Our new 2018 York School application is officially live!
In the upcoming weeks, we look forward to welcoming you and your children as we begin building new classes for September 2018. This is an exciting time for families, and for us! Our Admission team is eager to meet you and help you make the most informed decision regarding your child’s education. To help you through the next few months, our team will be hosting information sessions at the Junior, Middle and Senior Schools 2-3 days a week, as well as two Open Houses in October. If you would like to attend an information session or register for our Junior or Middle/Senior School Open Houses, please click here.
This year, The York School Admission team is introducing a new feature to the admissions process. To reflect the innovation that happens in our classrooms, and to help us better identify and evaluate mission-appropriate candidates, we have partnered with Kira Talent to launch a new online admission interview platform.
Here’s what you need to know about our online admission interviews:
Our newly launched online admission interview will include timed video responses and a timed written response for students applying to Grade 6 to Grade 11. Online interviewing and assessment is becoming increasingly popular at post-secondary and graduate schools around the world, and we believe our candidates are ready for this unique experience. The York School will be one of the first independent schools in Canada to incorporate this platform into our admissions process. The online interview will give the Admission Committee an opportunity to get to know your child before they spend a day at The York School. Both video and written questions can be completed by candidates through the online platform prior to the deadline and will supplement other information shared, including report cards and teacher reference forms.
The York School’s enriched application process will give candidates an opportunity to provide a 360-degree view of themselves to our Admission Committee. More importantly, our Faculty will get to know a bit about each and every applicant before they visit the school. Our ultimate goal with the online interview is to build an exceptional and well-balanced class of students at The York School, and we hope you’re as excited about this process as we are.
Every student applying for Grade 6 to Grade 11 will:
Complete the online application. Parents fill out most of the application and there are some questions the student applicant is required to answer.
Complete the online video interview and written response. This can be done on the candidate’s own time from the comfort of their home. Candidates will have the opportunity to complete practice responses in advance, to ensure they feel comfortable and prepared.
Experience The York School. All students who meet our minimum admission requirements will be shortlisted and invited to spend a day at The York School. On this day, they will be hosted by a York Student Ambassador in their grade.
Participate in a group admission interview. During our ‘Taste of York’ event, applicants to Grade 6 to Grade 9 will participate in a group interview with other candidates applying to The York School. This is facilitated by a teacher/counsellor at The York School.
The York School’s personalized and innovative approach to admissions gives candidates an opportunity to showcase their talent and personality through their own lens, and gives our Admission team and Faculty the necessary insight they need to ensure a successful decision for both your child and The York School.
We encourage you and your child to have fun with the process – we look forward to getting to know you!
Praveen Muruganandan, Director of Admission & Advancement
By Praveen Muruganandan, Director of Strategic Enrolment Management
The students are back and there’s a lot of excitement in the hallways and classrooms at The York School! This morning, Middle and Senior School students had an opportunity to experience The York School’s newly renovated campus at 1320 Yonge Street. For new students and returning ones, the experience this morning was a magical one for students (and their parents)!
The first day of school is an exciting time for teachers to get back to what they do and know best – teaching our kids! For our students, the first day back is an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones.
For our incoming JKs, the most difficult transition is always for our parents. We know that it’s hard to say goodbye to your son or daughter on their very first day. That said, our teachers are here to ensure a super smooth transition, particularly in the first week – and we’re just a call away in case you need anything!
This past year, we admitted a very diverse group of students. Our incoming students for 2017-2018 represent 16 countries. Overall, the population of our school of 675 students represents 35 countries!
Our Admission team will spend the first few weeks of the school year helping families navigate their experience and find important resources to ensure their children have an amazing start. In the next few weeks, we will begin recruiting for the 2018/2019.
Congratulations! You have chosen the top co-educational International Baccalaureate school in Toronto and are joining a friendly and dynamic community! Outlined below are some guidelines and “to dos” to ensure a smooth transition for your family between now and September.
#2: Encourage your children to finish the year strong. Students may have a tendency to “check out” when they know they are leaving their school in a couple of months. But they should continue to make the most of their current school experience – engage in student life and academic achievement and finish on a high note!
#3: Start building relationships now. Between now and September, there will be a number of opportunities for incoming parents and students to initiate friendships and have some of their questions answered. A sense of comfort, familiarity and the feeling that you are part of a network will make for a much smoother transition to a new school. Here’s what coming up:
Current JK parents will be contacting all new incoming JK parents by phone in the coming weeks.
New incoming JK parents and new incoming JK students are encouraged to attend the JK Playdate & JK Parent Welcome Morning on Wednesday, May 24 from 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. at the Junior School (1639 Yonge Street). RSVP HERE.
New incoming SK through Grade 11 parents interested in talking to a York Parent Ambassador are encouraged to contact the Advancement Department at email@example.com or 416-926-1325 x 1183 to be connected.
New incoming SK through Grade 11 parents are encouraged to attend the New Parent Welcome Evening on Thursday, May 25 from 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at the Middle & Senior School (1320 Yonge Street). RSVP HERE.
New incoming Grade 6 through 11 students are encouraged to attend the New Student Orientation Evening on Thursday, May 25 from 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at the Middle & Senior School (1320 Yonge Street). RSVP HERE.
Look for an email in the coming weeks connecting your SK through Grade 11 child to a returning York School student who will be his or her Class Partner (Junior School), Homeroom Partner (Middle School), or Grade Partner (Senior School) in September. Partners are in the same grade and/or class as the new incoming students they are paired with. Partners act as a “welcoming committee” for new students and a resource and friendly face during the new student’s first weeks at The York School. Partners (through their parents) make an effort to connect with incoming students before summer starts. Some Middle & Senior School Partners will also be in attendance at the New Student Orientation Evening!
#4: The Welcome Package will be a key resource during your transition to The York School. Look out for an email by mid-May linking you to the online Welcome Package. The Welcome Package will provide you with key information (like how and when to order uniforms and laptops) to get you off to a great start! Here’s a tip: make sure you follow the New Student checklist at the beginning of the package!
#5: Don’t let the Friday Flash end up in your junk mail folder! The York School sends out a weekly interactive electronic newsletter called the “Friday Flash” during the school year. In the summer, the school sends a “July Flash” and an “August Flash” to the community. These newsletters are full of important information to get ready for returning to school in September, so look for them in your inbox. Be sure to add firstname.lastname@example.org to your safe list, and if you do not receive the first Summer Flash by the end of July, please contact our communications department at 416-926-1325 x 1172.
# 6: Mark Tuesday, September 5 on your calendar.Here’s why:
All new incoming Grade 8 through 11 Students are required to attend Open the Box from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. at the Junior School (1639 Yonge Street). New incoming students will receive their laptops and will participate in a technology orientation session. Please note that new incoming Grade 6 and 7 Students will have their Open the Box orientation a couple of weeks into the school year.
All new incoming and returning JK through Grade 5 parents and students are strongly encouraged to attend the Junior School Drop-in from 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. at 1639 Yonge Street. Find out which class your child is in and visit their classroom. Meet the teachers. Meet other parents. Meet other students. Visiting the school on the day before the official first day of school makes the first day of school on Wednesday, September 6th much smoother for everyone!
# 7: Note the five people your child should make a point of meeting during the first week of school:
Main Teacher: This would be the Core Teacher in the Junior School, the Homeroom Teacher for students entering Middle School, the ICE Teacher for students entering Grade 9, and the Advisor for students entering Grade 9 – 11.
Counsellor: Each division (Junior, Middle and Senior) has a Counsellor focused on the academic, social, and emotional well-being of our students. The Counsellor acts as an important resource and ongoing source of support.
Receptionist. Our receptionists at the Junior School and Middle and Senior School welcome all students and parents with a smile and are your first point of contact when you call the main school phone number. They look forward to getting to know all our new incoming families!
Principal. Each division (Junior, Middle and Senior School) has a Principal who is responsible for the leadership and support of all the students and academic staff. They ensure the daily life of the school runs smoothly and effectively.
Leadership Coordinator. Each division (Junior, Middle and Senior School) has a Leadership Coordinator responsible for developing, administering and overseeing meaningful, inclusive, and engaging student opportunities and experiences outside of the classroom.
Transitioning to a new school is both an exciting and uncertain time for both students and parents! Take advantage of all the opportunities outlined above to ensure the smoothest onboarding process as you get ready for September. And, as always, we are here to help so do not hesitate to be in touch with any questions or concerns you may have – big or small!
The York School Admission & Enrolment Management Team
Congratulations – you’ve decided you’d like to send your child to an independent school in Toronto. Maybe you’ve applied to several schools, or perhaps you’ve narrowed it down to a handful. No matter how many schools you are choosing from, navigating the private school admission process and then making an admission decision can be confusing and stressful. Here are some helpful tips to help you throughout the school admission process:
Generally, schools will accept applications at any time – especially schools with rolling admission (more on that below). That said, most schools will only accept applications for the current application cycle (i.e. you aren’t able to apply for September 2018 until fall of 2017). Some schools incentivize families to get their application in early (e.g. by reducing the application fee). However, the general rule of thumb for a September start is that you should have your application in by December of the previous year. Independent schools should clearly state on their website when their application deadline is.
Understanding Rolling Admission Versus a Common Offer Date
Schools adhering to a “rolling admission” process (e.g. The York School’s Junior School: JK – Grade 5) will typically accept an application at any time during the admission cycle and will fill spaces as they are available. If you are applying to a school with rolling admission (they should specify this on their website or in prospectus materials), expect an admission decision shortly after completing the process and be prepared to accept or decline an offer of place in a timely manner or the offer will expire.
There is a consortium of top independent schools in Toronto that adhere to a “Common Offer Date” (e.g. The York School: Grade 6 – 12, UCC, Branksome, Havergal, Greenwood etc.) These school all wait for the same agreed-upon date to let applicants know if they have received an offer of place. For the 2017 Admission Cycle, the Common Offer Date is February 24, 2017. What’s great about this arrangement among these competitive schools is applicants can consider all of their options at the same time. For many students and parents, “Decision Week” can be a stressful time – especially if an applicant doesn’t get an offer to his or her top choice school.
After the Common Offer Date has passed, most schools will revert to rolling admission.
There are three general admission decision outcomes: Offer, Waitpool, or Reject.
Dealing with Rejection
If after reviewing an applicant’s complete file (including assessment and admission interview results), the Admission Committee at a school concludes that the applicant is not mission appropriate (most often due to academic, language proficiency, behavioural, or philosophical mismatch), the family will be notified that the school will not be offering the applicant a place. While this is not an outcome anyone wants, the best way to avoid a rejection is to do your research on the front end. For example, if your child is consistently getting Cs, you may want to avoid applying to an academically rigorous school that requires an average of at least a B.
Stickhandling a Waitpool Decision
It’s vitally important for families to understand that being given a waitpool decision does not mean that the applicant is not qualified or mission appropriate for the school. Independent schools receive many more applications than there are spaces available, and Admission Committees are tasked with the difficult job of determining who to offer a place to and who to place in the waitpool. Some of the things considered when making these decisions include:
How likely is it that the applicant would accept an offer? If the Admission Committee isn’t certain the applicant would accept an offer because another school is his or her top choice, they might be more likely to give a waitpool decision. So, make sure you have sincerely communicated with your top choice school.
Does the applicant already have a sibling at the school or is the applicant’s sibling also applying to the school? Most Admission Committees give preference to sibling and legacy applications as they want to keep siblings together in the same school whenever possible.
What is the gender balance of the class being built? This is a focus in co-ed schools and most have policies related to gender balance. The York School, for example, will not go past a 60:40 ratio in either direction even if it means a smaller class in the end or having to waitpool exceptional applicants.
What is the applicant’s learning style and personality? The Admission Committee is trying to create as diverse a class as possible – this means a blend of introverts and extroverts, academic superstars and students needing learning support.
A waitpool is not a “top-of-the-list, first in list”. Waitpools are made up of unranked, mission appropriate applicants and Admission Committees will revisit their waitpool and select the most desirable applicant based on all the considerations outlined above. Make sure to let a school know if you want to stay or be removed from their waitpool.
Students applying to more than one school may find themselves in the position of being offered places at two or more of them. If the student has a clear top choice school, the decision is easy. However, in many cases, applicants like different schools equally for different reasons and really struggle to decide between them when given multiple offers. Figure out what you need to know to help make the decision. Ask if you can connect with a particular teacher, coach, current student, or current family. Find out if you can come back for another look at the school during “Decision Week”. Schools should be willing to help you access the information or people you need to help make the right decision.
-Natasha Estey, Admission Officer, The York School Middle & Senior School
For more information on The York School’s admission process from JK to Grade 12, please contact email@example.com.
The holiday season is rapidly approaching and our beautiful extended fall is coming to an end. The days are getting shorter and the lazy days of summer seem to be a distant memory. At this time of year, many adults find themselves busy, tired and often times stressed. This is not just an adult problem. Students, too, are struggling to balance between academic demands, packed schedules and commitments that often exceed both their time and energy. It is well documented that rates of anxiety in young people are on the rise. Parents and teachers are often left wondering, how do we help? What steps can we take to support healthy coping in children?
The York School’s Director of Student Wellness offers her list of 5 things parents can do at home to help their children reduce stress and anxiety:
Prioritize sleep. Children and adolescents are chronically overtired which takes a toll on both physical and mental health. Many adolescents are woefully shy of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s recommendations that 13-18 year-olds get 8-10 hours of sleep. Lack of sleep diminishes their ability to think, self-regulate and cope with stress.
Nourish their brains. Guide children to make healthy food choices, avoiding excess sugar and processed food. Breakfast provides important fuel for the day, make this a nutrient dense meal you share together. Involve children in meal preparation to foster engagement around healthy eating
Establish limits on technology use. Young people need time to disconnect and unplug. Phones at the table interrupt conversation and phones in bedrooms disrupt sleep. Young people require a break from the constant social navigation that social media engenders. Children look to their parents as models, so ask yourself, what is your relationship to your device?
Seek balance. Consider whether your child has enough time to “chill out” or engage in unstructured play. Are their commitments exerting excessive demands on their time and energy? Are they truly passionate about their activities or motivated by the increasing pressure for young people to excel in multiple domains.
Respect family time. Carve out time for your family to come together and emotionally connect. Don’t underestimate the importance of time together – eating dinner together as a family has protective value in the lives of young people.
The York School’s strategic vision of supporting the whole child is predicated on the belief that wellness is integral to student success. We are committed to working with parents to nurture healthy, engaged, resilient students. As the Director of Student Wellness, I encourage you to reach out with any questions or comments at any time.
Elissa Kline-Beber, MSW, RSW Director of Student Wellness
The International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme is a world-leading curricular framework that emphasizes inquiry and encourages students to become active and compassionate lifelong learners and true citizens of the world. The goal of the IB Programme is to inspire students to become risk takers who are open-minded, principled and reflective.
Recognized around the world, the IB programme is the ultimate passport in an increasingly global context. Since its inception in Geneva, Switzerland in 1968, the IB has grown into three interdisciplinary programmes for students aged 3-19, all of which are offered at The York School. The result is a seamless progression of skills and learning that supports students through every stage of their development and prepares them to excel in any university programme.
With a 100% university placement rate, The York School supports our graduates in developing the capacity to promote cohesion, collaboration and change. They attend the best universities in the world and then become leaders in their professions and citizens who make a difference.
“York showed me that ‘experience teaches’ and pushed me to try new things. Through classroom activities, and unique opportunities like Challenge Week, I discovered new interests and learned how to confront challenges. The York School’s fantastic academic programming and resources set me up to do well at university, as I had already developed the necessary skills for essay writing and test taking. The IB programme developed vital critical skills, and York Faculty were always there to inspire us to reach our full potential, not just academically, but in every facet of our lives.”
– Caroline Leps, 2015 Rhodes Scholar (The York School, Class of 2011)
What is the IB Diploma Programme (DP)?
A challenging two-year programme, the Diploma Programme (DP) is for students in their final years of high school. Students earn a qualification and an IB Diploma, which is recognized globally as the gold standard in education. The DP teaches the oral, writing, research and analytical skills necessary for success. It also promotes well-roundedness through the Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) requirement that immerses students in experiences beyond the classroom and enriches their understanding of themselves and their world.
What are the Benefits of Choosing the IB Programme?
Global research highlights the many benefits of choosing to pursue an IB education and, in particular, an IB Diploma. Looking at the pathways and outcomes of Diploma Programme students at public and private high schools in the United States in 2005 and in 2008, studies show that:
92% of IB Diploma Programme students graduating from US high schools in 2008 enrolled in US post-secondary institutions
Of all the Diploma Programme students who enrolled immediately after high school graduation, 95% enrolled at a four-year institution (the national average is 60%)
The first year retention rate of Diploma Programme students enrolled in four-year institutions was 98% (versus the national rate of 77%)
The average four-year graduation rate for Diploma Programme earners is 84%
Diploma Programme students (both earners and non-earners) have a six-year graduation rate of 83% (versus the national average of 56%)
The IB Global Research department collaborates with universities and independent research organizations worldwide to produce rigorous studies examining the impact and outcomes of the IB’s four programmes.
Here are some interesting key findings from research on the impact of the IB Diploma Programme:
The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) in the UK examined the characteristics and trends of IB students (compared to A-level and other student groups with similar qualifications) at Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and found that IB students were more likely to:
Enrol in a top 20 higher education institution
Receive Honours degrees or awards
Continue on to further studies
Be employed in graduate-level positions and higher paid occupations
A case study looking at the enrolment, progression, and achievement of Diploma Programme graduates at two universities in Australia found that Diploma Programme earners were more likely than their non-IB counterparts to be offered admission and to graduate within five years.
An examination of the impact of of Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS’) IB Programmes on postsecondary outcomes and experiences of their graduates found that Diploma Programme graduates were more likely than non-Diploma Programme graduates to:
Enrol in college
Enrol in selective colleges
Perform better once there
The University of Virginia conducted a study exploring how the Extended Essay (part of the IBDP) prepares Diploma Programme earners for university-level research and academic success and found that Diploma Programme graduates were more likely than Advanced Placement (AP) students to indicate they:
Felt prepared for college-level research
Were proud of their research
Intended to conduct future research
What are the Benefits of the IB Programme Extended Essay?
A study among students and professors at two universities in the UK found that Diploma Programme earners reported that the Extended Essay strengthened their critical thinking skills and capacity for independent research. A brief published by the IB Global Research department looked at Key findings from research on the Diploma Programme (DP) core (i.e. Theory of Knowledge course, the Extended Essay, and CAS) and reported the impact of the Extended Essay on students’ success in Canada. This study found that Diploma Programme graduates indicated higher ratings than their non-IB peers on self-regulated inquiry learning and were less likely to view learning as just memorization
A study in Argentina, Canada, and the US that explored the implementation and impacts of Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) found that student participation in CAS helped them to:
Develop an ethic of service
Become more caring, open-minded and reflective
Develop more self-confidence and maturity
How the IB Programme Offers Students Global Access
Every year, ACS International Schools surveys university admission officers (telephone interviews with 80 in the UK and 20 in the US) about different education programmes and exam systems. In comparing A-levels, Advanced Placement, IBDP, and Scottish Highers, among university admission officers in the US and the UK, where one is considered better than any other, the IBDP is considered the best preparation to thrive at university.
An IB education and, in particular, the IB Diploma Programme, is arguably the best preparation for university. Diploma Programme students learn how to manage their time, think critically and independently, develop civic mindedness, are accepted into the most selective colleges and universities in the world, and are successful in postsecondary studies. The return on investment in an IB education is high.
The fall is an exciting time for us – we get to meet new students and their families as they embark on their journey to select the right school. With a plethora of options available in the Greater Toronto Area, it’s important to be informed so that you can make the best decision possible for your child.
For many parents, a school fair or open house is usually the first opportunity to meet the school’s admission team. At the Our Kids Private School Expo (coming to Toronto on October 15th), parents have the chance to connect with hundreds of schools. But remember that no two schools are the same – each one offers its own unique advantage that may or may not be the right fit for your child.
Here’s how you and your child can prepare for a private school fair or private school open house:
Create a shortlist of schools
By shortlisting a few schools, your search becomes more targeted and this will help you navigate the process. To determine a shortlist, we usually recommend about 4-5 schools. Your list may narrow down schools by certain criteria, for example academic curriculum such as IB vs. AP, co-ed vs. single gender, extracurricular activities, engagement opportunities for your child, tuition, location and much more.
Prepare a list of questions to ask the Admission Director
There’s lots to ask – don’t be shy and try to get to every one on your list. The Admission team appreciates engaged and inquisitive parents. We also recommend that you speak to your child beforehand to find out their questions, concerns and their feelings about attending a new school. This will ensure that both you and your child are comfortable when it comes to your final decision. While asking all of your questions, try to make a connection!
Make a date to visit the school with your child
Find out the dates for the school’s open house or explore if there are other events or opportunities for your son/daughter to experience life inside the classroom. The more opportunities you have to experience the school, the better informed you will be when making your decision and ultimately the more comfortable your child will be. Be sure to register and attend admission events if you are available. You can sign up for one of The York School’s open houses here.
Keep in touch
The Admission team will want to hear from you after the fair or event. Admission teams are always busy, and meet several hundreds of families per year. To ensure that you are building a strong relationship with the school, it’s a good idea to stay in touch. Additionally, it’s important to try to connect with some of our Parent Ambassadors – hearing from existing parents can be a huge help in the decision making process.
A private school fair or expo is clearly a great opportunity to gather information, ask lots of questions and ensure that you are guiding your child toward the right school. Be sure to make the most of this time by preparing beforehand and following up afterward – it will make a huge difference as you move through the admission process, and even more of a difference when your child finds the right school.
I look forward to connecting with you at upcoming admission events this fall!
Sincerely, Praveen Muruganandan Director, Strategic Enrolment Management The York School
By Natasha Estey – Admission Officer – Middle & Senior School
Approximately 120,000 students in Ontario and 350,000 students across Canada attend independent schools. But, what is an independent school and what’s the different between independent and private? As opposed to private schools which are for-profit organizations with few checks and balances, independent schools are not-for-profit institutions that are accountable to a board of directors. They are also accredited by associations that demand particular standards. The York School, for example, is an independent IB Continuum School accredited by NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools), CA+IS (Canadian Accredited Independent Schools), and CIS (Conference of Independent Schools).
So, why choose an independent school? Other than growing disappointment in the public or separate school system, here 10 of the reasons why parents choose independent schools for their children:
# 1) Smaller class size.
This matters for a few reasons. Students have greater access to teachers and receive individualized, more one-on-one instruction. Smaller classes are better learning environments. Students are truly known as individuals by their teachers and school administrators – a student isn’t just a number in an independent school. The average class size at The York School (for students in Grade 1 and up), is 18-20 students. Class sizes are even smaller in our JK and SK classes.
#2) More academically rigorous.
At independent schools, students engage in learning in an enriched and focused setting that emphasizes academic quality and allows students to maximize their intellectual potential. Independent schools tend to exceed provincial curriculum standards. And because independent schools are accountable to their clientele, if they don’t achieve desired results, parents will find a school that does. At The York School, over 80% of students are on the Ontario Honour Roll and IB Diploma scores are consistently in the 33 or 34 range – that’s five to six points above the global average.
#3) Quality and dedication of teachers.
Independent school teachers are highly qualified. Being an Ontario Certified Teacher is a baseline. Many independent school teachers also hold a Master’s Degree or a PhD in their subject area. At independent schools with specialized frameworks (e.g. an IB World School), teachers will also have further training to teach within that framework. Independent schools also invest heavily in professional development for their faculty, so teachers are always up-to-date on best practices. In independent schools, teachers are accountable for student learning and will regularly meet with students outside class time or facilitate extra help or review sessions on their own time. Unmotivated teachers don’t last in independent schools.
It’s true! Of course, not all public schools are dangerous and not all independent schools are safe, but if public schools are perceived as having a higher risk of violence, truancy, bullying, or exposure to negative social influences, independent schools that focus heavily and proactively on the safety and good conduct of students are a very attractive option.
#5) Better preparation for post-secondary studies.
Independent schools prioritize preparing students for post-secondary education. Students educated at independent schools go to top universities and colleges both domestically and internationally. Independent high schools have dedicated Guidance Counsellors or University Placement Counsellors whose modus operandi is providing students with the support they need to graduate successfully and be admitted into a desired post-secondary institution. The York School has a University Placement department as well as its own app called Beyond York to help students navigate their path to university.
#6) A balanced educational programme.
Students need balance, even at school. Independent schools have the resources and flexibility to emphasize specialties like the arts, technology, and athletics combined with academics. A balanced programme supports the whole child and nurtures the innate curiosity and multifarious interests and passions that students have. The framework of the IB Primary Years Programme at The York School is a great example of a balanced approach. Students learn about significant concepts like “how the world works” through units of inquiry like “the five senses” that interweave subject areas as broad as math, art, social studies, and physical education.
#7) Extracurricular activities.
In tough economic times or as a result of labour disruptions, the first things to be cut in the public school system are the “extras” like sports, arts programs, and other extra- or co-curricular activities. But, we know there are a number of benefits to co-curriculars (outlined in an earlier York Connects blog post). Independent schools are known for their strong extra- or co-curricular programmes. They also have the facilities (e.g. a running track, an art studio, maker labs) and resources to support these programmes. The York School fosters a culture of engagement in Student Life providing opportunities for students to get involved in activities as diverse as ultimate frisbee, debate, chess club, open studio, honours jazz band, and computer coding.
#8) Opportunity for parental involvement.
Independent schools expect parents to take an active role in their child’s education. Parents may find that an independent school is better set-up to support their willingness and time to contribute. While there are many opportunities for parents to get involved at all levels, the degree of participation is often greater among parents of children in the elementary grades. That said, independent school parents find ways to apply their experience and talents in various ways and for the duration of their child’s years at school. At The York School, for example, parents can be Class Parents, take photographs at events, volunteer in the library, be part of the annual gala committee, be a chaperone on a field trip, run the registration table at a school open house, be a Parent Ambassador, or visit a class as a guest speaker. Parental involvement and collaboration is integral to an independent school’s success!
#9) Shared educational approach or philosophy.
Independent schools clearly articulate their mission, vision, and values and expression of their educational philosophy and approach (e.g. Montessori, IB, Waldorf). A school’s values are reflected in its Strategic Plan and Code of Conduct. Choosing a particular independent school means you share their values and philosophy. In this way, choosing an independent school means you also get to choose your “tribe” – a community which includes like-minded parents, students, teachers, administrators, and alumni. The York School community embraces its mission to develop inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring young people who are engaged citizens of the world and the pillars of its Strategic Plan (deliver academic excellence, develop engaged citizens of the world, support the whole student, provide a dynamic learning environment, and enhance our long-term sustainability).
#10) Focus on character development.
Preparing students for the next step in their education is only part of the equation at independent schools. The development of a student’s character and their personal development goes hand-in-hand with academics. As an IB Continuum School, The York School teaches students how to be: inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced, and reflective. The newly formed Department of Student Wellness and Department of Student Citizenship at The York School reflect a belief that focusing on the social, emotional and physical health of students will allow them to be better academically and have strength of character and vision to become capable citizens to their school community, their country, and the world.
A Q & A with Justin Medved, Director of Learning, Innovation & Technology at The York School
Natasha Estey, Admission Officer, sat down with Justin Medved, The York School’s Director of Learning, Innovation & Technology (and a Google Certified Teacher) to learn more about trends in educational technology in 2016.
NE: How would you describe what you do as Director of Learning, Innovation & Technology at The York School?
JM: The traditional “tech director” – someone who keeps the lights on and keeps things repaired – has very much changed. The value that technology brings to a school isn’t just about keeping the printers working. The value is the compelling ways we use technology to enhance teaching and learning. First and foremost, I am responsible for learning and the degree to which technology enables that. I see my role as three concentric circles: learning, technology, and innovation. Where those three circles intersect is where I play.
I am in charge of envisioning the kinds of tools we use, the way that we teach staff and students about those tools (e.g. professional development, curriculum mapping), and then where it’s all going. I am on the pulse of looking ahead at what’s coming next (e.g. 3D printing, maker movement) – someone has to be the steward of it. A lot of schools don’t have this kind of organizational chart. I leap those bottlenecks to innovation by having a seat at the executive table and having a ton of autonomy and a budget to enable it. There’s nothing in our way.
NE: At The York School, our approach to technology is “innovate to educate.” How are we uniquely positioned to be at the forefront of innovation among independent schools?
JM: You’ve got to try it and it may fail. The York School’s culture is built on the back of that. We have tech sessions embedded into the work day – which we actually may rename to learning and innovation sessions because they’ve morphed more into being these incubators of ideas and celebrating ideas and constant risk-taking. Very few schools do this. They might have one PD day quarterly or one full tech-focused PD day every once in awhile. The fact that my team and I are having conversations with teachers every other week all year every year and it’s built into the fabric of working here, that differentiates us hugely.
The next piece would be the extent to which we are resourced with not only the [technology, learning and innovation] team that we have, but also by supporting things like the Google Apps for Education. There is PD support for going to Google Apps for Education conferences. That’s big.
And at the curriculum level, the MYP Design course from Grade 6 to 8 is a place that’s naturally a differentiator. Inquiry as a PYP philosophy lends itself well to just being really free-thinking and finding the best ways to yield the outcomes of the Programme of Inquiry and that ultimately involves technology given the resources we have. And then you move through the Integrated Canadian Experience (ICE) Programme in Grade 9 and other pieces… We have all these little pockets all the way through.
NE: It is a very exciting time for technology in education. There is just so much going on in that space right now. In light of that, can you share some of the technological opportunities that will enhance both teaching and learning that you are most excited about in 2016?
JM: The Google Apps platform continues to be a great one. We’ve added elements to it like the Chromebook piece in Grade 6. The platform is so solid. The ecosystem partners and apps that we’re taking advantage of are innovating on it. We’re able to embed a whole assisted learning toolkit on top of Google Docs which allows us to leave voice comments, do all kinds of highlighting and researching, read back and play back, voice detect, text-to-voice. You name it. And all with a few clicks. Evaluating the tool, piloting and seeing it, finding the money, and getting it in – that cycle is so smooth and we’re able to go there in such a short amount of time and support the teachers. That piece is just ripe for innovation.
In terms of where the world is going in 2016, Tim Cooper (MYP Design Teacher at The York School) just got accepted to the Raspberry Pi Academy which is essentially this growing community of teachers much like the Google Teacher Academy. Raspberry Pi is an innovation in computing – low cost computers that run on Linux. I’m talking super-low cost. You can buy them for as low as $20. The Raspberry Pi is essentially a whole ecosystem. It’s so transformative. So, for example, if I wanted to solve a problem around noise in my community and I wanted to demonstrate that noise around this particular area was above a certain threshold of decibels that were beyond the legal limit, and I needed a way to prove it, I could take a Raspberry Pi computer, get the partner sensors, build a little house for it, set it up, monitor it, and collect the data. I’m given all this opportunity to figure out a problem, design a solution, build the solution, and test the solution. There’s so much amazing learning in that.
Filmmaking continues to be something that’s just amazing at The York School. Something we bought for the film students is a DJI Osmo. It’s basically replacing a $60,000 camera.
This is every student’s iPhone. This is a 4K mounted gimbal. So, in your hand, you can actually replicate shots that would have required a full chest mount or a track-mounted camera.
NE: And it’s hand held. When most video recording on cameras is at a high definition level anyhow, there’s a lot of opportunity in that.
JM: Look at this episode of YorkTV. It was done in one take using the DJI Osmo:
If the students had used the traditional three-point tripod on wheels, you’d see all the shakes and bumps in the floor. We have two students here: one with a boom mic and one with the camera and DJI Osmo, just walking backwards. And if you take a look at the quality of the video, the colours are rich, it’s giving you this 4K quality. We can do some of the coolest stuff!
IB Film students used the DJI Osmo for a video they made about their film trip to LA:
All this was shot on the gimbal. Some really cool shots, like an Entourage kind of shot. And look at the colour! It’s just about knowing what’s going on and thinking differently about what we want our students to do and how we want them to shoot. We take another step and we give them the DJI Osmo and then it’s all about shot selection and telling their stories.
NE: Finally, tell us a success story from this year when technology provided an opportunity for teachers and students to share the journey of learning and to enhance their exploration and discovery.
JM: A good one is about the Integrated Canadian Experience (ICE) Programme infographics project which stemmed from the idea of how do we get students to share their learning in a non-traditional way that comes across at a level of polish that we want to reflect the importance of the programme? We used a service called PikoChart.
We gave every student a pro account. Then we scaffolded that learning. That synthesis, that skill, is hard. How do I take a whole bunch of stuff which is so easy to regurgitate in paragraph form, synthesize it through the lens of how to best visually tell this story, and really tease out the most important bits. They did a really good job which was their first foray into practicing for the final.
Finally, a lot of teachers are playing with the iPad at The York School. We ran the iPad pilot last year and we’ve extended it so now we have iPads as an accompanying tool for teachers along with the laptop. We have that in JK, SK, Grade 1, and Grade 2. All math, science, and physical education teachers in the Middle and Senior School have one. And what we’re seeing is through some of the really cool ecosystem partner apps, people are doing some awesome stuff. From Phys Ed through to Science, just having easy access to a camera; capturing student performance and then easily uploading it. Students have a Fitness Journal. In Grade 6 to 10, it’s the same philosophy: how can we show progress over time in an easy way and in a nice way. In one place, you’ve got every fitness test. And then using Hapara, teachers can see all in one place the entire input of a class. Previously, we would have done this on paper. Now I have direct access. Here’s the student. Here all all his scores. Here are his reflections. All in one place. The fact that I can, in two clicks, go into Hapara and then see how all the students are working, that workflow is just amazing.
NE: It’s so powerful. And efficient.
JM: What’s the story of efficiency? It’s all about how quickly I can get feedback out to the student. That’s the innovation. We’re a leader in that space. Allow me to get feedback to the students more quickly and in a centralized place where the student knows how to get there quickly and the teacher knows how to get there quickly and everything’s all nice and neat and then you see the innovation happen. It happens when you take away all the low-hanging fruit (all the questions like where is it, what is it). We don’t have all those questions getting in our way.
When The York School’s Junior and Senior School were located in a single building, we had a common start time. It made sense. Sort of.
We know that most 7 year olds are active, full of energy and ready to go first thing in the morning, while most 17 year olds are struggling to get out of bed. Academic studies, recent brain research, and years of experience tell us this is true. We are no longer in one building, nor are we in a one-size- fits-all community.
Welcome to Smart Start.
In September, The York School will implement new schedules catered to our Junior, Middle and Senior School divisions.
Junior School Smart Start At the Junior School we will start at 8:15 a.m., which is only 5 minutes earlier to the existing start time, but when coupled with an end to formal class time at 3:45 p.m. (instead of 3:30 p.m.), the change is drastic. Junior School students are their academic best in the morning so we’ve extended morning periods to focus on literacy and numeracy. Most important – at least to the students – an afternoon recess will be added. (Parents, this is for you, too!)
Middle School Smart Start In the Middle School, we continue to focus heavily on social and emotional health. The Middle School start and end time will not change (the school day remains from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.). What will change is how we use our time; homeroom teachers will have 40 minutes with their students each morning, in addition to the two other subjects they will teach their students. They will also have a 10-minute check-in at the end of the day to assist students with executive function strategies. Our teachers asked for additional time to connect with their students each day and this change to the schedule will provide them with the contact time for productive and meaningful progress.
Senior School Smart Start At the Senior School, classes will begin at 9:00 a.m. That means an extra half hour of sleep for teenaged students. It means early morning practices start at 8:00 a.m. (not 7:00 a.m.!) which will encourage more students to be active and participate in our Gladiator Athletics programme. In addition, 40-minute classes will close out the academic day on Mondays, Wednesday and Thursdays, with online options that will reduce stress and missed classes for students involved in sports and extra-curriculars that take them out of the classroom. The York School Smart Start promotes active lifestyles with increased possibilities for athletics and co-curriculars. The end result should be happier kids and increased academic performance, although those are just a pleasant by-product of supporting our children in making healthy life choices. Click below to view the Smart Start schedule for all school divisions.