CMHS High School Success Initiative
At Central Memorial High School we believe that:
- The importance of high school completion is greater for our current generation of students than it has been for any previous generation.
- Academic success is the key to high school completion.
- Academic success in grade 10 will increase the likelihood of high school completion.
- Success cannot always be achieved on one’s own and that when supported by a team, an individual can achieve much more than when left alone.
- Many factors impact student success including the need for every student to feel safe and secure in their learning environment, and know that they are an important part of a community where all members belong and are supported.
- Educating our students is a collaborative endeavor involving teachers, students, parents/guardians, staff and the greater community as all are invested in the success of our youth.
The CMHS High School Success Initiative is designed to put our beliefs into action by targeting six areas that we know can positively impact student learning and achievement:
- Supporting Transitions
- Positive Relationships
- Early Interventions
- Teacher Practice
- Supports for Success
Although our HSS Initiative targets Grade 10s, our commitment to student success extends well beyond their grade 10 year. The principles that are foundational to our HSS Initiative permeate all facets of our work with ALL of our students. See Success beyond Grade 10
To learn more about the research and principles supported by Alberta Education and used to inform our initiative, follow the links below:
Supporting the Transition to High School
Moving from a familiar environment we understand, to one full of unknowns, can be challenging for the most resilient of individuals. At Central we understand that for many students the transition from junior high to high school leaves them feeling a bit nervous or anxious. For many this is the first time that academic progression is based on achievement, achievement is awarded a numerical value in percentage, and attendance is taken and tracked but not immediately reported home until the end of the day. There is an increased level of independence and autonomy and for some students this can be difficult to manage. These are but a few changes Grade 10's face in coming to high school.
We understand the importance of supporting students through this transition. We focus on creating a positive culture that is inclusive, promotes a sense of belonging and is based on trust and mutual respect. We begin this process by supporting students through the following intentional strategies aimed at making the transition as seamless as possible:
1. Personalized Registration Process
- Junior high staff is invited to Central Memorial every year to learn about our unique programs, course offerings and how best to support students in course selections and the registration process.
- Our Student Services Team visits each junior high to go over the registration process with students and teachers to answer any questions and provide clarity around the process.
- Group Registration Sessions are held for those students outside of our catchment area. During these sessions our Student Services Team, Student Learning Team and members of our administration are present to support students and their families in making informed program and course selections as they register for grade 10.
2. Grade 9 Transition Meetings
- In May and June our Grade 10 Success Team visits each junior high and meets with each student that is registered to attend Central in the fall. Although short (10-15 min) the meeting is intended to begin making a connection with our newest students and for them to get a chance to meet at least two, if not more, staff members prior to their arrival.
- Students are welcomed into “The Herd” and we begin to personalize their learning by asking them to share with us one or two items that they feel we must know about them in order to support their learning the following year. In turn, students have an opportunity to ask any questions that they may have around coming to Central.
- During these meetings students are paired with a CMHS staff member with whom they may have a common interest or share a natural connection based on what their junior high teachers have shared about them with us and their course selections for Grade 10.
- IRIS, an electronic tool designed to support the personalization of student learning, is used during these meetings as an initial starting point to get to know our learners. This tool is used between teachers and students as a place to interface throughout the course of a student’s educational journey.
3. Grade 10 Orientation Day
- The first day of the new school year is devoted to our newest Rams. Grade 10s are able to learn about their new school, meet all our teachers and staff, and explore their new learning environment without the distraction of the Grade 11s and 12s – the 11s and 12s return the following day.
- Grade 10s are able to meet their peers and engage in some team-building and activities through homeroom groupings. They are treated to lunch and then proceed through a mini-version of their timetable.
4. September Orientation Night
- During the second or third week of September parents/guardians are invited into Central Memorial for an evening to learn about the high school process, where they can access support or find information if necessary and to get a true sense of who we are at Central Memorial.
- A formal presentation covers high school diploma requirements, programs and courses unique to Grade 10s, our communication methods, reporting processes, how to contact us and a chance to meet and hear from administration, learning leaders and guidance counsellors. Parents learn the different ways in which they can become involved in our learning community and ways to support us in working with their child.
- Parents/guardians have an opportunity to explore the school facility and briefly meet their child’s teachers, inquire around our Student Learning Team and the IPP process, if applicable to their child, and learn about other unique opportunities that our high school offers students.
- Although geared to grade 10 families, all families new to Central Memorial are encouraged to attend.
Fostering Positive Relationships
Relationships are the foundation of humanity. The people in our lives, not the things, and not even the events, make the greatest impact on us. It is no wonder that when we feel connected and cared for we are able to put forth our best selves. Teaching and learning is no different than any other avenue in life. When we have a relationship with our teachers, when we know them and they know us, when we feel cared for, supported, respected, and valued, we can trust that it is safe to take risks, to try, to grow and in doing so, learn. We can confidently say that every staff member at Central Memorial has the best interest of students at heart and knows how impactful positive student-teacher relationships are on the learning process.
We believe it is important for students to feel they have an advocate at school (an adult they trust, that knows them and will support them without question), and we work to build a line of communication with parents/guardians as well to engage them as partners in working with our students. Formalized structures have been created to facilitate this goal in the hope that through one of these, students will find their advocate at school:
1. Guidance-Administration Team
- Each student is assigned a guidance counsellor and an administrator who operate as a team. These adults work with students for the three years of high school. They support them academically and emotionally. They work to support student program selection and to navigate relationships with other adults in the school as well.
- Over the course of the three years of high school, parents/guardians also become familiar with and, in some cases work closely with, their child’s guidance counsellor and administrator.
2. Homeroom Assignments
- Each student is assigned a homeroom teacher. This structure is intended to provide students with information and it is used as a mechanism to gather data, forms and ensure some processes are completed for all students.
- Homeroom teachers remain with their students for three years and meet with them monthly.
3. Full Year Humanities
- We offer full year humanities (English 10 and Social 10). The purpose behind this is pedagogical and personal.
- Pedagogically, both English Language Arts and Social Studies are skill based curricula. Even the strongest of students benefits from the gift of time when it comes to developing critical thinking, analytical and writing skills. Further to this, we offer a blended humanities environment where not only are the disciplines of English and Social blended (when appropriate) but the streams are removed and students are “de-tracked” providing every student an opportunity to work with their teachers in high school and plan a high school pathway best suited for them and their future aspirations.
- Through our Humanities, we ensure that students have at least one adult working with them daily over the course of the year. Students will see their Humanities teacher every day for the entire year.
- Humanities teachers are expected to share information around student progress and achievement and contact parent/guardians when necessary. They are also required to contact the High School Success Learning Leader if they’ve contacted home or have concerns around one of their students. Not too different than any other teacher’s expectation, but these teachers see their students all year, and not just for one semester. Their comments and observations will span the whole year and could provide a more informed view of the student.
In our Math and Science, the same is expected except that these courses are semestered and hence, teachers do not see the students all year. They do however keep extensive notes that they pass along to semester two teachers to support students and share information with the new math/science teacher that could benefit student success.
- An additional evening in January is set aside specifically for Grade 10 Humanities teachers to meet with parents/guardians and students to discuss any concerns that could potentially impact a student's ability to achieve credit in either ELA or Social Studies. The focus of these meetings is to collaboratively formulate a plan for success that includes appropriate intervention strategies personalized to each student's needs.
- The Humanities teachers may be the only teacher that students see every day of their grade 10 year.
- Parents have contacts that they know will remain consistent and that they are able to contact if necessary for the duration of the school year.
Implementing Early Interventions
Student success is our priority. Highlighting students early on in the school year that may be experiencing challenges increases the student’s likelihood to achieve success. The earlier we do this the better able we are to support students. We have several structures that help monitor student progress but communication home is the key:
1. Attendance Policy
- All teachers are expected to follow the steps outlined in our CMHS Attendance Policy. When a teacher notices that a student is absent a call home is necessary. In calling home, teachers are not just following up on their students and alerting parents of absences, but they are offering support if necessary and inviting parents to work in partnership with us around student achievement and success.
2. High School Success Learning Leaders
- Along with following our Attendance Policy, Grade 10 teachers have one extra step which includes also alerting the High School Success Learning Leaders (HSS LLs) of a potential attendance and/or achievement concern. The HSS LLs are the hub where all information is collected. In this manner the LLs can see patterns and areas of concern emerging for students in all core subject areas.
- The LLs can then intervene by contacting home as well, contacting admin/guidance if they have not already been alerted, gathering information and seeking out a course of action. Student Learning Team meetings can be arranged to a) deal with attendance as a team and/or b) begin to problem-solve and strategize around learning supports or course sequencing placements.
We know that regardless of best efforts and planning, there are times when we need to re-adjust and alter our set course. Life evolves and changes and it is important that as educators we understand this and can make room to respond to changes and support students. There are several areas where we work very hard to be flexible and personalize student learning.
1. De-tracked / Fluid Course Sequencing
- We believe we teach students, not subject areas and hence we work with students and parents to ensure all grade 10s are successful and receive credit in all core academic areas in grade 10. Our goal is 100% grade 10 completion which ultimately translates into high school graduation.
- At the Grade 10 level we offer blended (de-tracked Humanities). All students come into Humanities at the 10 level. Teachers work with students and begin conversations with students, parents and the HSS LLs around most suitable course sequence depending on student achievement to date and future goals. The student’s course sequence is formalized, usually in February, through a letter sent home to parents if the student will be working toward credit in the -2 stream instead of -1.
- Course sequence fluidity is a philosophy we adhere to at the Grade 10 level in Math and Science. Although students are registered into discreet, tracked courses (Math 10C & Math 10-3 or Science 10 & Science14), again, in working with students and parents, there is opportunity for students to work toward credit in the course sequence best suited for their current ability. For example, a student working hard and attending every day, and yet not achieving an acceptable standard in relation to Science 10 outcomes, in consultation with parents, may work toward credit in Science 14. In this way, the student can secure high school credits and be on track for graduation. Pathways to move back into the original stream are discussed with students and parents. The reverse movement is also possible.
2. Deadlines & Assessment
- Our teachers know that in life, things sometimes occur to derail our plans. Teachers are flexible in relation to deadlines and due dates. When informed in advance, teachers will do whatever within their authority, and within reason, to support students around assignment completion and assessment dates. Important to note, is that there are times when hard deadlines occur (semester end for example) and there are times when it is important to complete a task in a relatively timely fashion. Often times, tasks are designed as stepping stones to a larger project or learning outcome. Teachers use these tasks to provide feedback and support students in the learning process. Completing the task weeks, or even months later does not provide for that and defeats the purpose behind the task. The “coaching” element of the teaching and learning process is not possible. These may be occasions where late assignments may not be accepted.
- See – Teacher Practice – Assessment Practices
Targeting Teacher Practice
Recent research has shown us that teaching practices effective in the 20th century (those practices that many parents and current teachers experienced as learners in high school and that worked for us – or that we thought worked for us) are no longer effective given the reality of our current knowledge based society where what we know is far less important than what we are able to do. A paradigm shift is necessary if, as educators, we want to engage our students. Our school development plan has teachers collectively working to design learning tasks that will meet the needs of our current student population using the Teaching Effectiveness Framework and Rubric.
1. Task Design Fosters Engagement
- Teachers are challenged to design learning tasks that engage students both academically and intellectually. Tasks are designed to be worthwhile, relevant and show a connection between learning outcomes and the world. Attempts to show connections between the discreet disciplines are made when possible, demonstrating the interdisciplinary way in which most things occur in the world outside of the classroom.
- Teachers work collaboratively with other teachers and design projects that are interdisciplinary in nature and bring in “experts” from the field to work with, or speak to students around how the skills they are learning in class are used in industry.
- Teachers know the importance of student voice and choice in the learning process and provide opportunities for students to personalize learning tasks making them more relevant to the leaners.
- Teachers balance individual learning tasks with collaborative learning ones to ensure students are able to develop their own skills and they are also able to develop skills necessary when working as a group or a team.
2. Assessment Practices
- We believe that student assessment and feedback is fundamental to increasing student achievement. Teachers follow the assessment guidelines set out by the Calgary Board of Education. As well, teachers use formative assessment strategies and tools regularly to guide their practice and assess for student learning. Re-assessment opportunities are provided for students who, when initially assessed did not meet outcomes, but at a later date, after focused attention and further instruction, are able to meet the outcome.
- Our goal is to ensure that students are provided every opportunity to demonstrate what they know. Assessment is not a form of punishment. Students who do not manage time well or do not “think ahead” are not punished for this through their course assessments, but this doesn’t mean that these factors may not impact final assessments. Students consistently working behind schedule are always “catching up” and hence cannot focus on the current material. In these cases they often do not do as well as potentially possible – this is a natural consequence. We recognize the importance and value in completing work on time and being responsible and we also recognize that these are important life skills. There are other avenues and natural consequences, apart from “late marks” and “zeros,” that will better target time management and taking responsibility for one’s choices. Ex: Missing the bus for an off-site activity and missing out on the activity; not being considered for a scholarship/experience/job because of a missed deadline; being “benched” because you were late for team practice, or missed practice; or not being included in a team or club photo because you were late. Having said all of this, although students are provided ample opportunity to meet outcomes, ultimately if a student cannot or does not demonstrate competency in an outcome they cannot be assessed. In essence a zero in a mark book or a blank due to lack of evidence results in the same outcome. Students must demonstrate competency in course outcomes to move on to the next level. Some students may need more than one opportunity to do this.
Supporting Student Success
Our primary role is to support students. Our High School Success Initiative acknowledges that everyone needs support of some kind, at some point. Apart from the strategies and structures already mentioned, The Hub – Student Success Centre is designed as a wraparound centre to support a variety of student needs. The Hub is a one-stop shop for student success. Here students can access:
- The Learning Commons: A place for students to use and access technology, find other sources of information and work collaboratively or individually prior to and after classes, during ‘spares’ and at lunch.
- The CMHS Student Learning Team: A team of teachers and educational assistants who work with students that a) have some special learning needs and b) could benefit from a quiet place to work with some academic support if needed. This team oversees the IPP process. Students needing assistive technologies or other learning accommodations based on learning codes are supported not only by the classroom teacher, but also the Student Learning Team. Students in need of a snack or lunch know that they are able to come here and food is available through our partnerships with “All In For Youth” and Brown Bagging.
- Dream Catcher Centre: Home base of our Graduation Coach for our indigenous learners, and a quiet space to work available to all students at CMHS.
- Support around Work Experience/RAP and Careers
- Central Memorial Peer Mentorship has a drop box in The Hub. Students can request peer support in academics and wellness.
- Central’s Wellness Centre is also located in The Hub. Here students are able to access social, emotional and health related support (all areas that can, if not addressed, impact student learning) such as the programs and supports listed below.
- We believe that our community partners can make a significant contribution to student success and work to support these partnerships. Currently students are able to access the following group programs and supports (for more information on these programs and accessing them – see Student Services):
- Healthy Relationships – Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter
- NAPI Leadership – MRU and The U of C
- Wiseguyz – Calgary Sexual Health
- “All In For Youth” – The United Way
- “The Alex Health Bus” – The Alex
- “Youth Champion Initiative” – The Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre
- Oasis – Just as the name suggests, a quiet, technology free, zen-like space that students are able to access whether it be to simply decompress or complete school work.
Success Beyond Grade 10
Although our HSS Initiative is design to target grade 10 students, the foundational principles remain consistent throughout the way we work with all of our students in all grades. Teachers continue to foster strong relationships with students beyond Grade 10. We focus on continuous improvement of teacher practice and hold steady to the assessment guidelines put forth by The Calgary Board of Education regardless of the grade level of our students. As a learning community we remain committed to keeping the lines of communication open and knowing that there is very little in life that is black and white and that it is important to remain flexible and collaboratively problem-solve whenever possible. Our support for our students’ achievement does not end in Grade 10.
1. Grade 11 Resiliency Meetings
- Students entering grade 11 without full credit in all academic courses (math, science, social and English) and their parent/guardian are asked to meet with a team including HSS LLs and the Success Coach. The meeting is designed to work collaboratively to ensure that a pro-active plan is in place for each student in order to ensure graduation requirements. Through this meeting, programming decisions are made and a timetable that will best suit the student’s needs is developed. (Grade 10s finding themselves in this situation in December and June are asked to meet with Guidance to determine if educational programming in the summer may be an option.)
2. Grade 12 – Transitions and 4th Year Requests
- Our Student Services team and Career Centre work diligently with students to support their next steps…whatever these steps may be. We provide support around university and college entrance requirements, applications, scholarships and much more.
- Every fall, the CMHS Student Services team completes credit checks, ensuring that students are on track to receive a high school diploma. Letters are sent out to students who are not on track and the team works with those students to determine if there is any possibility of high school completion within the 3 year time frame.
- For those students requiring more time to complete high school graduation requirements, applications for another semester or a full fourth year are submitted though Student Services and reviewed by administration. Most often, students seeking an additional semester for high school completion are granted the time to do so if there is space in the requested courses and programs. In the event that an additional semester is not granted for whatever reason, CMHS administration always provides an alternate plan for the student if they wish to pursue it. All cases are dealt with on an individual basis and decisions around fourth year requests are made considering what is within the best interest of the individual student making the request and what CMHS is able to provide.