The Carlington Summit
by David Darwin.

Here are a few items which highlight recent happenings at the Ottawa-Carleton Catholic School Board.

Board takes pride in student retention rate

The Board continues to rank among the top boards in the province when it comes to retaining its students. The Board was told that over 94% of grade 8 students stay in the system and enter grade 9. Overall, 96.8% of all students stay in its schools through high school graduation, leaving a dropout rate of only 3.2%, well below the provincial average.

“We can all take great pride in these numbers,” said Phil Rocco, Director of Education. The figures were contained in a Student Retention/Tracking Report, which tracked the movement of students between November 1, 1998, and October 31, 1999. The report breaks down the numbers for all of the Board's intermediate and high schools, with each school registering high retention rates.

Action plan in place for change in Confirmation

The Board has approved a plan of action to comply with the Archbishop of Ottawa's decision to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation before First Communion.

Currently, in local parishes baptized Catholic children celebrate First Communion at the age of 7 (usually grade 2) and are confirmed at age 12 (usually grade 6). However, Archbishop Marcel Gervais has informed the Board that the parishes will return to the traditional timing for the sacraments, in which Confirmation is celebrated before First Communion. The change will be phased in, so that in 2001 grades 5 and 6 will be confirmed and in 2002 the sacrament will be celebrated by grades 3, 4 and 5. Finally, grades 2 and 3 will be confirmed in 2003 and grade 2 confirmations will occur in 2004 and each year afterward.

Board prepares list of community service work

The Board has prepared a list of eligible activities that high school students can perform to qualify as community service. As part of the Ministry of Education's Secondary School Reform, students must complete 40 hours of community service during their four-year high school careers to receive their diplomas.

The list of activities includes volunteering in the community, helping out in the parishes, volunteering on school committees and helping teachers work with physically and developmentally challenged students. Principals can approve activities that are not on the list if they are deemed appropriate. The work must be completed outside the students' normal instructional hours and must be confirmed by the organizations or people supervising the activities.

Students do well in standardized tests

Standardized and system testing of students showed favourable results. Students generally performed at or above the provincial and national averages in all subject areas. They performed best in language, spelling and reading, but were not as strong as they could have been in mathematics.

The Staff Development, Evaluation and Research Department presented the Board with the performance results from testing conducted during the 1998-99 school year. The results were derived from province-wide testing of grades 3 and 6, Canadian Achievement Tests (CAT/2) of grades 6 and 8 and system exams for all students in selected courses from grades 10 to OAC.

In province-wide testing of grade 3 students, there was a dramatic increase in mathematics performance, but at the grade 6 level performance slipped under the provincial results. Grade 3 and 6 students performed well in reading and writing. In the system testing program, highest results were achieved in language subjects, but math and science were lower than the Board would like.

The Board has already prepared an action plan to improve mathematics scores. The results of these most recent tests will be reviewed in relation to that action plan. Administration will also develop other strategies to further improve student achievement.

Board has serious concerns about program

Unless more funds are provided by the Ministry of Education, the summer school program for students with developmental disabilities may be discontinued. The program, which is provided every July, costs the Board approximately $300,000, but the Ministry only pays about $30,000.

If the program is cancelled due to the cost, there will be no other summer program for these students to take. The Board has appealed to the Ministries of Education, Health and Community and Social Services to provide funding to maintain the program that is essential to the students' mental, physical and social well-being.