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Interviewing our School Community

Calgary Science School - Commendations and Recommendations for Further Consideration

Dr. Garry McKinnon, Superintendent, Calgary Science School

Over the two week period of March 7-18, members of the teaching and support staff (44 participants), students (approximately 600) from grades 4 to 9 in their class groupings and parents attending the March 17 and 18 Student led conferences (48 participants), were invited to share feedback in regard to the Calgary Science School by responding to the questions:

"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?"

The interviews conducted by the superintendent serve as a component of the ongoing school evaluation process. The feedback generated through the two questions (without any prompting) 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 11 major areas of commendation (with a response rate of 25% or more) were identified:
  • Teachers are treated as professionals
  • The outstanding leadership provided by the school leadership team
  • The students are excellent
  • The positive school culture
  • The Calgary Science School is unique and special
  • The strong focus on collaboration
  • Professional development opportunities
  • The outdoor education and field trips
  • Parental support
  • Enhancing learning and teaching through the use of technology
  • The exemplary teaching in the Calgary Science School
The key recommendations for further consideration identified by the teaching and support staff members are as follows:
  • Outdoor Education Program Enhancements
  • School Program Enhancements
  • Ensure that Curricular Expectations are Addressed
  • Learning Strategies Program Enhancements
  • Timetable Enhancements
  • Provide a Senior High School Program
  • Professional Development Enhancements
  • Better Addressing the Needs of ESL Students
  • Enhance the Personalization of Learning Experiences
  • Enhance the Facility with Change Rooms/Shower Rooms
The grade 4-9 students were interviewed in their class groupings (four classes at each grade level) and they were most enthusiastic in sharing their perceptions from a student perspective. The major areas of commendation (identified by five or more classes) which were generated through the student feedback included:
  • The teachers are excellent
  • The Outdoor Education Programs and Field Trips
  • Positive School Culture/There is a good feeling in the school
  • Access to Technology to Enhance Learning
  • School Clubs and Extracurricular Activities
  • Physical Education Programs
  • Well-rounded Program of Learning Experiences
  • Service Learning Projects
  • Electives and the Opportunities for Choosing Them Given to the Students
  • The Organization of the School Year Calendar
Through a thematic analysis of the student responses the following key suggestions (3 classes or more) were identified:
  • Make Changes to the Portfolios for Physical Education and Fine Arts
  • Make Modifications to Learning Strategies
  • Do away with week A and B in the timetable
  • It would be nice to have a cafeteria operated by the students out of the staff room/kitchen
  • Organize a Student Council or Student Advisory Group
  • Provide one class period each week for students to get caught up on their work
  • Build showers and change rooms next to the gymnasium
  • Provide a second language in the school program
  • Explore the Possibility of having school teams for Grades 4, 5 and 6
The 48 parents who were interviewed during the student-led conferences on March 17 and 18 indicated strong support for the school and an appreciation for the learning opportunities that are being provided to their children. The major commendations that were identified (10% or more of the parents) include the following:
  • The Teaching is Excellent
  • Well-rounded Program which Focuses on All Aspects of Student Learning and Development The Outdoor Education program is outstanding
  • There is a very positive culture in the school
  • The Emphasis on Learning Through Inquiry
  • The use of technology in the school enriches learning experiences
  • Class Sizes and the Size of the School
  • Communication is Very Good and Parents are Kept Well-informed
Recommendations for Further Consideration - Parents:
  • Revise the Structure of Parent-teacher Interviews
  • Consideration should be given to starting a senior high school program
  • A greater emphasis should be placed on parents’ capacities as experts and volunteers
  • Consideration should be given to offering a second language
Concluding Observations:
There was a very positive response from the staff members, students and parents 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 special about 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, fine 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 program. Major strengths of the school identified by the participants include the: exemplary teaching; positive school culture; open communication; positive attitude of the students; support and active involvement of parents; administrative leadership and the focus on professionalism, innovation, collaboration and exemplary teaching and the emphasis on doing everything possible to have students experience success as learners.

The entire, detailed report can be found here:

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