creating a 6-9 grade configuration. The transition of our school was very successful, and the Board of Education voted to keep the 6-9 grade configuration for at least 2 more years. Of our 329 students, 179 are registered in grades 6 or 7, and 150 are registered in grades 8 and 9.
We serve a community that is very diverse. We are fortunate that 1/3 of our student population has indigenous heritage. A significant percentage of our community struggle to meet the basic needs of their children and themselves. Some of our parents are very highly educated, many are not: some are involved in the lives and schooling of their children, many are not. All our parents want what’s best for their children.
Other key parts of our context have been staff turnover (only 4 teachers from September 2016 are still working at our school; however, only two are new to our school this year) and the fact that we are building a new school due to open in September 2021. We also recognize the value of contemporary research about learning and the impact it needs to have as we prepare our students for a dynamic world. We recognize that we are all learners, and this guides our work, practice, and approaches.
Focus: How can we make each student’s life better?
• We will increase the feelings of connectedness our students feel. This includes connectedness to our school and to what they are learning. Our goal is that by the end of the year each student will be able to identify two adults, at least one of them being a staff member of our school, that they know believe that they can and will be successful.
o A significant subset of this is our strategy to reduce the feelings of bullying our students report.
• We will increase student learning in core areas (reading, writing, numeracy).
• We will increase each student’s development of the Core Competencies.
• We will improve each student’s Executive Functioning skills.
Through extensive consultation in the 2016-2017 school year with students, parents, and teachers and by looking at research and best practice examples, we developed a plan for the 2017-2018 school year to help us to be unique, valuable and attractive to our community. Drawing from this information and data collected throughout the past year (Health Canada’s Canadian Student Tobacco Alcohol and Drugs Survey; Foundation Skills Assessment results organized by cohort; student, parent, and staff satisfaction surveys) our teachers and School Planning Council met and developed this focus for the school year. As we progressed through the school year we continued to collect feedback, data, and monitor our progress. In June, through consultation with our school community, we decided to continue the many initiatives we undertook and to keep our focus the same with some minor adjustments to our strategies.
Hunch: We suspected that as we focused more and more on meeting the basic needs of our students, the other areas would improve as well. Our concerns revolved around pedagogies based on static systems of silos and punishment for compliance.
New Professional Learning: We embraced much learning to work on this inquiry. Several structures supported this: team teaching with common preps and giving over all staff-meetings to our Professional Development Committee. Two other initiatives fueled our learning: half of our teachers received 3-day intensive training with Ross Greene in Collaborative and Proactive Solutions; one of our teachers wrote her Master’s thesis calling for improved inclusive practices were necessary to continue the positive growth of our learning community.
Taking Action: 1. We will increase the feelings of connectedness our students feel. This includes connectedness to our school and to what they are learning. Our goal is that by the end of the year each student will be able to identify two adults, at least one of them being a staff member of our school, that they know believe that they can and will be successful.
o Attendance rates
o Satisfaction survey
o Participation rates in school events
o Discipline Records
o Cross-boundary requests
o Retention rates
Based on our measures, which I cannot enter in this form but are on our web-site, we were very successful increasing the connections our students felt to our learning community.
2. We will increase student learning in core areas (reading, writing, numeracy).
o Demonstrated progress in each area by every child
o Track completion of achievable goals
o Observations of students taking pride in their work
Based on our measures, which I cannot enter in this form but are on our web-site, we were very successful improving cognitive learning for our students, which validated the path we are on. Of particular interest was that our students performed at the same level as those students who did not have to transfer to attend grade 10 at our parent school.
3. We will increase each student’s development of the Core Competencies.
o E-portfolios by the students
o Discipline records and counsellor accesses
o Tracking our “Gotcha!” program
Based on our measures, which I cannot enter in this form but are on our web-site, we were very successful increasing the development of the Core Competencies for our students.
4. We will improve each student’s Executive Functioning skills.
o Self-assessments on different strands of Executive Functioning
o Track individual growth/improvement in selected students
Our results validated this focus, so we will continue it next year; however, I do not feel we achieved it to the level we are capable of doing so. See the results below as part of our rationale.
2 questionnaires where provided to the staff, Sept 2018 and spring 2019
6 staff members completed the survey
significant improvements where noted in classrooms where multiple EF strategies were part of classroom routine (improvements in scores from 28-36 points)
little to no improvement in EF was noted in classrooms that did not use many class wide strategies (improvement in scores from 1-8 points)
classrooms that were more successful had daily routine, explicit expectations and instructions, supported students with organization, lists and checklists, and seemed to focus on EF strategies that fit with their teaching style.
Checking: Overall, we made significant strides in our learning of effective ways to support our student learners. I was most satisfied by the commitment our teaching staff have made to embracing UDL and Inclusion. Our entire staff became involved in an application to work with SETBC to dramatically increase our inclusiveness and that would not have happened had it not been for this Inquiry project.
Reflections/Advice: Focusing on connecting students to our school and to their learning paid significant dividends for our students. Working as part of collaborative teams paid dividends for our teachers; but, more importantly, it taught us a lot about what we don’t know and how we can work together to improve. Focusing on the question: how can we make each child’s life better? has been a driving catalyst for our evolution. After much consultation and reflection, it will remain our focus question for next year and a second – what makes a successful learner? – will be added.