Worth a Second Look – Sacred Heart Community School: Beating the Odds – PART III

Worth a Second Look – Sacred Heart Community School: Beating the Odds – PART III

This is the final column about Sacred Heart Community School in Regina, Saskatchewan. Brain-based learning and changes to the school resource program increase the students learning skills. Definitely Worth a Second Look!

Dramatic changes had taken place to make the learning atmosphere safe and comfortable. Work was also happening to help the students with their learning skills and to make learning a positive experience.

“I heard many students say that they were dumb and that they hated school,” remarked Tetreault. Sacred Heart Community School is an inner-city school. The majority of the school’s students live in poverty. It was obvious to the staff that the curriculum set by the province of Saskatchewan was unrealistic for many of students at the school. The staff researched poverty to gain a better understanding of what resources they could provide to the students. Based on Howard Gardner’s proposals for Multiple Intelligences, the staff began to implement brain-based learning in the classroom. Brain-based learning works on the principle that children learn in different ways. Exercises developed by Eric Jansen are used at the beginning of the year to show students how they are smart. The students learn terms like “Body/Kinaesthetic smart”, “Interpersonal/People smart”, and “Logical/Mathematical smart” and can recognize that all students are smart in different ways. By using brain-based learning, it has become easier for the staff to concentrate on what the students are learning and are not focus just on classroom behaviour.

In 1995, standardized testing revealed that the students were fully two grade levels below the norm. 18 months ago, testing revealed that the students were four months behind the norm. The staff anticipates that the students should be at par this year.

Tetreault credits the student’s successes to the school’s safe environment where the students are encouraged to learn at their own ability. Class work is theme based, and modular, allowing the students to work at their own pace. The school resource program was changed to reduce the stigma associated for those students who needed access to resources. Instead of a pullout program, in-class resources are provided. The students in split classes help each other with work everyday. Many of the teachers start the day with programs like “Daily Oral Language” or “Daily Oral Math”. These programs are part of a series of quick exercises that the students can do on their own or in a group, that reinforce skills that can be used in schoolwork all day.

The school’s climbing enrolment speaks volumes about the successes at the school. Since 1995, enrolment has increased from 312 students to 450 students. The students want to be in school. As a result, absenteeism has dramatically decreased. The two teachers of the first Grade 2/6 split classes won the Roy C. Hill award, a Canadian award for innovative educational projects. Tetreault and the staff are often asked to speak at other schools about Sacred Heart School’s successes. Most recently, Sacred Heart School has been chosen to be one of 20 schools to be featured at an international model schools conference.

Tetreault and the staff realize that kids will be kids and that there are still problems to solve at the school. Based on their successes to date, they are well on the way to beating the odds.

These columns about the successes at Sacred Heart Community School are just the tip of the iceberg of their story. Research grants from the Stirling McDowell foundation enabled Sacred Heart Community School to research and document its story. Phase III of the research is currently underway. The first two phases of research is complete and copies of the research papers are available on the website of the Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation at http://www.stf.sk.ca/mcdowell/ or at
http://www.stf.sk.ca/mcdowell/latest_news/pdf/lfp1-5.pdf http://www.stf.sk.ca/mcdowell/latest_news/pdf/lfp2-1.pdf.