Posts Tagged ‘best practices’

While it may seem peculiar to be talking about attendance in the opening newsletter, it is actually the perfect time to bring awareness to the critical role it plays in student success. According to Alberta Education, students who attend under 90% are considered to be chronically absent.  While that may seem to be high, it means that with a school year of 180 days, students should miss no more than 18 days which equals out to 2 days per month.  Missing this many days puts student at risk of negative academic, economic, mental health and legal outcomes.

Matthew and I have previously done research and work in this area and are committed to continuing to work on improving attendance for all students. To that effect, our primary goal is to educate the school community about the importance of regular attendance. Our attendance awareness campaign kicks off with the following five facts courtesy of Attendance Works:

  1. Good attendance helps children do well in school and eventually in the work place. It matters for school success, starting as early as prekindergarten and throughout elementary school, and helps students stay on the path to academic success. Absences represent lost opportunities to learn in the classroom.
  2. Attendance patterns matter in all grades, including Kindergarten. Preschoolers build skills and develop habits for showing up every day on time. Elementary students learn to read in the early grades.
  3. Students are at academic risk if they miss 10 percent or more of the school year, or about 18 days a year. Once too many absences occur, they can affect learning, regardless of whether absences are excused or unexcused. Sporadic and consecutive absences negatively impact learning. Some absences are unavoidable, for example, due to serious or contagious illness but they should be prevented whenever possible.
  4. Chronic absence does not just affect the students who miss school. If too many students are chronically absent, it slows down instruction as teachers are likely to repeat material for students who have missed school. This makes it harder for students to learn and stay engaged, and for teachers to teach.
  5. Chronic absence is a problem we can solve when the whole community works together. We can all make a difference by encouraging good attendance both at home and at school.  We can also work together to help solve any attendance barriers.

Attendance Overall Summary 17 18

As attendance is a priority for us, we discussed it at our opening staff meeting. We shared attendance data from 2017 – 2018 with staff so that they could see the overall trends and know if they have students who were at risk last year.  The chart above summarize attendance trends for grades 1 – 5 students for the 2017 – 2018 school year. It is a celebration that 80.8% of students were at or above the 90% attendance rate. Through our awareness campaign, tracking and interventions we are hoping to improve upon the 80% this year.

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I have been checking out my flower bed every day for the past couple of week to see if the tulips that I planted in the fall, have sprouted.  Today I finally saw some green peeking out of the ground.  I’m pretty excited because these tulips were specially created to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Confederation and are white with a red maple leaf design.  canada tulipTo celebrate at FLVT some of our classes are participating in the Canada Games Activity Challenge where students complete a variety of activities.  Speaking of activities, our elementary marathon club kicked off last week and will continue to train and put in the required 40 kilometers so that students can complete the Little Souls Kids Marathon on May 31.

There are lots of other events to celebrate this month at FLVT.  Our grade 9 students will culminate their three years of studying French by heading off to Quebec for five days.  This is a great experience for our students to see another part of Canada and to put their French skills into practice.

Badminton is winding down and students in grades 6-9 will head off the City Championships in early April.  Good luck to all our teams. After the Easter break, our grade two students will take part in a First Communion retreat at the Church. Our students receiving the Holy Eucharist for the first time is a definite milestone to celebrate. We are blessed to have such a wonderful partnership with St. Martha’s Parish.

I’d like to highlight the work and achievements of our Health and Wellness Advisory Team.  After attending the Healthy Active Schools Symposia in the fall, the students identified four priorities with a focus on mental health. Students decided to create calm down kits to help reduce student stress and anxiety.  They spent time researching items to go in each kit, and they have created kits for the rooms in the office and are in the process of creating a kit for each classroom.  One item for the kits are fidgets which help to improve concentration and attention to classroom tasks.  green foodsStudents spent time repainting the canteen and the canteen now plays calming music at lunch time. Their “Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right” program is currently in place.  Students can earn entries for weekly prizes by showing they are eating a healthy food item of a specific color. March was red and now green is the focus for April. The students still have a goal of creating a quiet room in the school before the school year ends.  Congratulations on a job well done Team!

Finally, I’d like to celebrate the work that our teachers have been doing in their weekly Learning Team meetings.  One of our goals in our Continuous Improvement Plan this year, is to improve basic fact fluency.  Basic facts are addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts from 0 – 9 and students should be able to give a quick response in about three seconds. Teachers have been working with the resource teaching math develElementary and Middle School Mathematics Teaching Developmentally by Van de Walle, Karp, Bay-William, McGarvey, and Folk (2015). Teachers have been working on specific strategies that can improve number sense and basic fact fluency. One important skill for students is to anchor numbers to 5 and 10 where students can easily recall which numbers make a 5 and once they have that they should move on to making 10. Teachers have also been working on finding engaging games that allow students to practice their skills.  We shared what we learned with one another at our PD Day in March.  Teachers each brought a game they used in their classroom and played it with their group and then the group discussed ways the game could be adapted for their grade level. It was an amazing day of learning from one another and we had some fantastic dialogue on teaching strategies.  We are blessed to have a staff who are not only committed to, but are also role models for lifelong learning.

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For me, spring is a wonderful time of year as it is a time of new growth and renewal.  My favorite flowers, tulips and daffodils, emerge from their winter’s sleep and I love seeing the trees gradually turn to that special shade I call “spring green”.  Its feels like we also emerge from our winter’s sleep at the school as the warm temperatures allow us to shed our heavy coats and we change from the dark colors of winter to the bright pinks and yellows of spring.

Spring is also a time of renewal at FLVT as people have had the chance to relax over Easter and are refreshed for the last three months of school.  Currently, the production team is busy gearing up preparations for our Spring Production Get a Clue which takes place at the University of Lethbridge Theatre during the first week of May. April is busy with rehearsals: singing from Mondays to Wednesdays, dancing on Thursdays, and acting on Fridays. Full dress rehearsals for the entire cast take place from 10:00 – 4:00 at the school on Saturday April 16 and 23. On Monday May 2 the entire cast is at the University of Lethbridge Theatre all day for a final dress rehearsal.  From Tuesday to Thursday the students will perform a matinee at 11:00 for our Holy Spirit Schools and an evening performance for the general public starting at 7:00 pm.  Tickets for the evening shows can be purchased at the office or at the door and are $10 for adults and $8 for students. I’m looking forward to seeing the end result of all the hard work our students have put into the production. Hope to see you there!

We are also in the midst of new growth as we are planning for the 2016-2017 school year. We are working on timetabling options for our junior high classes and have changed the registration process to a two round electronic format.  In the next week students will be completing an electronic form whereby they choose their top choices.  Once students have listed their choices we will tabulate them and then schedule courses based on student choice.  After we have the schedule made then we will then have students choose their options based on the schedule.  The process takes some time and should be completed in early May.  We are also going to be gathering feedback on junior high core course redesign.  Last year, we looked at research on best practices for scheduling and grouping and we made a shift in philosophy on how we teach our cores. We moved from a single teacher with static class configurations to a team teaching approach with flexible groupings and units. The benefits of the approach is that over the course of three years, students would be exposed to a richer curriculum as teachers are familiar with students’ learning needs and they would build closer relationships with students and parents. Students also have a team of teachers that they can go to for help and could have the opportunity to have a concept explained in different ways. As with every gear change we make, there have been positives and negatives, and we are looking at collecting feedback to incorporate into our planning for next year.

Finally, I would like to congratulate Mr. Parr as he will be moving on to the Associate Principal position at the Children of St. Martha School. A search is currently underway for Mr. Parr’s replacement. I would like to wish him well in his new position and to thank him for sharing his gifts, talents, and leadership with us.

Get A Clue poster22

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