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Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board A Bright Horizon for Bilingual, Tech-Savvy Graduates
There are approximately thirty-six schools that
currently fall under Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board located in Laval, Lanaudière
and the Laurentians. Twenty six of these
schools are elementary schools and nineten[KT1]
are high schools.
Tina Korb, Director of Educational Services at Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board, and Adriana Pace, Assessment and Evaluation consultant, explained that although the flavor of the program and the activities may vary per individual school, all schools must nonetheless adhere to the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board’s Strategic Plan, which is aligned to the Quebec Education Program.
“Bilingualism is very much part of the fabric of Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board.” stated Ms. Korb. Interestingly, the current school board logo tagline is “An English education, a bilingual future”. In fact, in the majority of schools under this school board, most students are bilingual and in Laval many are trilingual (Italian, Greek). This is an enormous advantage because language is not a barrier or division, it is encouraged! The school board acknowledges that all students will be proficient in both English and French when they graduate. When it comes to the students’ success rates in language classes, Adriana Pace stated that the success rate is 98.2 in secondary VI English Language Arts (ELA) and 93.4% in secondary VI French Second Language (FSL). In the enriched FSL program the success rate is even higher at 98.8%.
The school board is proud and pleased that the graduation rate in their school board is high at 84%- higher than that of the French sector. A special drop-out prevention plan has been established to support students who are at risk of dropping out by helping them to find solutions to problems and difficulties they may be experiencing in their life and/or in their learning. According to Ms. Korb the current research shows that the single greatest factor of student retention is “what is actually happening in the classroom: how the teacher is able to differentiate for learning, and how the teacher connects with his/her students”. Thus, the goal of the drop-out prevention plan is to match up students with an adult mentor who can connect with the student, encourage them to stay on track, and understand their learning needs in order to help them to communicate this to their teachers. This adult mentor may be a teacher, a professional, para-professional or an administrator in the school.
“We maintain high graduation rates by never giving up on our students” states Tina Korb. According to Ms. Korb, there are many avenues to success, and parents may not be familiar with all of the programs and support systems that are available. There are a variety of options at the high school level, as well as a growing number of options available in Adult Education and Vocational Training. “We are always trying to improve and expand the options we offer to our students” states Ms. Korb.
There are also many ways in which students can improve their skills and achieve success. For example, SWLSB conducts summer school classes every year. Students can attend summer school in person OR online. Students can also receive tutorials through a special on-line program offered by LEARN. These tutorials are open to all students in the English school boards. The SOS tutorial classes are offered throughout the year to allow students to learn online with live teachers who can help them to complete homework or prepare for tests. These are just a few of the ways that Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board helps guide and support students. Ms. Korb advises parents to get in touch with their school’s guidance counsellor to learn more about the programs and support systems available to them in the school.
When asked how parents can help their children learn better at school, Ms. Korb replied that parents can help their children by ensuring that they are well-rested; by modeling a positive attitude towards school and education; by reading to their children daily; by taking advantage of naturally occurring opportunities to teach Science and Math concepts; and by ensuring that their children eat a healthy diet in order to be well-prepared to learn each day. Healthy breakfast programs are incorporated in many of the schools within the school board to ensure that students are ready-to-learn. Ms. Korb also added that she feels it is critical that students’ homework load is not too heavy and that quality family time, exercise and a healthy lifestyle are all key ingredients that enhance learning. Ms. Korb commented that some schools have a no homework policy at elementary school level.
According to Adriana Pace and Tina Korb, mathematics and science are still the toughest subjects, with social studies (history and geography) falling in as the third most difficult subject for students. Both Adriana Pace and Tina Korb outlined how physical education remains an integral part of their school program as it helps encourage team spirit and leadership. Education is enhanced for students involved in physical programs. Classroom time needs to be well-balanced with time for sports and physical education. For other students who excel in arts and drama, there are exciting contests, projects and performances that students may participate in.
Technology is also changing our classrooms in a significant way. Blackboards are giving way to the new Smartboards (white inter-active touch screens). Students and teachers can mark on these inter-active boards with electronic devices that look like colored markers (no longer any messy chalk). A special budget has been assigned for digital materials and technology is slowly replacing text books in the classroom.
A personal computer is an indispensable tool for a student with a learning difficulty as it can truly help to level the playing field for students who have difficulty reading, writing, spelling, or memorizing math facts. So, for a number of years now the ministry has given school boards an opportunity to submit names of students with evidence of the student’s learning difficulty, and those who qualify receive a personal computer for use in the classroom which is suited to their learning needs. This year, Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board put together a small team of directors, technicians and consultants to conduct information sessions for the parents of special needs students (220 families) and to distribute technology devices to these students. At this information session, parents and students were provided with instruction on how to make best use of the computer, and students were provided with knapsacks to carry their computer (chrome book, laptop or IPAD) back and forth to school. The goal was to teach parents and students on how to make the best use of the computer to overcome a learning difficulty, and to encourage students to make the use of the computer a daily habit both at home and in school.
To summarize, the future looks bright and optimistic as graduation rates rise, bilingualism is embraced and encouraged, trades are supported and the latest technologies are enjoyed by teachers, students and families alike. It is extremely inspirational and enlightening to see such dedicated individuals as Director, Tina Korb and Consultant, Adriana Pace. [KT1]
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