Ontario District Embraces An Evolving Approach To Learning

By Denese Belchetz and Kathy Witherow
February 2014
The York Region District School Board is recognized as a high-performing district in Ontario, Canada, and has also garnered international attention. Visitors from across Canada, as well as Singapore, Finland, England, Scotland, Holland, Bahamas, Korea, China, and Taiwan, have come to learn about its system and observe the teaching, learning, and leadership practices underway in its schools and classrooms. The district’s achievement and resulting recognition is no accident. Through its commitment to intentional capacity building at all levels of the organization, the district has worked to cultivate a culture of collaboration and continuous learning that focuses on and positively impacts improved student achievement and well-being. Overview  Over the past decade, the York Region District School Board’s plan for continuous improvement has focused on improving student achievement through its literacy

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Denese Belchetz and Kathy Witherow

Denese Belchetz (denese.belchetz@yrdsb.edu.on.ca) is associate director of leadership and learning and Kathy Witherow (kathy.witherow@yrdsb.edu.on.ca) is superintendent of curriculum and instructional services at York Region District School Board.

Student Achievement Results

York Region District School BoardThe Education Quality and Assessment Office administers annual assessments across Ontario in grades 3, 6, 9, and 10. The results shown in the table below reflect the York Region District School Board’s results in grade 3 and grade 6 reading, writing, and mathematics, grade 9 mathematics, and grade 10 Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT).
Percentage of all students at or above provincial standard

(Levels 3 & 4)

Assessment 2002-03 2007-08 2011-12
Grade 3
Reading 57 67 74
Writing 63 74 84
Mathematics 67 77 79
Grade 6
Reading 64 74 84
Writing 62 77 84
Mathematics 65 73 71
Grade 9
Academic mathematics 70 84 90
Applied mathematics 20 41 50
Grade 10: OSSLT
Percentage of fully participating students who were successful in their first attempt at writing the grade 10 OSSLT. 77 88 89
Grade 9 cohort
Cohort starting year 2000-01 2003-04 2007-08
Five-year graduation rate 85 87 91
Source: EQAO Achievement Result, www.eqao.com.

References

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Barber, M. & Mourshed, M. (2007, September). How the world’s best-performing school systems come out on top. New York, NY: McKinsey & Company.

Belchetz, D. (2009). Leadership and innovation in the York Region District School Board. Prepared for the 2009 Scottish International Summer School on School Leadership. Available at http://dhackshaw.abel.yorku.ca/leadershipdevelopment/questjournal2009/LeadershipInnovation.pdf.

City, E., Elmore, R., Fiarman, S., & Teitel, L. (2009). Instructional rounds in education: A network approach to improving teaching and learning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Coburn, C. (2003, August). Rethinking scale: Moving beyond numbers to deep and lasting change. Educational Researcher, 32(6), 3-12.

Hargreaves, A. & Fullan, M. (2012). Professional capital: Transforming teaching in every school. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Hargreaves, A. & Shirley, D. (2009). The global fourth way. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Heifetz, R. & Linksky, M. (2002). Leadership on the line: Staying alive through the dangers of leading. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Leithwood, K. (2013, June). Strong districts & their leadership. Paper commissioned by the Council of Ontario Directors of Education and the Institute for Education Leadership, Ontario, Canada.

Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat. (2008, May-June). Building capacity with a focus on results: The literacy and numeracy strategy. Paper delivered to the Canadian Society for the Study of Education, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Waters, T., Marzano, R.J., & McNulty, B. (2004, Winter). McREL’s Balanced Leadership Framework: Developing the science of educational leadership. ERS Spectrum, 22(1), 4-13.

Wise, G. (2009, July 27). The continuous learning environment: Surviving learning solution discovery. Learning Solutions Magazine. Available at www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/16/the-continuous-learning-environment-surviving-learning-solution-discovery.

Witherow, K. (2011). Research use and the impact in secondary schools (Doctoral dissertation, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto).



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