Calgary Science School Parent, Student and Staff Interviews

Calgary Science School Parent, Student and Staff Interviews Executive Summary

Garry McKinnon-June 25, 2012

The annual superintendent interviews of parents, students and staff members were conducted over several weeks in the Spring of 2012 as a component of the ongoing school evaluation process. On March 8 and 9 during student-led conferences, 48 parents were interviewed. In May and June, grade 4 to 9 students as class groups (approximately 600) were interviewed. As well, teaching and support staff members (36 participants) were interviewed. The feedback generated through the two questions (without any prompting) “What causes you to believe that the Calgary Science School is a very good school and what suggestions for improvement would you like to offer?”,
has been organized as commendations or recommendations for further consideration, on the basis of common themes, which were identified through a thematic analysis process. The frequency of common themes is indicated in parentheses.

The following major areas of commendation (with a response rate of 25% or more) were identified through the parent interviews: the teaching is excellent; CSS is a great school; appreciate the emphasis on learning through inquiry; the outdoor education program is outstanding; there is a very positive culture in the school; the use of technology in the school enriches learning experiences; appreciate the well-rounded program that focuses on all aspects of student learning and development, and communication is very good and parents are kept well-informed.

The following suggestions for further consideration (with a response rate of 6% or more) were identified through the parent interviews: implement a CSS senior high school program; offer a second language; revise the structure of parent-teacher interviews and place greater emphasis on capitalizing more on parents’ capacities as experts and volunteers.

It is interesting to note that without exception in every class the students identified learning through inquiry; the use of technology to enhance learning and teaching and outdoor education/field trips as key contributors to making the Calgary Science School a very good school. 100% of the students indicated by a show of hands that these themes were in their view what make the Calgary Science School a great school. As well, 80% of the students made reference to the dedicated teachers and school staff members as a special strength of the school. The following additional areas of commendation (with a response rate of 20% or more) were identified: students are given freedom and responsibility to learn independently; the electives are excellent; appreciate opportunities for hands-on learning activities; the culture of innovation where students and teachers are encouraged to try new things is appreciated; there is a safe, caring climate in the school; the performing and visual arts program (PVA) is excellent and relationships among everyone in the school are very positive.

The following suggestions for further consideration (with a response rate of 20% or more) were identified through the student interviews: would like to have more extracurricular activities and school sports teams; there should be a CSS senior high school program; there are still some major concerns with the portfolios in PVA ; would be nice to have a cafeteria–place to eat lunch; provide more opportunities for choice in the electives; try to improve the change room situation; there should be programs in place to help all students develop good keyboarding skills beginning at grade 4 and it would be good if the junior high students are treated less like elementary students and given more opportunities to prepare for senior high school.

The following major areas of commendation (20% or more) were identified by the staff members: dynamic, dedicated staff; excellent school leadership team; collaborative culture; excellent students; teacher freedom to take risks and to be innovative; supportive parents; excellent outdoor education program and teachers are given the resources they need.

The following suggestions for further consideration (with a response rate of 20% or more) were identified through the staff interviews: find a sense of balance in personal and professional lives; have the Leadership Team spend more time in classrooms; enhance professional development days and staff meetings; focus more on curricular goals and outcomes; continue to make enhancements to the school facility; enhance the role of learning coach; do more to address the needs of students who are experiencing difficulty as learners; enhance the learning strategies program; make provision for teachers to spend some time in other schools as a professional development experience; expand the CSS program to other campuses and make enhancements to the outdoor education program. 

Concluding Observations

There was a very positive response from the parents, students and staff members to the opportunity to share their views in regard to areas of commendation and suggestions for further consideration relating to the Calgary Science School. Clearly there is agreement that there is something very special about the Calgary Science School and there is strong support for the emphasis on providing a comprehensive program with rich learning experiences in mathematics, science, the humanities, physical education, performing and visual arts and a variety of electives. The participants expressed very strong support for the emphasis on learning through a disposition of inquiry, enhancing learning and teaching through the appropriate use of technology and providing authentic, engaging learning experiences in the school and beyond through the extensive outdoor education/field trips programs. Major strengths of the school identified by the participants include the: exemplary teaching; excellent students; supportive parents; strong school leadership; safe, caring, positive, collaborative culture; well-rounded program that focuses on all aspects of student learning and development; excellent communication; freedom and responsibility students are given as learners and the culture of innovation where students and teachers are encouraged to try new things. Interested individuals are encouraged to make reference to the detailed description of commendations and recommendations for further consideration outlined in the report document which is posted on the website and available through the school office.

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