St. Leo uses assessment data from the ITBS and the COGAT to understand and improve student and school-wide performance. Since our ITBS/COGAT tests are given in October, results actually reflect the prior year’s learning. Therefore, from year to year, teachers touch base with their counterpart in the earlier grade to discuss the assessment results to verify that our program and curricula are adequately addressing student needs.
Detailed analysis has been used in the past to improve performance. Four years ago, for example, it was perceived that writing was an opportunity area for improvement. From that analysis came a complete revamping of our writing program. A key facet of the new program was the development of a writing curriculum sequence which set out what each grade was responsible for teaching, and at what level students in each grade could be expected to perform. This was used in a “Writing Across the Curriculum” program in which all teachers, classroom and special teachers alike, collaborated in writing assignments. Our teachers’ workshops were also geared to accomplishing our writing goals, and our teachers worked with teachers from other schools in our Diocese of Charlotte to spearhead a new writing assessment program.
Given the success of that program, last year we used our analysis of the ITBS results to identify mathematics as the next area in which we wished to make a concerted effort to improve student and school performance. Particularly in the area of computation, our results were, we believed, ripe for improvement. Therefore, we are currently working on a multi-faceted program which will result in a grade-by-grade mathematical abilities check-list, and a “Mathematics across the Curriculum” approach which will enlist the entire teaching cadre in practicing and reinforcing mathematical concepts and skills:
We have purchased “Holey Cards”, which are used in the classrooms daily for rapid mathematical calculation drills;
A new mathematics series has been purchased from Harcourt and Holt;
Primary and Intermediate students are drilled daily with a “Number of the Day”, “Problem of the Day” and lesson quizzes; and
Middle school mathematics has been integrated into the literature curriculum.
Part IV #3– Indicators of Success - Communication
St. Leo School is blessed with a high degree of stakeholder involvement. Community connection is frequent. The weekly Thursday information envelope is sent home with the youngest child. It includes the weekly Newsletter, event flyers, test results, progress reports, permission slips and certificates of achievement. Through the principal’s column, classroom and school events and improvement plan goals are highlighted. Since our mascot is the lion, there is a “Something to ROAR About” column each week devoted to student, alumnus, teacher and parent achievements. The Newsletter is posted on the website, as well as being sent home directly in hardcopy.
After reviewing the ITBS scores last year, the faculty expressed a desire to improve the outcomes of the math curriculum. This goal was shared by the principal via the Newsletter with the St. Leo families. A plan to establish baselines and involve families in ways to help us improve math computation skills is now underway. The initial steps provided families with an opportunity to have a home set of holey cards. Updates on the progress of the math improvement plans are addressed through the Newsletter. ITBS scores of the overall building data are published each year during Catholic Schools Week at the end of January.
Other modes of communication include Open Houses, conferences phone calls, email, PTO assemblies, Student Council assemblies, and articles in local and diocesan newspapers. Using the math school improvement goal again as a communication example, the teachers informed parents of baselines and initial action steps for this year’s math program at the Open House at the start of the year. At Parent-Teacher conferences, teachers and parents shared information concerning student progress.
Monthly information from our counselor is sent via the Thursday envelope. The Student Council and AV Club team with the principal and librarian to give a WSLS TV-video Broadcast each month. The Middle School Students and teachers provide a quarterly school newspaper, The Mane Event. We know communication between our stakeholders is one of our strengths.
Part IV #4 Indicators of Success – Sharing with our Community St. Leo’s Faculty is generous in sharing its expertise. The teachers share not only with their St. Leo colleagues, but also volunteer to present at local conferences and/or provide leadership to teachers at other schools. Last year the Math and Science teachers made presentations at the state science teachers’ convention, as well as a presentation at the diocesan convention.
Recently our librarian and our art teacher teamed to present “Integrating Art, Library and Literature Through Puppetry” at the NC School Library Media Association and at the diocesan convention. Our resource teacher and fifth grade classroom teacher presented a workshop on “Understanding Differences in Student Learning” to diocesan teachers. The resource teacher also assisted teachers at another school with information that helped their school successfully apply for a grant to attend the “Schools Attuned” Training Program.
Three of our Language Arts teachers spearhead the workshops for the diocesan Writing Curriculum & Assessment. Our principal has presented several spiritual and motivational workshops to local religious organizations, as well as presentations at diocesan conferences.
Our computer instructor has met regularly with other diocesan personnel and teachers from other schools to provide suggestions as the diocese implements an electronic report card system.
The faculty is also active in professional organizations. The principal is an officer in the local non-public school association and a member of ASCD and NAESP. The librarian/media coordinator is a member of the American Library Association and the NC School Library Media Association. The resource teacher and first grade teacher have been active in the local chapter of the International Reading Association and have served as hospitality chairmen for the organization. All Middle School and special teachers belong to the local middle school association. In addition our two middle school language arts teachers are members of the National Council of Teachers of English.
PART V – CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION
St. Leo the Great Catholic School offers a comprehensive course of study to implement our mission of education. At the heart of our curriculum is the study of our Catholic faith. In all subjects, we align ourselves with the North Carolina Standard Course of Study and integrate technology. Students learn about hardware, software, information resources, and problem solving with technology tools.
The Social Studies curriculum begins in K-3 with students studying about their neighborhoods and communities. The fourth grade learns the history of North Carolina, and fifth concentrates on the early history of America with an emphasis on Native America, exploration, and the colonial period. In sixth and seventh grade, a world studies program focuses on the political and cultural history of specific countries in regions of the Eastern and Western Hemispheres with an emphasis on geography and map skills instruction. American history and an in-depth study of the Constitution is completed in 8th grade.
The Science curriculum follows four major strands in all grade levels: Nature, Inquiry, Technology, and Personal & Social Perspective. The Science curriculum in K–3 puts emphasis on hands-on activities to explore living and non-living things in the world. Grades four and five study growth and adaptations in plants and animals, minerals, ecosystems, and energy interactions. Middle School students using inquiry based approaches and scientific method examine the solar system, forces of erosion, cell structure, human body, atomic structure, periodic table, chemical reactions, magnetism, electricity, and simple machines.
Math courses encourage the students to explore, conjecture, reason logically and use a variety of mathematical methods beginning very early and progressing through a high school level algebra. K through third grade stresses the numerical operations as well as spatial sense, patterns and relationships. From the fourth through the eighth grades we continue these concepts and introduce operations with multi-digit numbers and fractions. In 6, 7 and 8, our math program stresses algebraic methods.
Knowing that foreign languages are learned best at an early age, St. Leo School offers both French and Spanish to students in grades preK-5. At the end of grade 5, each student selects one of the languages to continue in Middle School. In the primary grades, songs, stories, and rhymes are used to engage the students, with the primary focus on listening comprehension. In grades 3, 4, and 5, students begin writing and reading simple sentences, while continuing to improve their listening skills. Students engage in role-playing activities to practice speaking. In grades 6, 7, and 8, students continue to improve their skills in speaking and writing by creating and performing skits about real-life situations. Reading is enhanced by target language magazines, novels, and cultural articles. Software and Internet are used to improve foreign language skills.
The art and music curriculum is structured to develop the student's visual and auditory perception and awareness with the intent of encouraging original creative expression. Art students work with a wide range of media and techniques in both two and three dimensions, including ceramics, painting, printmaking and sculpture, using their ideas in exciting ways. While the finished product is something the students take pride in, the creative process and confidence development always take priority. Singing, dancing, playing rhythm instruments and moving to music enable the P-S to 2nd grade students to acquire musical skills. Grades 3-5 learn to read music, play the recorder, listen to, analyze and evaluate music from other nationalities and cultures. This helps the students understand their own historical and cultural heritage. Grades 6-8 are developing control and pitch accuracy, as well as singing and listening to a varied repertoire of music. An annual Christmas Show, various dramatic presentations for PTO assemblies, Talent shows, Art displays and monthly AV Broadcasts showcase students’ talents.
In physical education/health, the elementary grades have an emphasis on motor skills, such as walking, running, skipping, and leaping, bending, stretching, twisting, and swaying. Manipulative skills such as throwing, catching, striking, and kicking are also introduced. The older grades are taught team sports, individual sports and personal physical fitness parameters. There is an emphasis on cognitive, motor, social, and positive self image aspects. It is the intention of the physical education program to help each student develop and maintain an adequate level of physical fitness. The health curriculum promotes learning experiences that will result in a healthy lifestyle from childhood through adulthood.
Part V #2a Curriculum & Instruction - Reading
St. Leo’s reading curriculum is an inclusive language arts program. In K-5 the reading series we use as our resource stresses phonological awareness, guided reading and instruction, phonics, and other curriculum connections such as social studies activities that tie in with the stories. Each week a full writing process lesson is integrated with a five day spelling plan and five day grammar plan. Frequent assessments are used to monitor student progress. We meet individual needs with the help of our learning resource teacher and teaching assistants. Learning is enhanced through creative book talks, book reports, class research projects and literary appreciation.
The reading curriculum in Middle School also uses a very strong integrated language arts approach. In grades 7 and 8, the English classes are divided into advanced groups and on-level groups. Vocabulary is included in the English class. In Literature, Diocesan-approved anthologies are used, as well as age appropriate novels that coordinate with the social studies curriculum. This year, we have selected novels in grades six through eight that incorporate many math concepts. Throughout the middle school course of study, emphasis on critical thinking skills, understanding of literary terms, recognition of figurative language, and problem solving help students become clear thinkers and alert consumers.
From our earliest grades, our reading schedule includes the library curriculum where the focus is on developing in our students a love of reading; they are encouraged to experiment with and appreciate fine literature in all its varied formats. Research skills are integrated with the reading, so that by the eighth grade year, students have the basic tools they need to become information literate adults who are efficient, effective and ethical users of reference sources.
Part V #3 Curriculum & Instruction – Writing
Our writing curriculum stresses the development of the whole child from kindergarten through eighth grade. This curriculum aligns with the North Carolina Course of Study and SACS guidelines. As part of our School Improvement Plan, all English teachers developed sequential writing strategies and goals. The expectations are as follows:
The kindergarten child will learn to write and to illustrate one full sentence.
This expands in grades 1 and 2 to using capital letters and end punctuation and writing at least one paragraph using correct grammar and writing skills.
Our intermediate department continues to build upon this foundation. Students in grades 3, 4, and 5 are responsible for writing a three-to-five paragraph paper utilizing a variety of writing styles, as well as writing and being exposed to different forms of poetry. Students edit their work for errors in usage, mechanics and spelling. They are also introduced to a writing prompt and begin use of dialogue.
Development of writing skills shows mastery in middle school with evidence of an ease and fluency in writing. At this point, the writers incorporate figurative language, concrete images, and visual descriptions. Our middle school writers use different forms of poetry, and effective expository, narrative, persuasive, exclamatory, descriptive, and comparative essays. In preparation for high school, our students master skills needed to support their arguments and opinions. They use MLA notations, write and deliver speeches, and complete cross-curricular projects.
By following this sequential pattern of writing, the students can use these writing skills across the curriculum as well as serve the community by writing to senior citizens, armed service personnel, and elected officials.
Writing assessments show St. Leo students have improved writing proficiency using our present curriculum. The English teachers meet annually to review the sequential writing strategies and goals and to update them as needed. Copies of student portfolios are shared with teachers of rising students at the end of each year. The English teachers at St. Leo have also shared their sequential writing strategies with the other diocesan schools. Three of our teachers regularly lead diocesan workshops, develop prompts for the 4th and 7th grade diocesan Writing Assessment and help in scoring the diocesan writing tests for grades 4 and 7.
Part V - #4 Curriculum and InstructionMethods
St. Leo School teachers use a variety of instructional methods to improve student learning. Some strategies include: cooperative learning groups, group instruction, half-class grouping for middle school math and science, team teaching, after school tutoring and library availability after school.
ITBS scores are studied to identify students with learning difficulties. Students are referred for testing for learning disabilities through the resource and guidance teachers. The resource teacher helps students to develop learning strategies based on their specific needs. Classroom teachers share lesson plans with the learning support teacher weekly to ensure consistency and clear expectations for students with special needs.
The guidance teacher provides classroom sessions, small group counseling, and individual counseling. Activities offered in guidance include: understanding self and others, communication skills, relational and social skills; study skills and career awareness. The counselor works closely with teachers and parents to identify student needs and concerns, initiate recommendations, and collaborate with community agencies to coordinate professional services.
Classroom teachers meet within their own unit to coordinate their curriculum and to assure student progress from year to year. Teachers employ a wide variety of learning experiences to engage students in learning. Students participate in educational field trips such as trips to museums, art galleries, Washington D.C., nature and science experiments and discoveries.
Students with help from teacher advisors are encouraged to participate in Spelling Bees, the National Geography Bee, Odyssey of the Mind, Math-a-thon, Audio-Visual Club, Library Club, and Student Council.
Part V- #5 Curriculum and Instruction Professional Development
St. Leo School succeeded in one of its professional development goals for this year already. We wanted to institute a Special Needs Students’ Faculty Training program. Two faculty members, our resource teacher and 5th grade classroom teacher, using funding from a diocesan grant and regular professional development funds, attended the “Schools Attuned – All Kinds of Minds” workshop. They then presented the overall philosophy and goals for the rest of the faculty to begin the school year. Teachers learned the attuning process which includes observation, data collection, data analysis, building a learning profile and management plan and meeting with students, parents, and other educators. Videos and books were also purchased and made available to faculty and parents through the library. We plan to arrange a follow-up review session for next semester.
Annually, teachers are able to attend professional development workshops in their curriculum areas. Recently the Guidance director and Resource teacher attended the North Carolina Counselors Institute. They brought back tips to share with the teachers for behavior management. Two teachers attended a science symposium and are making use of the new hands on ideas obtained at the sessions as well as exchanging ideas with other local teachers regarding the selection of new science textbooks for the coming year. The P.E. , Social Studies, Computer and grade level teachers also regularly attend a workshop annually in their subject area. Teachers rotate years to attend the local annual Middle School Conference. We rotate years to attend the National Catholic Education Convention.
Our librarian/ media coordinator recently attended the NC School Library Media Association convention where she was a presenter and was recognized for her recent publication in Library Media Connection, the professional magazine for school library media specialists.
At this time we are seeking effective professional development workshops in math to match our School Improvement Plan to improve our students’ math skills. We do include professional development funds in our annual budget. We rely on teacher input and the school improvement plan in the selection of professional development.
PART VI - PRIVATE SCHOOL ADDENDUM
The purpose of this addendum is to obtain additional information from private schools as noted below. Attach the completed addendum to the end of the application, before the assessment data tables.
Private school association(s): NCEA (National Catholic Education Association), TANPS (Triad Area non-public Schools)