Minutes: Parents of Prince Street Meeting, November 6, 2013

Parents of Prince Street
Home and School Meeting
November 6, 2013

Shelley called the meeting to order. There was translation into Mandarin. The only Nepali-speaker at the meeting was the parent who was translating. She will share the information she hears this evening with other Nepali-speakers.

Update on financial situation

We have just over $4,200 in our bank account, and that is the amount we have available to use this year for Grade 6 celebration, teacher appreciation, retirements or recognitions, young authors' night, dues to provincial home and school, donations, and other similar things.  The amount we raise this year will be available for us to use next year. Last year, we didn't spend our full amount so that we could build up depleted resources after expenses for the playground the year before. That means that last year, we weren't able to set aside money to fill teachers' wish lists.

This year, the Home and School executive looked at requests from all the teachers for resources, extra materials, tools teachers can use in classrooms, and gym equipment. These are items that aren't part of what the department or school board provides but are items that help improve what teachers and students can do in their classrooms. Requests were worth about $5,000, and the executive went through the list and then consulted with Principal Erin and can fund about $2,300 worth of requests. If we do additional fundraising during the year, we might be able to get some of the other items on the wish list. Other requests will have to wait until next year.

Principal's Report

Two children in the school lost their mother this morning, so it has been a very difficult day at Prince Street. A notice will go home with grades four, five, and six to let parents know what has happened.

Lockdown drill was top-notch, and there are additional improvements that can be made to make students even safer. We have to look at a new off-site evacuation location. Birchwood is our site, but it is likely that if Prince Street is under lockdown, Birchwood will be too.

The coupon book fundraiser brought in $2,700, and that was more than expected. It has allowed the school to order an FM system for a kindergarten classroom. Erin explained what the purpose of the FM system is and the benefits for students who have trouble with focus or hearing. They are very helpful. The school will work towards having them everywhere throughout the school.

There will be new LCD projectors put in the school and all homerooms will then have LCD projectors. These are provided by the Department of Education.

We're getting a new Special Education specialist at the school board for K-3.

A Prince Street Grade 4 student came 7th at the provincial cross-country meet. This is a big accomplishment, and the school is very proud.

Prince Street's attendance policy is very important, and there are some challenges here with children arriving on time and attending school regularly. There have been some tweaks to the system to ensure that there are letters and communications with parents when students are late or absent 5, 10, and 15 days. These check-ins will help track the information and help identify supports for families that need support to ensure attendance and on-time arrivals.

We have a numeracy coach working with teachers. Teachers at this school initiated a book study. About 8 teachers from this school will read this book, study its suggestions, consult with the numeracy coach, discuss it with each other, and apply what they learn in the classroom. This is a lot of additional work for the teachers and it is great that they have taken this on.

We also have a literacy coach working with all the teachers towards a writing prompt goal. At the last prompt, all students K-6 did a grade-appropriate writing project using explanatory writing (part of transactional writing). All teachers will work with the literacy coach to identify ways to help improve students' writing for the next prompt. The teachers are doing really admirable work to improve writing skills.

Our picture is on the English Language School Board website -- it's our turn to be featured. The picture is of the old school from 1922 and the students have been really interested to see it. Keep an eye on the websites to see what rotates in and to see pictures of what goes on in the school.

Halloween was fun. A Remembrance Day assembly tomorrow will showcase talent from across the school.

The Scholastic Book Fair is getting lots of enthusiasm from students and there are many sales happening. Parents are encouraged to take advantage of good prices on books during parent teacher interviews.

Minister Currie is having a pancake breakfast that will support our breakfast program and the breakfast program at a couple of other local schools. Admission by donation.

This year, we are switching sponsorship of a school from Matuto, Kenya, to a school in Madagascar where a Prince Street parent made a connection during a trip last year.

Our first art blitz is next week on November 15, and we'll see what we can concoct for that event.

"Real Talk" will be a girls group led by two Holland College students as a learning project. The conversation among the girls so far has been very rich and they are making lasting connections.

Winter Concerts are all sorted out now. The K-3 concert is coming soon -- November 19th. This will be put together by Ms. McRae who is finishes her time. The 4-6 concert will then be put together by Ms. (Rehberg) White who is returning from parental leave. The date for the 4-6 concert is December 11.

There will be a focus on winter themes because of the wonky dates. The location will be here at the school.

Parent-teacher interviews are mostly tomorrow evening and Friday morning. Report Cards will go home on December 6.

The dance, art, and drama groups that have happened here in the past will be up and running here again this year. Funding was recently confirmed. These are multi-week instructor-led after-school classes. The applications are accepted first-come, first-serve, so it is important to put in for applications as soon as possible.

The second round of HPV needles is coming up on November 25. There was a discussion of what HPV is and why the vaccination is given. Parents receive information about the vaccine and have a consent form to sign. It is their choice. The vaccine is given to both boys and girls in Grade 6.

Please keep checking heads for head lice. Students can be at school if they just have nits, but if there are live lice, they have to go home and can come back after they have been treated.

There are many wonderful volunteers working within our school. One group is Youth Service Worker students from Holland College who are working one-on-one with many students. There will be 4 practice teachers in the school from UPEI's education program. They will be starting in two weeks.

Provincial Assessment Results

Every year, schools write provincial assessments in literacy and math. The results we see this year are the results from last year. Principals receive results in September to plan their year with teachers. The results were released to the public last week. The primary math assessment is done at a different time (at the beginning of Grade 4), so the results from that assessment are not available now.

There are many things to celebrate, and there are things we need to work on. The assessments are really important for helping plan for the big picture, and they are helpful, but they are one assessment on one day, so we keep in mind that the results are a snapshot of a moment in time.

Elementary Math Results (Grade 6)

Elementary math results are from last year's Grade 6 students who have now graduated. From their results, we can see trends in what is going well at the school.  We are higher than the provincial average in every math strand. The provincial average is not high, so there is still a lot of work to do to ensure all students can achieve better. We're proud of the results and they are a building block for future improvement and development. This was the first year we had results in this area, so we don't have a comparison with previous years' results. It helps to look at assessments year-to-year for comparisons.

The Department is responding to provincial results already by providing enrichment for Grade 6 teachers for math, such as a "math boot camp" to bump up basic skills.

Birchwood gets the results from the incoming students to know what their needs are, so the students who completed this assessment last year will get the benefit of what has been learned from last year's assessments.

Many different variables affect the scores. We have a transient student population in Prince Street school. Many students who did the assessment here may not have had all or even most of their math training at this school. Another thing that makes a difference is students with Individualized Education Plans, adaptations, and so on. Students with IEPs have that noted on the assessment they complete. Students with adaptations and modifications still write the assessment but their adaptation needs may affect their scores.

There is no assessment that determines whether or not students are promoted to the next grade level. Students are very rarely "held back" or "failed" in school in the Eastern School District any more. We work hard to meet the kids where they are at. If they do not meet the outcomes for their grade level, they may be placed in the next grade level rather than promoted.

Elementary (Grade 6) Literacy Assessment

There are reading and writing assessments.

This group of last year's Grade 6s showed pleasing scores in reading. Our school's average scores are pretty good compared to the provincial scores for reading fiction and non-fiction and also different levels of questioning and evaluating information. The Grade 6s that wrote this assessment benefited from some literacy interventions that got an extra push and focus, so the results of those interventions seems positive.

The writing focus in the assessments shows that in personal and expressive writing 70% were meeting expectations and in transactional writing 74% were meeting expectations. We're putting a focus as a school on transactional writing (through writing prompts). Last year's school goal was to increase from 67-74% of students meeting expectations on transactional writing, and we met that goal. So while we are sticking with transactional writing as a focus, we will be setting a new and higher school goal. Ultimately, we want ALL students meeting expectations, not only to assessment standards but to our own high curriculum standards.

Primary Literacy Assessment (at the end of Grade 3)

The reading assessments and writing assessments are still on par with provincial scores, but we still want to continue to do work to increase the number of students achieving expectations.

Most importantly, we want to support the students who are approaching expectations and the students who are struggling to meet expectations to achieve well.

There is no easy to identify trend in results from Prince Street School, so attention to each area and each set of expectations is important.

Last year's school goal for Grade 3 transactional writing was to increase from 55% to 63% meeting expectations, but we did not meet that goal and in fact went down to 53%. The school teams have been learning what they can from this result.

The draft Literacy Goal for the school for 2013 to 2014 is to demonstrate an increase in students meeting expectations in transactional writing from 53% to 65% at the Primary (Grade 3) level and from 74% to 80% at the Elementary (Grade 6) level.

Teachers are working hard already on meeting the Literacy Goal. The literacy coach is a help in this work. The process that is already underway is intensive and powerful to identify what needs review and what students need particular support with. Teachers coordinate with each other to ensure all students are learning what they need consistently from class to class and across the school.

Consultation with the School Board Superintendent

Principals get together provincially monthly and as a family of schools every two months or so. The Superintendent would also like to meet with home and school representatives in each family of schools to talk about challenges and opportunities for student achievement. The meeting for the Colonel Gray family of schools is next Wednesday. Shelley Muzika will represent Parents of Prince Street at this meeting. They would like home and schools to offer feedback through Shelley.

What is one positive program that our school has taken on to improve student achievement?

Last year, there was a numeracy session for parents. A few years ago, a listening centre initiative made a difference.
Parents continue with their important role helping students with homework and working through issues that come home from school.
Support and communication between the home and school and teachers and administrators are important factors at PRince Street. The home and school continues to work hard to foster engagement with parents and also to support teachers with aids and equipment to help in their classrooms.

What are the challenges for our school for meeting needs for student achievement?

At Prince Street, we have challenges with transient students, students with EAL, and students with a lot of different needs. Academic human resources are what we need most for supports and interventions. We have great support for all the extras. It's people resources for academic work that will make the biggest difference.

We have more support in this school than in most. Much of that is because of the teachers we have who have been dedicated to keeping track of data and using the evidence-base to identify and get the support we need and proving what is effective.

We are looking for the action plan for improving provincial assessments for all of PEI. We want to know what the Board and Department are doing to improve assessments.

Literacy Coaches and Numeracy Coaches are an effective support and are preferable to pulling teachers out of class for professional development and plunking them back in. Embedded professional development supports -- for longer periods or more consistent periods -- would be of great benefit at Prince Street School. There are opportunities for interaction, mentoring, and really developing skills with modelling, help, and feedback.

Extra Professional Development days during the school year seem to divide parents. Prince Street parents are concerned most with quality more than quantity: quality of teaching during school days, and quality of professional development for teachers during PD days. Teachers at Prince Street have been using PD days for collaborative learning and these have been very effective.

If parents have concerns about student achievement at the school level or the provincial level, there will be annual opportunities for parents to share their feedback with the Superintendent.

Shelley will report on the consultation session at the next meeting, after Christmas.

Movie Night

We're working on having a movie night in late November or early December. Access to movies has changed, so we're looking into it. The date might be Friday, November 29th.

Next Meeting: To be decided.