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TERMS OF REFERENCE All Alberta students should have access to high-quality learning opportunities in a safe and secure environment. The Ministry of Education has had an active monitoring relationship with the International School of Excellence. Recently, Education reassessed the school to address new and ongoing questions about the school’s operations. In May 2012, Education engaged in a monitoring activity to gather information about the quality of the education programming provided by the International School of Excellence. The findings were reported to the Deputy Minister The monitoring process included on-site school visits, the observation of teaching practices, examination of records and interviews with school administration, teaching and support staff, as well as students and parents. The school is located in northeast Calgary. It is located in the basement of Showers of Blessings Church at 3915 – 34 Street NE and has ten instructional spaces. The school serves approximately 175 students, 115 of which have been assessed as requiring English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction. Students are grouped in classrooms as follows: Early Childhood Services (ECS) ECS – Grade 1 Grade 2 – Grade 3 Grade 4 – Grade 5 Grade 6 – Grade 7 Grade 8 – Grade 9 Grade 10 Grade 11 Grade 12
FINDINGS, ANALYSIS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Some sections include additional information, such as analysis, and may also include recommended action to be taken by the International School of Excellence. Staffing The school employs ten certificated teachers, five non-certificated instructional assistants, a non-certificated Arabic language teacher and a school secretary. Two of the certificated staff are administrators who teach part-time. Three teachers provide elementary programming and four teach at the junior/senior high school level. One teachers delivers the physical education program to all grades.
Teacher Qualifications The school meets the requirements associated with teacher certification. A majority of the teachers in the school are new to the profession and relatively new to the school. Many of the teachers, having been trained outside Alberta, have been challenged to learn the Alberta Program of Studies and to understand the provincial testing program. The school has also experienced high teacher turnover in past years. Recommendation(s): 1. That the school take steps to ensure teachers have the job-embedded resources and supports necessary for them to learn and develop necessary skills and knowledge. 2. That the school develop a policy to support professional development planning and implementation for its teachers and administrators. Teacher Supervision and Evaluation A formal teacher supervision and evaluation policy does not exist, nor does a transparent, coordinated teacher evaluation process. Parents and students expressed mixed opinions on the school’s quality of instruction. Education requires all certificated staff to follow the provincial policy on teacher growth, supervision and evaluation. Recommendation(s): 3. That the school develop a school-based policy related to teacher supervision and evaluation to address practice and procedures for teachers and administrators. 4. That all certificated staff be required to complete annual professional growth plans, to be followed up with regular discussions between the principal and/or peers. 5. That the principal receive the necessary time and support to develop strategies with which to provide more effective teacher supervision and evaluation. Assessment and Student Evaluation The school does not have a formal student evaluation policy. The school’s student assessment and evaluation practices focus on awarding (or denying) marks based on student attendance, homework completion, participation and behaviour. A review of student records indicates that the performance of students on unit exams is far lower than their report card grades. A “policy” at the high school level suggests that final teacher-administered exams should not be used in diploma examination subjects. A multi-year review of diploma examination results at the school level indicates a decline in student performance. Teacher feedback or use of accumulated data should serve to improve instruction and student achievement. While students and parents appreciate teachers’ efforts to provide opportunities for exam practice, the improved use of provincial achievement tests and diploma examinations to analyze student learning difficulties would yield better results.
Given the high percentage of ESL students, the school needs to develop a more co-ordinated effort to modify instruction and assessment for individual student needs. All teachers should be aware of provincial ESL benchmarks and have access to related professional development support. The school’s three-year education plan does not directly reference specific data, such as the provincial achievement test and diploma examination results and any strategies that could be used to improve these results. The school should identify the critical relationship between highquality teaching and improvements in student achievement in its plan. Recommendation(s): 6. That the school develop a student assessment and evaluation policy that focuses on the assessment of each student’s achievement in meeting the outcomes identified in the Program of Studies. 7. That the school’s policy identify the importance of using school-based examination periods to regularly measure student progress against the intended learning outcomes. 8. That the school’s leadership and professional teaching staff develop strategies to use formative assessment data more effectively. This will ensure individualized feedback and intervention is provided to students on a regular, ongoing basis. 9. That the teaching staff take advantage of exam interpretation workshops available through the Alberta Regional Professional Development Consortia. 10. That the school’s three-year education plan include achievement test and diploma examination results and strategies to improve these results. 11. That the school develop a plan to recognize the individual needs of ESL learners. All teaching staff should have an improved understanding of appropriate teaching strategies and benchmark assessments for ESL learners. Diploma Examination and Provincial Achievement Test Administration Practices Diploma examination and provincial achievement test administration must follow the requirements outlined in the administration directives in the Alberta Education General Information Bulletins. The school’s examination administration practices have not consistently followed these requirements. On several occasions, irregularities have been reported in the administration of the exams. Recommendation(s): 12. That Education appoint an external exam supervisor for the diploma examination and provincial achievement test administration at the school. Diploma Examination Results On a student, school and provincial basis, the school’s diploma examination results indicate a substantial difference between school-awarded marks and diploma marks. While school-awarded averages in individual diploma examination subjects vary slightly over time, the diploma examination averages have declined substantially. As an objective and reliable measure, the diploma examination results indicate that many of the school’s students are not achieving at an acceptable standard.
Financial Summary The school had an accumulated operating deficit (AOD) of $383,737 as of August 31, 2011. Its has projected a surplus for the current school year as well as for each of the next four school years, enabling them to eliminate their AOD by August 31, 2015. The primary reason for the school’s AOD is its net annual operating deficits and a capital addition (land purchase for a possible new school site). Fire Safety Concerns International School of Excellence has no formal policy for fire drills or school emergencies. Recommendation(s): 13. That the school develop a policy, immediately, to clarify expectations for matters related to fire safety and emergency response. 14. That all exits be marked and identified and that all such exits are accessible. 15. That classrooms have fire drill procedures posted, including exit maps in every room. 16. That the school ensure smoke detectors are appropriately placed and checked on a regular basis. 17. That the school hold fire drills on a regular basis. 18. That the school develop a lockdown procedure to ensure student/staff safety in the event of imminent threat or harm to persons in the school. All the noted deficiencies must be addressed and corrective action taken immediately. Interview Feedback Regarding School Strengths Teachers, parents and students like the school’s small population. Teachers feel it affords them not only more direct involvement with students, but also more accessible and prompt administrative support. Students feel it gives them more teacher attention. Parents feel the small size fosters a welcoming, safe environment and increased individual attention for their children. Teachers and some parents perceive the student population as a strength. The principal is wellliked and respected in the school community. Interview Feedback Regarding School Challenges All teachers are concerned with the range of subjects available to students. The number of available courses is limited, particularly in high school. For example, Career and Technology Studies is limited to one course in finance and another in computers. Physical space is limited and the school is crowded. Some areas are uncomfortably warm due to poor ventilation. Students do not view their building as a “school” and do not speak about the building or location with pride. All of the parents interviewed thought the school was doing well, given its limitations. They were very understanding of the situation. Parents do want the school’s location or population size to change.
Students and some teachers are concerned with student behavior. They expressed concern that the language and poor behaviour of older students is being witnessed by and impacting very young students.
NEXT STEPS The board and the administration of the International School of Excellence will need to address the recommendations identified in the findings, analysis and recommendations of this report. Education staff will be available to the school for consultation and assistance in order to develop an action plan to be completed on or before August 31, 2012. In addition, Education staff will work closely with the school in the 2012/2013 school year to monitor the implementation of the action plan.
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