Friday, 21 December 2012 11:49

PRSD putting AISI funding to good use

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Brian Andjelic, deputy superintendent for Prairie Rose School Division, explains some of the results from Cycle 4 of the division’s Alberta Initiative for School Improvement program. Brian Andjelic, deputy superintendent for Prairie Rose School Division, explains some of the results from Cycle 4 of the division’s Alberta Initiative for School Improvement program. Photo by Rose Sanchez

Improving academic success, satisfaction of students and parents and levels of student, staff and parent engagement were the focus of Prairie Rose School Division’s (PRSD) Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI) Cycle 4.

Trustees with the division heard updates about the division’s AISI projects at the Dec. 11 regular meeting.
“We wanted to build project work to facilitate some risk taking in the classrooms (so teachers could) have an environment and tools to try new things,” said Brian Andjelic, deputy superintendent.
Funding for AISI is on a per student basis and comes from the provincial government, but during Cycle 4, it was cut in half.
“We lost a lot of momentum in Cycle 4 with the loss of 50 per cent of our funding,” said Andjelic. “...It was unfortunate, but we were still able to do some good things.”
In an effort to meet the three main goals of the project, which included improving academic success, improving the satisfaction of students, parents and teachers and improving the levels of student, staff and parent engagement, success was seen.
Provincial testing results showed 82 per cent of PRSD students achieved acceptable standard on all 10 tests while 19 per cent achieved excellence. For diploma exams, 85.4 per cent of students achieved the acceptable standard on all 10 tests while 13.4 per cent achieved excellence.
Andjelic also shared that 84 per cent of students and 86 per cent of teachers felt their school had improved or stayed the same over the last three years (AISI Cycle 4). That contrasted to 69 per cent of parents.
“Our student satisfaction has improved significantly,” says Andjelic.
Another benefit from the AISI project has been increased student involvement in committee work and gathering student feedback through a student board.
“There are other unanticipated outcomes ... things you could never have guessed,” adds Andjelic, about the increased student involvement. “Certainly, the student voice is more prevalent in Prairie Rose than it ever has been in my experience.”
While AISI has overarching goals for the whole division, each school has its individual projects to try to meet those goals. At Seven Persons School, junior high students have taken on more leadership roles as a result of the work done with mixed aged groups in their AISI time. At Oyen Public School, teachers have received formal training in the “Just Write Instruction” program and are able to tie it to the individual education planning tool. In Foremost, partnerships were created with Family and Community Support Services and the school’s community involvement was increased.
With the completion of Cycle 4, the division now moves into Cycle 5 and a new focus which builds on what has already been done. Linda Matsumoto, PRSD’s AISI staff development, shared what Cycle 5 (the next three years) will look like.
The overarching project for Prairie Rose is providing personalized learning opportunities to students, so competence and confidence of students is improved. This will be accomplished through various projects at schools including increasing the desire to learn, increasing student enjoyment of reading, enhancing student learning, and fostering self-confidence.
Another focus will be to provide opportunities to students to access digital lessons through their own devices, “then students will engage with technology to construct new knowledge while working at their own pace and level.”
A cross-jurisdiction project will take place including Grasslands School Division. Its intent will be to improve student achievement in critical analytical writing and improve student engagement in senior ELA/ Social Studies classes.
Schools taking part in Cycle 5 include Burdett, Eagle Butte (Dunmore), Irvine, Parkside Junior High (Redcliff) and Seven Persons.
In light of decreased funding for AISI projects from the government, PRSD officials will continue to lobby politicians about the important role AISI has played for the division.
“This type of initiative (AISI) for a rural school division is really important,” said Superintendent Doug Nicholls. “It allows us to do some innovative projects and activities in classrooms with students.”

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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