Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 3, 2007
St. Bonaventure Elementary honoured
An inclusive vision won two awards for excellence from the Fraser Institute
By ALICIA AMBROSIO
- WCR photo by Alicia Ambrosio
A student's portrayal of Ursula Kernaghan reflects the warm image she projects.
The community building among the teachers, the professional sharing and teamwork, as well as Kernaghan's own openness and availability is all done for the kids to make sure they are happy and thriving, Kernaghan says.
"Kids are pretty bright. They pick this up. They contribute to their own success. They see how hard everyone works for them and they jump on board."
Of course, supportive teachers and a principal like Kernaghan means nothing without the backing of the parents themselves. "The parent community is very supportive with whatever we need to deliver the curriculum," she said.
"We create a wish list and they set to work fundraising, whether it is a lab that needs to be replaced or field trips we want to do. They're very supportive and very conscious of the socio-economic challenges (we face)."
The parents' council, in turn, attributes the school's success to pro-active teachers and staff. "It's a very pro-active school," said Ronda Gras, chair of the school's parents' council and mother of two.
"The teachers are fully engaged, they challenge themselves and bring the kids to the next level and get the parents involved, they're open to new ideas and new programs," said Gras.
Those programs, like the balanced literacy program, are implemented on a wide scale. "There's no point in focusing on Grades 1, 2 and 3 if you don't follow it up in Grades 4, 5 and 6," said Kernaghan.
The balanced literacy program consists of an intense independent and guided reading curriculum in the primary grades. The program is already in place in the primary grades.
The result? Children have access to a vast in-class library and as early as Grade 2 are not just reading constantly, but reading and distinguishing between different genres of literature.
By the time these students get into the intermediate grades they are voracious readers.
"There is an unwritten plan to now focus on Grades 4, 5 and 6," said Kernaghan, thereby ensuring that students continue to develop their literacy skills.
Perhaps the greatest testament to St. Bonaventure's success are parents who move out of the neighbourhood to higher income neighbourhoods, yet continue to send their children to St. Bonaventure.
Kernaghan says many parents who have moved on to other neighbourhoods tell her, "Why should I move my kids?"
To determine which schools have shown improvement in academic achievement, the Fraser Institute looks at the average language arts and mathematics scores in provincial achievement tests. Achievement tests are administered in Grades 3 and 6.
The Fraser Institute looks at how those scores have changed in the previous five years.
For the Garfield Weston award for achievement in excess of expectations, the Fraser Institute examines census data to determine the income level of area in which the school is located. Average Achievement Test scores are then analyzed.
Lisa-Diane Fortier, coordinator of outreach programs and school performance studies at the Fraser Institute, said the aim of the award is to de-bunk the myth that only schools in high-income areas achieve excellence in academics.
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