Creating Extraordinary Possibilities:
New Programs and Teacher Professional Growth
Beyond Buildings: Extraordinary Possibilities Crofton House School Strategic Plan 2015 – 2025 is a bold vision and built on four pillars that will guide our growth in the coming years: 1) Extraordinary Girls, 2) Extraordinary Learning, 3) Extraordinary Teachers, and 4) Extraordinary Community. The purpose of this communication is to provide the CHS community with timely updates about the exciting progress that is being made on this plan.
Action is already well underway on the first pillar, Extraordinary Girls, with the introduction of our new bursary program. We look forward to welcoming all the extraordinary girls joining CHS in September and, in particular, those who are being supported through the bursary program.
In this edition of the Strategic Plan Update the focus is on pillars 2 and 3, Extraordinary Learning and Extraordinary Teachers. The Board of Governors and Senior Administration spent a full day in December at a strategic planning retreat where a number of key initiatives, framed by these two pillars, were identified.
Pillar 2: Extraordinary Learning
Objective: Crofton House School is committed to being a leader in girls’ education, providing an exemplary learning environment and rich programs that inspire each girl to pursue her personal excellence.
Strategies: To achieve this goal, CHS is committed to continuous refinement and strengthening of our JK – 12 program to support the development of the whole girl. Each year, programs are reviewed and enhanced and new programs introduced where a need is identified.
For 2017 – 2018, four program areas will be addressed:
A. “New” Artist in Residence
The opening of the newly renovated Fine Arts Centre allows us to enhance our creative arts programming and student experience by introducing an “Artist in Residence” program.
The vision for this program is to invite an artist, or series of artists, to work with CHS teachers and students across all grade levels on an annual basis. There will be a different focus or theme each year that will include any area of the arts (visual, music, drama, textiles, foods, film, dance, etc.). Using First Nations art as an example, a First Nation’s artist could spend the entire year working with students at all grade levels to teach them the history, cultural significance, and skills needed to make a button blanket with the most passionate students completing a button blanket by year’s end. The alternative would be for a series of First Nation artists to visit the school and share his or her talents such as a carver, weaver, painter, drummer or songwriter.
B. “New” Design Programs
The new BC Ministry of Education curriculum requires that students from K – grade 9 learn Applied Design, Skills and Technologies (ADST). After visiting leading girls’ schools across Canada, it was determined that the best way to deliver these programs at CHS is to create two new design spaces in the lower level of the Senior School. These spaces become available for conversion with the completion of our Fine Arts Centre this summer. The design spaces to be created are:
- The “Ideation Room” (current Junior School Art Room)
In this “hands-on” space, anything is possible. Students from K – grade 12 will come to this place to explore classroom learning in new ways. Provided with the raw materials to bring their design ideas to life, the Ideation Room is a unique specialized space which will promote and value design thinking.
It will be furnished with large tables and stools and equipment such as Lego, arts & craft supplies, and small electronic parts and tools. It will be a place where ideas are both generated and developed.
- The “Design Fabrication Lab” (current Senior School Drama Room)
In this space, there will be no limits to design. Students in grades 6 – 12 will bring their ideas and designs to life by working through the process of construction and interacting with real materials and sophisticated equipment. This will be a space that promotes the creative process and moves student thinking from paper to product.
The programs to be developed and delivered in these spaces will be the responsibility of an additional new CHS design teacher.
C. The Harkness Method
The value of discussion based teaching (also called the Harkness method) is well established and places a high value on student thinking and collaboration. Sitting together around a Harkness table, students explore, through dialogue, the complexity and nuances of topics within course.
In preparing students for post-secondary learning and beyond, students require strong foundations in literacy and numeracy; they also require the ability to ‘sit at the table’ with confidence and a practiced voice. Increasingly, courses at all levels and across all disciplines, including those traditionally taught in a lecture format (i.e. commerce, engineering), are discussion based with a focus on problem-solving. A graduate with Harkness experience reports that she is prepared for this type of learning. She easily engages in and contributes to discussions having become accustomed to the format and the sound of her voice. Beyond formal education, the workplace is one that values an ability to listen, to connect or disagree with, and articulate thinking.
At this time, CHS makes limited use of the Harkness instruction despite its particular suitability to the way in which girls learn. Beginning in September 2017, pedagogy will be expanded to include Harkness as the teaching method. This requires a reduction in class size, specialized teacher training in the Harkness method and the purchase of Harkness tables.
D. Ivy Compass Program
In 2010, through a grant from the Webster Foundation and CHS Parents’ Auxiliary, Crofton House initiated the “Ivy Achievement Program and 21st Century Leadership Institute” with the goals of creating responsible citizens and effective leaders in a global world. Today we know the program as the Ivy Compass program.
Ivy Compass is a multifaceted program unique to Crofton House School which enables our students to learn about themselves, their community, and their place in the world. Pulling together newly developed and exciting experiential lessons alongside elements already incorporated in our programming, Ivy Compass provides a purposeful approach to developing personal growth, leadership, and engaged citizenship.
Currently, the program is offered in grades 8 – 10. It is our goal, with additional staffing, to expand the program to include students from JK to grade 12 and to more fully develop the program as the ‘defining’ or the ‘value added proposition’ of a CHS education.
Upon graduation, CHS graduates will not only receive their BC Dogwood Diploma but also an Ivy Compass Diploma recognizing their successful completion of the Ivy Compass program requirements.
Pillar 3: Extraordinary Teachers
Objective: Crofton House School is committed to attracting, developing, retaining and recognizing extraordinary teachers.
Strategies: To achieve this goal, the following changes to compensation and opportunities for professional growth and development amongst our teachers will be offered beginning in the 2017 – 2018 school year.
A. Pension Plan
One of the greatest differences between the compensation received by public school teachers and independent school teachers in British Columbia is the type of pension plan offered. Teachers in the public school system must participate in a defined benefit pension plan. BC legislation does not allow teachers in the independent school system to participate in this plan. The result is most independent schools in BC offer a defined contribution plan.
Crofton House has tried to balance the difference in the two types of pension plans by offering teacher salaries approximately 10% greater than the Vancouver School Board grid. Regrettably, this difference is not always perceived to be sufficiently attractive. To address this, CHS will increase its contribution to teachers’ RRSPs from the current contribution of 7% to 11%.
B. Professional Development Funding
Crofton House School’s professional development funding is currently at the minimum level recommended by CAIS (Canadian Accredited Independent Schools) of 2% of teacher salaries. The result is not all teacher requests for professional development funding aligned with our strategic goals can be supported. For this reason, the funding for professional growth will be increased from 2% to 3% of teacher salaries.
C. Funded Faculty Research Chair in Teaching and Learning
In addition to a targeted program of professional development for teachers, CHS will contribute to the profession and be known as a leader in girls’ education through action research. This will be achieved through a new initiative to be introduced in 2017 – 2018, the CHS Research Chair of Teaching and Learning. Teachers in both the Junior School and Senior School will be afforded this opportunity.