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Success / Learning to 18 Initiatives Resources

Good evening parents, guardians, teachers, staff, and students. It is with great pleasure that I accepted this invitation from Guidance Counselor Mrs. Lenovo to speak to you on behalf of some of the wonderful new programs initiated by the school board and the Ministry of Education regarding student success and student learning.

As we all know, each teenager has his or her own unique interests, goals, and strengths. Needless to say, every student should have the same opportunity to succeed and graduate from high school. In order to help place each student on a more clearly determined career path, it is crucial to have the best possible information and the widest possible information from sources that you can trust. Hopefully, by the end of this assembly, you will all have a clearer understanding of how the province of Ontario is working with the Toronto District School Board to help our students build a more prosperous, promising future for themselves and for the community.

The Student Success program was started by the McGuinty government in order to provide greater support for struggling students and to establish smaller class sizes in key areas, thereby helping to keep students in school and increase graduation rates. Generally, success for students means moving beyond college and university to include apprenticeships and skilled job placements. This comprehensive program is creating a new role for publicly funded high schools and working to create a good outcome for every student.

When this idea was first implemented nearly five years ago, approximately a third of students were not completing their high school education. Statistics show that compared to high school graduates, students who drop out are twice as likely to be unemployed (especially since most jobs require a high school diploma), three times more likely to spend time in prison, and five times more likely to need income assistance. The government's main target is to reach a graduation rate of 85 percent by 2010-11. This means 20000 more students will graduate when the target is achieved.

As anticipated, a great deal progress has been achieved. So far, since 2003 to 2004, the high school graduation rate has increased by seven percentage points - from 68 to 75 percent. That means 22,500 more students obtained their high school diploma and a chance at a brighter future. And more Grade 9 and 10 students are completing all of their courses and are on track to graduate.

There are many new programs being rolled out across the province for students pursuing college, apprenticeships or the workforce after graduation. Some of these initiatives include:

Expansion of Cooperative Education which allows students to count this hands-on learning towards two compulsory high school credits.

E-Learning, a program providing students with online courses and allows teachers to share resources across the province.

Dual Credits, a program allowing students to participate in apprenticeship training and college courses. These credits can count towards their high school diploma as well as a postsecondary certificate, diploma, degree or apprenticeship certification. For instance, students can take a course about entrepreneurship taught by a college professor and a high school teacher on a college campus. By passing the course, a student would earn both a high school credit and a college credit.

Credit Recovery programs were designed to help students regain failed credits while building learning skills for future success.

How are these programs being funded?

A Student Success leader who is assigned to a particular school board is funded directly from the ministry, which goes directly towards resources for principals and teachers to deliver local action plans to meet the specific needs of students in communities across the province. In fact, in the 2003-2004 school year, the government invested $18 million to fund 105 Student Success lighthouse projects. As you can tell, there is a large amount of money and effort going into these initiatives.

Recently, the Toronto District School offered a new program that lets students focus on a potential career that matches their skills and interests called the Specialist High Skills Major. This ministry-approved specialized program was also designed to help prepare students make the transition from secondary school to apprenticeship training, college, university, or the workplace. Each major is a bundle of classroom courses, workplace experiences and sector certifications. Students who complete a major receive a special designation on their high school diploma. Students who belong in the Toronto District School Board can major in any one of the following: Arts and culture, business, construction, hospitality and tourism, horticulture and landscaping, information and communications technology, and transportation. Each school board offers different majors, so if a student were interested in obtaining a major in health and wellness, they would have to register in a school in the Durham region. Overall, a Specialist High Skills Major enables students to gain sector-specific skills and knowledge in the context of engaging, career-related learning environments which will ultimately orient them towards graduation and pursuing their postsecondary goals.

With regards to the construction major, my son is very handy around that house and enjoys building stuff in his spare time; what kind of classes would he have to take if he were to enroll in this program?

Students enrolled in a construction major will take four construction "major" courses, an English course and a math course using construction examples, a cooperative education placement, and classes oriented towards training for sector-recognized certifications in health and safety, first aid and handling hazardous materials. To elaborate on the sector-recognized certification and training component, the student would have to complete five compulsory courses related to standard first aid, CPR, health and safety, fall protection, and WHMIS. In addition to two other nonspecific construction-related courses such as forklift safety, electrical safety, traffic control, chainsaw safety, and so forth. Luckily, we have a guest speaker today who is a former construction major graduate from Thistletown Collegiate Institute who can better inform all of us on his experiences and the success he had with the program.

Moreover, by incorporating all these wonderful ideas in schools all across the region, students will be more inspired to stay in school and continue their studies until the age of 18, be able to graduate and earn an Ontario high school diploma. All these programs share a common goal, that is, to help all students build a promising future for themselves. This year, more than 800 new teachers are dedicated to the Student Success program to help struggling students improve academic achievement and graduation rates. In concert, teachers will work with students to track their progress, help students catch up on missing credits and support the development of better programs and services.

We will now be moving on to our first guest, a student who is currently part of the jPod program held exclusively at the Toronto District School Board, which is a facilitated, self-directed learning to 18 program based on appreciative inquiry, democratic decision-making, individual timelines, and a student-run Code of Care Recommendation Committee. Audience members, please free to ask questions any time throughout the following presentations.

Hello ladies and gentlemen, my name is Michael and I am here to talk to you about the program I am involved with called jPod. jPod is a self-directed democratic decision making learning program where students setup their own courses, along with the help of the ministry documents, to fit their own strengths and timetables. It is a program of flexibility and adapts to meet the students learning needs. Basically, we take the role of both teacher and student, and we take the documents that the ministry has setup for courses such as English, science, and math, and we customize them to form our own course. We even create our own assessment pieces, so not everything will be tested or evaluated. There may be media pieces such as posters and videos that we may choose to get evaluated and, with the aide and supervision of a teacher, we are provided feedback to make sure we are meeting the expectations of the school board. How we choose to meet the curricular expectation is up to us.

How did you personally get involved with jPod?

I got involved with jPod because I was practically feed-up with traditional high school classes. In general, I am a good student, but I had many problems with certain teachers. I was tired of not being able to understand why my marks were the way they were; I was tired of not being able to have control of improving my mark, especially when my work was judged based on one teacher's expectations. I did not like having expectations that I felt were unfair, so I guess I wanted to take control of it and jPod allows students to take charge.

At first I was very skeptical about the program because I thought it was somewhat of a bird course, meaning it would be easy and I could easy fly through with a passing grade. I thought students were just going to apply, get an easy 90 percent and graduate without being fully prepared for post-secondary education, especially since they are picking their own assignments and everything is focused on them. After the first week of being in the program, I realized that all my initial presumptions were wrong. In fact, it was truly a wakeup call because I did not anticipate the amount of work I had to complete. Essentially, you walk-in and you are presented with a stack of papers from various Ministry of Education documents outlining several different high school subjects. You then have to decipher what is truly important for your personal learning success; this process requires serious thought and commitment. At the end of the day, I have a greater appreciation towards teachers because of the work they have to put in before the start of every lesson or semester.

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in Appreciative Inquiry workshops. These workshops are based on positive thinking, optimism, and relating that back to your school and everyday life. In other words, it is an intentional process of asking each other positive questions in order to create positive energy in the group and, in turn, create an alignment of strengths to make the weaknesses irrelevant - this is one experience that is truly unique to jPod. Furthermore, jPod offered the opportunity to rely more on myself, especially in time of academic need. I have better time management skills; I am more efficient and effective in pursuing my goals. This is something I have learned through jPod which I would have never picked up, had I been enrolled in a traditional high school class. Hence, when I attend university next year and have an assignment deadline, it will not be an issue because I will have the positive mindset that no job is too difficult to approach. Overall, I highly recommend students to take at least one course and to try out this new approach towards learning because I am quite sure everyone will enjoy it the same way I do.

What are some key qualities that you have developed so far in this program that you can use as you proceed further in your studies?

Leadership, self-reliance, time-management, and organization are the four main qualities that I have personally developed throughout this process. In fact, all four of these qualities are essential to succeed in university and in the real world. My jPod experience has been one of the best and most beneficial learning experiences throughout my time in high school. jPod has given me the opportunity to decide how much time I need to spend and how quickly I need to go through a unit, while still following the general government requirements with the curriculum taught by a regular teacher. It has given me the opportunity to learn how to manage my time wisely, something that I needed to work on for university. It has taught me to be responsible, so I can rely on myself and not have someone constantly reminding me to do my work.

Our next guest speaker was former Specialist High Skills Major student who successfully majored in construction and is now working towards a career in the residential construction industry, everyone please welcome George.

Not too long ago, I was sitting in science class wondering why I am here learning about human cells when what I really want is to work with my hands in a constructive manner and be more productive. I remember skipping many classes to a point where I just gave up on school altogether. Fortunately, before officially leaving, I had a brief meeting with my guidance counsellor who introduced me to this new innovative program that would allow me to do more of what I wanted to do rather than follow conventional curricular documents. I decided to take a second chance on school and join the program which mainly focused in on a career in construction.

Pursuing the Specialist High Skills Major enabled me to customize my secondary school education to suit my interests and talent while meeting the requirements for the Ontario secondary school diploma. Rather than taking courses like physics and chemistry, I enrolled in courses that suited my needs and goals. After completing many of the courses associated with this program, I was able to provide evidence of achievement for prospective employers and postsecondary institutions. I gained the confidence to be successful, refine my skills and work habits, and at the same time make informed choices about future careers and postsecondary options. Most importantly, I accessed resources, equipment, and expertise from a combination of different areas outside my school, such as college and several different training centers.

What kind of work did you perform throughout your co-op experience in this program?

During our training and cooperative education experience, we focused on skilled trades, specifically electrical, carpentry, and plumbing. At George Brown College, we took part in additional opportunities in such areas as HVAC, building restoration, renovations, and management. Basically, I was going to college and finishing high school at the same time. We designed and installed piping and electrical systems, as well as constructing a small residential building. We also had the opportunity to wire residential 120 volt electrical circuits; cut, join, and assemble plumbing, and draining; install waste and vent systems; construct flooring and roof and wall systems; read, draw, and interpret blueprints, using traditional board drafting and CAD; estimate material requirements and costs; and order and track materials.

The courses I took were dual credits - they counted as high school credits and as college preparation courses. The preparation courses gave me an advantage when applying to college. I can honestly say that this program changed me as a person; I was once a slacker, but the teachers in this program pointed me in the right direction. My parents are also proud of the changes they witnessed in me. In fact, when I first started the program, they were really excited about it when I could tell them that I am going to college and I am going to finish high school at the same time. My marks improved drastically and so did my self-esteem. I recommend this program to any student who wants to gain important skills on the job with actual employers and earn valuable industry certifications, such as first aid and C.P.R. qualifications.

Our third and final guest of the night is a current high school teacher who is here to speak in regards to the implementation of Credit Recovery programs across the province. Everyone please welcome Mr. Smith.

Good evening everyone, I am here tonight to speak about this wonderful new and important initiative that has been implemented across the province. The Credit Recovery program provides additional opportunities for students to gain missed credits and enables the students to experience success in learning, feel proud of their accomplishments and become more engaged in their academic programs.

Which students can be considered for Credit Recovery?

Students who have, within the last two years, completed an Ontario Ministry of Education approved course and received a failing grade may be approved by the Credit Recovery Team to recover the course through the Credit Recovery process. Students may only recover the credit of the actual course failed which limits them to the same type, grade, and level. For example a student who fails academic math can only recover academic math and is not eligible to recover applied math. Students who withdraw from a course are not eligible to recover it through the Credit Recovery process.

What will appear on the Ontario Student Transcript for a student who completes the Credit Recovery process?

Once a student has completed a course through Credit Recovery, the common course code along with the student's final mark for the recovered course will be recorded on the student's transcript. There is no special indicator on the transcript or report card for recording the method of delivery for achieving a credit. In the case of students achieving grades 9 and 10 credits through Credit Recovery, only the highest mark achieved will appear on the transcript.

How many credits may a student recover through the Credit Recovery process?

There is no present limit to the number of credits that can be recovered through the Credit Recovery process. The number of credits an individual student may recover through the Credit Recovery process is determined by the Credit Recovery Team and signed off by the principal based on the unique situation of each student.

Furthermore, when a student enrolls in this program, their final grade is based on two separate portions. For instance, 30 percent of their grade will be based on a final evaluation in the form of an examination, essay and/or other methods of evaluation suitable to the course content and administered towards the end of the course. The other 70 percent of the grade will be determined solely upon the student's performance in the Credit Recovery Program. In other words, did the student show up to class, did they participate in class discussion, were they attentive, and so forth.

Overall, I recommend the Credit Recovery Program to any student who is far behind on their high school credits, wants to catch up and graduate on time with his/her classmates.

I thank each and every one of you for coming and supporting this cause. By using these resources and services, we can all play a part in re-engaging recent school-leavers, reduce dropout rates, improve credit accumulation, and increase graduation rates. Remember, Student Success is all about making a lasting difference. It means creating long-term benefits for the student and their community, the society, and one's country.