Part 1: Analysis of Context
1. What do we know about our learners?
Fraser Height’s enrolls about 1400 students including about 110 international students. The majority of students are high functioning academically oriented and come to school to build their skills in preparation for the post secondary component of their education. Since inception, and in particular over the past five years, Fraser Heights has adapted its academic programming to further meet the needs of our students and our parent community. Prominent among the more recent adaptations are the Inquiry 8 Cohort and the grade 11/12 Science and Math Academy. This year, as in previous years, the school has focused on inquiry as an instructional tool. We believe that inquiry fosters learner and teacher growth through facilitating exploration of personal passions, activation of the three primary core competencies (thinking, communicating and personal/social) and creates a more active engaged learner. Grade 8 students at Fraser Heights take six core courses and receive 2 electives. All students do Humanities, so they have one teacher connecting with them throughout the grade 8 year. This teacher integrates curriculum and, where possible, teaches thematically. Sixty students per year can choose to be part of a team taught Inquiry 8 cohort. Here two teachers teach Humanities and Science explicitly through an inquiry lens. Each year grade 7 students compete to be selected into our Math Honours program. Sixty grade 8 students are selected from those who write the screening exam. Their performance on the Gauss exam and their teacher recommendation also influence who is accepted to this program. These students complete Math 8 and Math 9 in one semester. In grade 9 they take Math 10 Honours and many of these students undertake our Science and Math Academy in grade 11. Some grade 8 students also take Enhanced French 8, depending on their French teaching in their respective elementary school. For the last 4 years all grade 8 and 9 students have, in the fall, participated in some form of an Innovation Fair. Here they have taken on a question or idea that interested them, investigated it through the Inquiry Cycle, then, with help from a Presentation Skills Assembly, they showcased their work for a morning to a wide audience including parents, associate elementary school students, teachers, and Simon Fraser University faculty. So far, this is strictly an example of learning for the sake of learning. In grade 8 and 9 we report on student progress using letter grades, not percentages. We are trying to shift student learning motivation away from a select and sort percentage achievement environment to one built around curiosity and learning for the sake of learning. Grade 9 students continue taking core courses and exploratory elective courses. In many ways Grade 8 and 9 students are still in exploratory years. We offer a new group of students a chance to take Math 9 Honours. We encourage them to consider using one of their three electives to continue learning an international language. Spanish becomes a second choice for language study at grade 9. Japanese becomes an option for grade 10 students In grade 10 students begin their engagement with the three year BC High School Graduation Program. This program is changing. Next year is a hybrid year with Fraser heights introducing many of the new courses that students will take. For example students will take two-two credit English courses as well as the five core courses and two electives. Planning 10 is being replaced with Career Life Education. Graduation Transitions, a four credit course students have engaged with in their grade 12 year is being currently replaced by Career Life Connections, a course we are looking at offering partly in grade 11 and partly in grade 12. We are still awaiting more definitive words and processes from the provincial government. We were happy when the Ministry of Education postponed full implementation of the grad program from September 2017 to September 2018. We believe that ultimately there will be enough flexibility within the system to allow every student to graduate without any penalty that somehow might be associated with the switch from the old graduation program to the new. The new Graduation program requires students to write two broad exams in their grad program years. One will be numeracy based and one literacy based. The purpose of the exams is to give students, parents and teachers feedback about each student’s proficiency with the subject. We hope to receive more information about the exams by June 2017. The exams are being designed such that students will be able to take them more than once and they are not exams that students can really prep for. Some form of proficiency scale is how we think the results will be communicated. In grade 11 students start to focus more on choosing a set of courses that align with their career and life plans. Fraser Heights is a comprehensive school offering students a wide range of electives and a full career department to help them begin narrowing down career possibilities and choosing courses and/or district programs commensurate with such aspirations. Next year English 11 will have four ‘flavours’ which students can choose from. Each will cover the four core components of any English course, but will offer students a more personalized approach allowing them to work more in an area where they have a greater interest. English 11 will also be backed by work experience (WEX) 11, a long standing practice at Fraser Heights, where students receive two three week work experience placements in their grade 11 year. Social Studies 11, as a stand alone everyone take course, disappears next year. In its place students choose from a number of courses that give them the Social Studies course credit they need to graduate. In grade 11 some Fraser Heights students will also choose to engage in Science and Math Academy 11. This is a two year program where students accelerate in Math, Chemistry and Physics such that in grade 12 they take AP Physics and AP Calculus as well as taking first year university Chemistry at the Surrey campus of Simon Fraser University. The program is currently in its fourth year. The original thought was that it would be delivered via a cadre of four teachers and offered to up to 90 students. The numbers have fluctuated between 60 and 90 students, but we’ve seen a steady increase in the number of solid applicants and we believe the program is in a very good place as we move forward. This year we anticipate about 100 students being engaged in the academy. In grade 12 we focus on allowing our students to have an excellent last year of high school while preparing them for the transition to post-secondary. For next year the old grad rules still apply where students just have one required course, English or Communications 12 . There still is a provincial exam for these courses. Otherwise, students, in conjunction with their parents and counsellors, take 6 or 7 other courses such that they position themselves for the transition to further study, work or travel. We recognize that not all students are ready and/or have the inclination right away to tackle traditional academic post secondary studies. Therefore we also offer a one semester Crossroads program where students receive Communications 11 and 12 (if both are needed), First Nations 12, and two blocks of WEX (work experience) Relationships and identity are stressed in this program and it serves an integral niche in meeting the needs of all our students.
2. What evidence supports what we know about our learners?
Fraser Heights is a relatively affluent community. Many of our parents are well educated, work very hard, and have very high expectations for their catchment school and their children. There is intense pressure to excel academically, but also to grow and learn as full future members of Canadian society. Fraser Heights students do excel academically. However, they also excel in all aspects of the school. We have strong programs in music, (including voice), theatre, art, technical education, computer technology and media and business education. We also offer a full athletics program. Our strongest results have been in volleyball and particularly badminton, where we have won four of the last five provincial titles. We set high expectations for our students, in turn most meet and exceed them. Fraser Heights also boosts over 5o registered clubs . These clubs have varied mandates, but provide multiple entry points for student leadership. We have a very active Model United Nations Club as well as an vibrant Debate Club, among many others. Our timetable allows teacher flex time, so students can get opportunities for more intensive support as well as we have an hour long lunch, so lots of club business can take place at lunch. We are fortunate to be located very near to a city recreation centre, so our students can also access that facility as well as a range of many business that are located very close to the school. My views on the ‘typical’ Fraser Heights student are support by provincial exam results, satisfaction survey data, grade distributions on report cards, anecdotal conversations with grads in GT exit interviews, and individual conversations with students. They are also supported by feedback we see from Innovation Fairs, Science Academy Capstone Projects, results on Gauss, Caley, Fermat, Pascal and other math exams and acceptance at a wide variety of post-secondary institutions. They also come through talking with our teachers and on direct observation of the teaching and learning at the school. As we move forward, we are focusing on how we can use inquiry to push students to higher levels of learning. We are also looking for improved ways we can communicate student learning. We have an action research group looking at Learning Maps and expanded utilization of a tool like Fresh Grade or My Locker to broaden student self reflection and provide a wider audience to which students can demonstrate their learning. The new K –> 9 curriculum, with specific reference for the grade 8 and 9 curriculum, requires students to do a self reflection exercise where they reflect on where they are with proficiency with the Core Competencies. This is an area where we are focusing over the remaining five months of this school year. We are in a time of tremendous change in our school system. We are shifting from a knowledge acquisition framework where ‘learning’ was measured primarily by test taking skill, to a system where skills and processes are the primary focus. The attributes of a 21st century grad are changing. The world is rapidly evolving. Mechanization is eliminating many lower skill jobs. To be properly prepared for the 21st century knowledge, skill and innovation economy, we must adjust our focus now. I believe Fraser Heights is a learning community that is open to reflection and is willing to try new things. We will be very busy with this process over the next several years.
Part 2: Focus and Planning
3. What focus emerges as a question to pursue?
We started our school planning process by reviewing the direction we had been going under the previous principal and administrative team. This resulted in an evolving powerpoint that served as this year’s initial school plan and a supplemental document from department heads that summarized how departmental work was contributing to the overall direction of the school. Our ‘unifying’ question, which is something that is very difficult to come up with, in a large comprehensive school, revolved around how we as a school can utilize inquiry as a teacher tool to further engage students in deeper learning, enable more students to pursue their personal passions and help students learn how to analyze multiple sources of information and work through ‘piles of information’ to develop and defend their idea or argument. This initial focus is still the focus for staff, but we are also working with how we can:
- include meaningful integration of the first people’s principles of learning;
- educate and prepare our grade 8 and 9 students for the required self reflection on core competencies that will accompany the final report card home this year;
- find and accept a tool like My Locker in MyEdBC which could serve as a repository for student self reflections and artifacts showcasing their learning which ultimately might be used in their graduating capstone project; and
- how we can most successfully transition into the letter and spirit of the new grad program.
4. What professional learning do we need?
Like any learning organization, we need ongoing professional learning in multiple areas. We benefit from having a strong teaching staff who are proud of the work they do. One thing that I would like the staff to have is the gift of time. I think the best professional learning is providing time to talk collaboratively and professionally about pedagogy and assessment. We are shifting away from knowledge acquisition demonstrated through memorization to more about development of critical and innovative thinking through analysis of and continually revisiting big questions. We strive to activate all three of the core competencies through intentional work with the curricular competencies and learning standards. We ask staff to teach through an inquiry lens. We need to see and hear exemplars of how this is happening, and have support structures within the school, for staff who are curious, or who might benefit from passive and active modelling. We currently have 6 professional development days a year, and this year we had one provincial curriculum implementation day. At Fraser Heights we traditionally use two of the days for a late Summer Institute. The October and early May days are provincial specialist and Surrey Teacher Association days. That leaves us the admin day, which this yearwe used in September and the late May Pro-d for school based professional development. The professional learning that we will continue to focus on will be built around understanding inquiry, understanding and implementing the letter and spirit of the new curriculum, continuing to look at assessment, particularly formative assessment as a tool to implement formative teaching. Formative teaching helps all students and helps the lowest students the most. We will also examine how to introduce and familiarize all grade 8 and 9 students with the core competencies and with self-reflection and finally examine how we can continue to internalize the first people`s principles of learning into everything we do.
5. What is our plan?
Our plan is always based on unfailing optimism and the power of the school experience to change lives. We believe that school cannot be a passive experience. This applies both to the students and to the adults in the building. This year we purposefully planned the first of the two summer Pro-d days to take place at Katzie Reserve #3 in Pitt Meadows. There we had a morning where we heard and witnessed elders and youth present stories to introduce us to the first people’s principles of learning. Then in the afternoon we chose an activity associated with local traditions. This ranged form looking at medicinal plants to a salmon wal to a tour of the band’s new health centre. The next day we re-connected at school and spent the morning reviewing the day and making plans for how we would incorporate the ideas into the teaching we do. The afternoon was departmental time where that work continued. We opened our school grade assemblies that September with a traditional acknowledgement that out school and our school system lies on the traditional territories of the Katzie, Semiahmoo and Kwantlen first nations. We used the September Pro-d day to present the School Plan to the staff, then leveraged the discussion around the plan to table talk about implementation and validity of the current version of the plan. At the September Department Head meeting we asked that some monthly department meeting time be focused on how the department is addressing the goal(s) of the school plan through the work they are intentionally doing with their students. Then we follow up with support, stories and engagement through staff and department head meetings as well as supporting other school and district structures designed to promote personal growth within staff. Such activities include, but are not limited to:
- meet and eat lunches
- district supported action research activities
- district supported ignite sessions
- district supported guest speaker dinner series
They are also supported through continuation of school initiatives such as Grade 8 and 9 Inquiry Fest as well as Grade 12 Science Academy Capstone projects. In addition our Career Department provides a broad range of options provided by our career Department
Part 3: Reflect, Adjust, Celebrate
6. How will we know our plan is making a difference? (evidence / success criteria)
We know the plan is making a difference because we listen to the ongoing minute by minute, day by day narrative of the staff, students and parents. We see staff implementing inquiry, building instruction around big questions, and personalizing learning through student choice. We see students asking questions, pushing the boundaries of excellence and interacting with their peers to individually and collaboratively present answers and/or dig more deeply into issues and questions.
We will continue to review feedback from the grade 10, 12 and parent satisfaction survey process. We continue to probe our graduating students as to what made a difference to them in their schooling at Fraser Heights. We continue to have open conversations about what is working and what is not. We continue to refine our processes and this is an ongoing cyclic process.
7. Based on the evidence, does our inquiry require adjustment?
All plans require ongoing adjustment. The broad goals/themes of our plan are universal and are based on a model of constant reflection/metacognition and always looking for ways to more effectively link instruction to learning. We will continually shape our plan, and report our ongoing work through our school blog, fhlearn.ca and through using twitter. We will continually adjust our plan as we collaborate and share what is working and what is not working. Any kind of strategic plan calls for ongoing review and adaptation. Ours is no different, we will keep fine tuning it in conjunction with our overall goal, providing the best educational service to our students, with a broad educational mindset underlying everything we do.