1, 2, 3...We Can Excel in Numeracy
Thu Mar 15 00:00:00 NDT 2018

My last blog discussed literacy and efforts of our school communities to focus on that important area of learning. Like literacy, numeracy education is a key focus of our strategic plan and I would like to outline just a fraction of our efforts to enhance numeracy education.

Similar to Literacy Days, many schools are implementing Numeracy Days which help students connect their numeracy education to everyday activities. Families may also be invited to attend Math Days that showcase student work, Family Math Night, or participate in a weekly family problem solving challenge. All of these activities highlight the importance of numeracy initiatives and extend conversations on numeracy beyond the walls of the classroom.   

The District’s strategic plan outlines a number of initiatives that guide our focus on enhancing student achievement in numeracy. A comprehensive Numeracy Plan for grades 6-9 and resources for grades 6-7 that help to identify numeracy concepts with which students may require additional support are just two examples. As well, a new professional learning plan is being developed for grades 6-9 educators and staff are partaking in numerous self-directed professional learning opportunities.

Trustees and staff also recognize that international data - such as PISA - generally rank our province lower in performance than many of our national counterparts when it comes to numeracy. Quite frankly, we would like to change those results and showcase the capabilities of our students as we see it demonstrated daily in the classroom. While PISA does not impact final course marks, we want to ensure students choose to actively engage the test as it helps the District focus on areas of need. I encourage you to visit an information page we have established to learn more about PISA. 

Numeracy is a key focus area for our Board and District staff and while we have made significant strides in our approach, we continue to work diligently to help our students with their numeracy skills. Just as importantly, we need our school communities, including families and friends, to support our message about the importance of numeracy and the role it plays in our lives.

Take your own action at home and practice simple numeracy activities such as: counting stairs with young children; grouping household items; measuring while cooking; or, arranging patterns. Collectively, we can make a difference not only in results, but in the perceptions of mathematics - and have a little fun along the way.

Sincerely,

Tony

PREVIOUS THREE ENTRIES
A School Community Approach to Improving Literacy
Wed Feb 21 00:00:00 NST 2018

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending St. George’s Elementary and St. Andrew’s Elementary to participate in Family Literacy Day. It was great to engage the students and to see their joy when we read books, discussed the stories, and explored what they learned. Those in-class reading sessions were a true example of student engagement and the joy students receive from reading, as well as the importance of literacy.

The Board of Trustees has also acknowledged how important reading is and has made literacy a core focus of the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District strategic plan. Staff have been diligently implementing this objective and I am proud that our schools and teachers have taken up this cause, undertaking tremendous efforts to ensure our students are strong readers and ready for all life offers.

Research demonstrates that children who can read proficiently by the end of third grade will realize greater academic success and less struggles in life. In order to do all we can for our students to attain reading proficiency at that critical time, we have implemented the Benchmark Assessment System and Levelled Learning Intervention initiatives in our schools. These are tools to identify student reading levels and subsequently provide extra resources to improve their reading abilities. While we must keep in mind that some students develop later than others, intervention is key if we want to ensure students remain on the road to academic success.

These initiatives were recently profiled at a Board of Trustee meeting, including a video demonstration of the tools in use and a display of the materials. A recording of that presentation can be found at the end of this blog and I encourage you to watch and learn more about how these programs are being implemented in District schools.

We can leverage these resources to complement the tremendous work being done by our teachers in classrooms. I know of exciting literacy programs occurring throughout the District, being led by committed and innovative teachers who are taking the initiative to foster literacy in their school community. I commend our teachers for believing in our goals of improving student literacy and for making our objectives a classroom reality.

Our province has a history of outstanding writers, including, but certainly not limited to, recent Governor-General’s Literary Award winner Joel Thomas Hynes, as well as Lisa Moore who will soon have a novel aired as a TV series. We offer the country and the world amazing actors and comedians who challenge us and make us laugh, musicians who entertain us, and engaging historians who inform us. Their success relies upon the ability to interpret our world through words so that we can understand a perspective we may not have previously considered. These are inspiring individuals who illustrate what we are capable of. Our educators are just as inspiring and demonstrate literacy leadership on a daily basis. Working together, we can ensure our students strive for their personal best and achieve personal success, of which literacy is leading factor.

At the risk of really dating myself, I can recall waiting eagerly for the weekly arrival of the bookmobile - a converted school bus from the public library that would travel around to neighborhoods in the summer - so I could dig into the next Arthur C. Clarke SciFi novel. Today, this is just as likely to be a graphic novel readily accessed through an iPad. I am sure many of you have have similar memories of your favourite book, short story, or a poem which opened your mind to new ideas and possibilities; such is the power of literacy. I encourage every member of our school communities to continue with the great work they have been doing to encourage literacy and allow our students to create such memories. From Family Literacy Day to reading circles in our classrooms, every effort counts and contributes to our goals. Read at home with and to your children, and also let them see your love of reading on a daily basis.

Sincerely,

Tony

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”  - Frederick Douglass

Tools to Achieve Academic Success
Thu Jan 25 00:00:00 NST 2018

As we have entered the second half of the school year, it is important to evaluate our goals and ensure we have made a commitment and a plan to achieve them. In many ways 2018 offers a fresh start, yet builds upon the lessons learned in the first months of the school year.

By now, we all know the areas we need to put in some extra effort and what is required to be successful during the coming months. It is certainly far easier to achieve our goals if we have established a plan we know will lead to academic success. And while such a plan is important to establish and follow, it must also be flexible so that adjustments can be made for unforeseen circumstances, and more importantly, new and exciting opportunities. So, take some time to develop your approach to achieving the success you desire and deserve.

As our high school students prepare for mid-term exams and strive for academic success, I would like to remind everyone that the District has provided a tremendous amount of online resources that I am sure will prove useful for studying. With a particular focus on mathematics, the online resources should be visited by every student preparing for mid-terms. As well, junior high students can include these resources in their academic success plan and avail of the lessons available specifically for them. The District ‘online prep’ resources can be found here: https://www.nlesd.ca/families/onlinetools.jsp

Students can also take advantage of the many course review materials and online tutoring available through the Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation. A link is available on the above page or can be accessed directly here: https://www.cdli.ca/.  This division of the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District provides an amazing amount of prep and tutoring materials that can be used by any student of the District, not just those who use CDLI as part of their typical academic course work. The Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation has assembled an amazing repertoire of material to benefit all students and we should encourage our students, friends, and family members to take advantage of this unique resource.

Over the course of the coming months I intend to focus some of my future blog posts on the important topics of literacy and numeracy. Our District has been undertaking great initiatives in these areas and I feel, making important steps forward in the education of our students. I hope to connect with readers on the importance of these efforts and promote the support needed by our school communities to ensure the work at school continues at home, and then leads to student success.

Before I conclude, I would like to echo one important topic our District has been focusing on this academic year that should be included in every successful academic plan: attendance. Ensuring students are in class and engaged in their education is critical to success. If you regularly read the Director’s Blog or pay attention to communications from the District, you know the importance of attendance and engagement and how being in school is a precursor to success. Continuing the focus on attendance and engagement should be a priority for all school communities, including students, parents and guardians, administrators, teachers, and school councils. The fundamental question that we must all ask before engaging in activity that takes us away from instructional time is:

Can this activity or event be conducted at a time and/or in a manner that does not disrupt precious time from teaching and learning?

I extend my best wishes to everyone for a safe and successful 2018 and I look forward to the many accomplishments we will achieve together.

Sincerely,

Tony

Thanks for 2017
Tue Dec 19 00:00:00 NST 2017

I will not replicate the Christmas messages sent by the Board and the District in this blog. I would simply like to use this space to thank our dedicated employees for the work you individually accomplish, day in and day out, sung and unsung, for the betterment of our students in 2017 and urge you to take full advantage of the Christmas break to relax and recharge.

The Christmas break is really the only time where just about everything in our busy personal and professional lives slows down or comes to complete halt. Yes, there are other natural breaks in the school year, but often these breaks are interrupted or overshadowed by some activity deemed too essential to completely set aside for a time. However, barring some emergency, the Christmas break affords us the best opportunity to slow down, reflect, and enjoy the company of our family and friends without some immediate deadline looming.

As I go about the District’s schools and offices, I continue to be impressed with the commitment, creativity, dedication, and expertise of our employees. A year can be compressed into a mind’s-eye-view like images in a slide show. A District year-in-review slide show could include: the teacher standing before their admiring students delighted to be finally retiring but satisfied with what they had achieved after a fulfilling career; the new primary teacher so delighted with the new flexible seating in their classroom; the administrator so proud to show off their in-house designed and equipped calming room; the program specialists who volunteers to run a summer institute for teachers and bakes the treats for all who attend; the student assistant using a family recipe to bake bread and applying molasses as it is handed out to the students; the custodian who took such pride in an elaborate setup of equipment in support of an official school opening; the maintenance manager who was eager to provide a tour of a school that facilities staff had just finished renovating; the smiling cleaner who I’d seen at several schools in as many days as staff hustled around to open our new schools in September; the computer support specialist who persevered in establishing a consistent wifi signal in a classroom; the bus driver who delivers that special morning greeting to the students as they hop aboard; the school secretary who produced another beautiful program of events for Remembrance Day; the payroll clerk who makes that one extra phone call as the day expires to make sure the substitute teacher gets paid on time; and, the finance clerk who diligently processed a pile of requests. These are but a few images, all of them samples of ordinary, yet wonderful snapshots in time that collectively illustrate the work ethic and contribution of our employees that goes into making and sustaining truly remarkable school communities.

To all our District employees, in schools and offices around the province, again I thank you. Enjoy and relax this holiday season. You have more than earned it.

To all our students, parents, staff, and trustees, I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas break spent enjoying the traditions of the holidays. I wish you all the best of the season and look forward to continuing our positive work in 2018.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Tony

Tony Stack
CEO/Director of Education

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St. John's, NL · Canada · A1B 1R6
Tel: (709) 758-2372 · Fax: (709) 758-2706

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