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Collaboration between elementary, secondary teachers ‘key’ to successful de-streaming and transitions for students

By Gene Pereira, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Grade 7 and 8 teachers at Armadale Public School and Grade 9 teachers at Middlefield Collegiate Institute have joined forces to ensure Markham elementary students are being provided a seamless transition into high school.

Staff members at York District School Board elementary and secondary schools are collaborating to support de-streaming and transitions and give their students the best opportunity to succeed and pursue their desired futures.

“As a teacher, I had the opportunity to do it and I know that it works,” said Natalie Reid-Curiston, a vice-principal at Armadale P.S. “But it does require a lot of strategic planning.”

De-streaming is an educational approach that supports the achievement of equitable outcomes for every learner. When selecting their courses for Grade 9, students will not select from academic or applied streams.

Instead, most students entering Grade 9 will choose courses designed for all learners. This will help them pursue the future they want and keep the door open to all post-secondary options, including apprenticeship, college, university, and the workplace.

“To really do de-streaming well, collaboration is key to it, so I wanted to provide an opportunity for staff to be able to collaborate,” said Reid-Curiston. “By meeting with their Grade 9 counterparts, it allows them to see the enduring learning pieces that we really need to be focused on.”

With the introduction of a new curriculum at Armadale P.S. and de-streaming happening so close in proximity, it not only provides teachers the opportunity to get deeply into the new curriculum, but by meeting with their de-streaming counterparts, it allows them to see what they really need to focus on.

“Many of our kids are new Canadians that may not be as familiar with our school system,” added Reid-Curiston. “So, we have to plan for that because if a child arrives here in Grade 7, that can really impact how they’re going into high school.

“So, we need to get ahead of it and start planning and being strategic on how to support these kids.”

Working with the Grade 7-8 Armadale intermediate teachers has been so beneficial, said Niki Ladas, head of the English department at Middlefield C.I.

“It really helps high school teachers, especially teachers for Grade 9 and 10 to know where our students are coming from and to help us build a continuum of learning,” she said. “Almost like a scaffolding of skills, experiences, and application of overall expectations.”

For Armadale P.S. teacher Ryan Abriel, the biggest takeaway for him about the collaboration was just seeing what the high school teachers are doing in their classrooms.

“Before this, I had no idea,” said Abriel, who had a panel among elementary school teachers for a while. “Seeing what they’re doing and, I think, the biggest takeaway for me was just observing how they are doing their assessment practices.

“When I see that, I can implement some of their strategies and their designs in my programming, so that I feel like for me it’s a confidence booster. So, I know that I’m better preparing my students to go into the high school level.”

Rahim Karmali, the transitions teacher at Armadale P.S., says getting the opportunity to work with Middlefield C.I. transitions clerk and consultant Michael Frankfort has been “amazing.”

“He’s provided us with lesson planning structures, collaboration opportunities with other transition and grade teachers with the board, and this dialogue has been invaluable in helping us provide students with different de-streaming opportunities,” said Karmali.

Supporting all 30 students and the diverse needs she has in the classroom has been the biggest challenge for Armadale P.S. teacher Jenna McLaren.

“The challenges we’re working through with various strategies and I’ve found this de-streaming project we’ve been working on to be really helpful to learn new strategies from the high school teachers that we’ve had the opportunity to connect with, as well as my colleagues here,” said McLaren.

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