Our high schools rank among top in country

Yorkregion.com – Regional News – Our high schools rank among top in country: “Our high schools rank among top in country Regional NewsApr 05, 2008 10:22 AMBy: Teresa LatchfordYork Region high schools rank among the top in the country.The recently released Fraser Institute’s 2008 report card on Ontario secondary schools rates 725 high schools out of 10, zero being the worst and 10 being the best. Pierre Elliott Trudeau High School in Markham scored an overall mark of 9.8, good enough to rank fifth.‘We are certainly proud of our students’ achievement and the work our teachers do,’ principal Linda Balaishis said.She attributes the success to the professional development educators and staff receive to help them help students reach their  potential. For example, the school’s participation in the literacy collaborative, sponsored by the school board, allows teachers to share ideas and initiatives across the region and present them to colleagues in their own schools.One initiative implemented in the school encourages teachers of every subject to use specific strategies before, during and after using any text material to improve student literacy skills.‘So let’s say a science teacher is opening a new unit in chemistry,’ she explained. ‘There is work that can be done to teach students, not just about the subject, but lifelong literacy skills.’Before reading the text, a teacher will prepare students by accessing prior knowledge of the subject, putting new words and terms up on the wall and asking students to make predictions. During the reading of the text, teachers encourage questions, share note-taking tips and conduct a think-aloud session.The teacher will verbally go through the thinking process during the reading of the paragraph, she said. ‘Modelling the process allows students to learn how to do it themselves.’As for the improvement the school has achieved on the Grade 9 mathematics and Ontario Secondary School Literacy Tests, she suggests it is all the extras the school does to prepare students.The institute uses Grade 9 math test scores and results of the Grade 10 Ontario Secondary School Literacy Tests, administered by the Education Quality and Accountability Office to prepare.  After-school programs provide extra help on math and literacy, especially for English as a second language students, every semester, with specific help before the standardized testing.‘Before the testing, we ask the parents to explore the EQAO website with their children and look at some of the sample tests,’ she said. ‘About eight weeks before the test, we do what we call a ‘lit-blitz’.’A lit-blitz is a cross-curriculum approach where each teacher focuses on a portion of the test. A history teacher can assign a written report, but ask students to complete it in the form of a newspaper article, something students are asked to write on the provincial literacy test.‘This way, the student achievement on the literacy tests become everyone’s business,’ Mrs. Balaishis said.”

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