Cornerstone highlights data-backed information

One of the most important system goals embedded in the South East Cornerstone Public School Division is simply noted as System Goal No. 3.

But, what comes with that No. 3 placement could arguably be a first-place priority.

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The school division is data driven by its own admission and Goal 3 describes to the effect they use information gathered to measure, monitor and report continuous improvement within the student body, and by design, the teams that deliver those educational standards.

Superintendents Gord Husband, Kevin Hengen and Shelley Sargent were joined by director of education Lynn Little to deliver a package of system Goal 3 information to board members on Feb. 10.

The one-hour presentation was part of the board’s monthly public business meeting that was once again held in an online format due to the need to respect health and safety guidelines.

Chairwoman Audrey Trombley was in the division’s head office conference room along with a few administration personnel, and she called on Little to start the presentation that included a host of research-based information that is used by the educational leaders to provide system-wide improvements in the teaching and learning processes.

“It shows us where targets are met and where there is room for improvement,” said Little in her opening remarks.

Husband explained the first strand of the data gathering system, entitled SKOPUS which is a warehouse for student information. The system allows for the gathering of student information from the schools and their achievement data.

“This year has been significantly different. But we have the tools,” Husband said.

Student profiles, reports and dashboard items such as attendance and other outcomes are gathered for each student. Report cards, previous report cards, data management and analysis are all within the SKOPUS embrace to help build the data wall, he explained.

Husband said “we needed to take a snapshot in time when schools closed,” referring to the mid-March 2020 closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Using a Grade 3 sample, Husband showed how 80 per cent of the Cornerstone students were at or well above expected achievement levels and then indicated where and how those who needed and agreed to supplemental learning, were assisted by the gathering of vital information that could be used for introductions into a new grade level.

A chart for middle years schooling was extrapolated to include supplemental learning and Husband noted that chart was a little deceiving since not all students chose to engage in the supplemental learning process after classes were reverted to online messaging.

The focus was on transitions so students could start the year off in a positive fashion, Husband said.

A third chart showed the data gathering system as it was used in a high school (Grade 10) math program. Again, he noted the data was limited since some students had only engaged in about 20 in-class teaching days prior to the shutdown.

The information gathered subsequently though, identifies the needs for school level instruction and student needs heading into the next academic year.

“We identify the learning needs of our students,” Husband said in the concluding remarks for his opening segment of the presentation.

Hengen introduced the STAR or universal screen assessment system used by the division. Known as the Renaissance Assessments, Hengen said, “it’s an easy system to use,” and gives the principals and teachers a snap shot of student progress.

Again, using charts and graphs, the system’s use for reading skills, early literacy and math were displayed and that helped educators lean into the diagnostics to discern, “what needs more attention or intervention,” he said.

Assessments are carried out three times during the school year. An example chart of a Grade 5 math tracking system was shown, indicating a colour-coded sample for individual ranks.

In response to a question, Hengen said this tracking can be done in an online system as well as within a classroom but “we haven’t assessed current results versus previous results yet.”

Sargent spoke next and her subject matter was universal behaviour. She said all students from Grades 4-12 were assessed each fall, with students being asked to provide some self-assessments while homeroom, or other educators with a steady exposure to the student, are being asked to do an assessment of individual students.

These assessments give leaders a look at potential risk levels regarding behaviour and emotions.

“We compare how they see themselves with how the teacher sees them,” said Sargent.

A data analysis sample was provided to the board members showing the various questions that are asked on the survey dealing with such things as mood changes, self-control, ability to work with others, tension, attention spans and abilities to reach out to help others or to accept help.

“Again, the current year is unique so we re-evaluate how we identify students of concern,” Sargent added.

The school counsellors’ caseloads are based on data like this and students are re-screened in the spring and often “this helps fill gaps in students’ mental health needs,” Sargent said.

The colour-coded charts indicate that students situated in the yellow or red zones, signals that the school needs to dig into the data to discover where the educators can help.

“It’s often just one step at a time,” she said.

On this topic, Little said this segment of data gathering could be compared with a pothole in the highway.

“We can drive carefully around it. It slows us down, but it will be repaired.”

With that note, the trio of presenters were thanked by Trombley for the expertise and information they brought to the session.

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