Over the years at Don Valley Academy, we’ve had more than our fair share of elite athletes in our classrooms. As a small private school, our student-centred learning environment and flexible scheduling work well with these aspiring champions, who need to fit their school year around their training schedule and their competitions. Two elite athletes among our current crop of students are Karl Kuus and Katia Orlova-Kramble.
Karl Kuus – Alpine Skier
Karl races with the Ontario Ski Team – many of whose graduates go on to ski for the Canadian Alpine Ski Team.
Karl had some fine accomplishments in alpine skiing last year. In March 2012, he placed first in Slalom at the J1 Championships in Whistler, BC. Then, in April, he placed second overall in the J1 category in the FIS Super Series in Le Ralais, QC.
Karl was studying with us in September. He is currently training in Chile for the upcoming ski season.
We’ll be cheering for you, Karl!
Katia Orlova-Kramble – Figure Skater
Katia has skated in competitions across Canada and in the United States, and she has had a couple of notable results skating for Canada in France. She placed tenth in the “Novices Dames” division of the 2011 French National Championships and seventh in the “Juniors Dames” division of the 2012 French Club Championships.
This year, she’s skating as a junior competitive figure skater, hoping to make the Canadian Figure Skating Championships in 2013.
Katia trains with coaches Astrid Shrubb and Ghislain Briand at the Toronto Cricket Club. She skates every morning before school; then she’s back on the ice and in the gym every afternoon.
She’s working hard now, because Sectionals (for all of central Ontario) are coming up next month in Barrie. Katia needs to place top-four in Barrie to qualify for the Divisionals in Regina in December. From there, she has a chance to compete in the Canadians in January.
Good luck this year, Katia!
UPDATE (Nov 5): Katia placed third in Sectionals in Barrie this past weekend, qualifying her for Regina. (Short Programme: 1st place; Long Programme: 3rd Place; Overall: 3rd place; Total points: 107.36.) Way to go, Katia!
As final exams end, and the academic year draws to a close, students around the city are looking forward to a couple solid months of completely non-academic activity. Others, however, are gearing up for a month of intensive study in July or August.
For the previous generation, “summer school” may conjure up images of students chained to chairs in stuffy classrooms – while their friends frolic in the sunshine. But times have changed. The summer session is no longer a hellish punishment for students who have failed a course during the regular school year. In fact, most students who take a course in July or August do so because they want to get ahead, not because they’ve fallen behind. Today’s summer school students are often high achievers, and they usually get good marks in their summer credits.
Still, summer school will always have both its particular benefits and its unique challenges. For students who want to succeed, here’s a list of pros and cons to help you understand what you’re in for.
Challenges (the cons)
Absences. In the regular school year, it’s not a big deal for a student to miss a day or two here and there, but summer students should keep in mind that a six-hour class in summer school might cover as much as a week’s worth of material from the regular school year. Appointments etc. should be scheduled outside of class hours if at all possible.
Reading time. Students who are taking Engish courses should keep in mind that they will have to do a lot of reading in a short span of time. It might be a good idea to obtain the reading list ahead of time and read through one or two of the works, especially the novels, before the course starts. During the course, too, students should choose a comfortable spot in the house and be prepared to spend at least an hour in the evenings curled up with a book.
Motivation. Students sometimes feel they are “giving up” their summer by taking a summer credit, and they may need some extra incentive to stay focussed. While we can’t condone bribery, there could be a special treat earned by the end of the course if the student does well.
Evening activities. During the summer, when friends may be on vacation, it can be more tempting than ever to stay up late. But zombies aren’t good students. Don’t be a zombie: even though it’s summer, it’s best to save your late-night social activities for the weekend.
It’s not all bad, though. Here are some benefits of summer study.
Benefits (the pros)
Good grades. Students often do well academically in the summer. With just one course to focus on, there are fewer distractions. Also, the fast pace of a full course condensed into a single month often clarifies the connections between various units. Students generally perform at or above their usual achievement levels under these intensive conditions.
Staying sharp. Every teacher knows that students can be expected to be a bit sluggish in September. Studies show that longer summer vacations exacerbate “summer learning loss,” especially in factual and procedural areas, like math and spelling. Students who study in the summer, however, start September with an advantage over classmates who spent their summers less academically.
Sense of achievement. Summer courses give a sense of accomplishment to the summer. The summer will go by quickly either way, but at least if you take a summer school course in July or August, you can feel proud that you’ve spent your summer profitably. One more course is out of the way, which lightens your load the following fall or gives you new options.
Structure and routine. Summer is a time when many teenagers slip into bad sleep habits – staying up late and sleeping in till afternoon. Summer school students, on the other hand, benefit from a routine that gives their days more structure. When you finish class at 3:00 pm, you might not have been up much before then, had you not been in school. After passing a productive morning and afternoon, you can still look forward to the same social evening as friends who aren’t in school – as long as you don’t stay up too late.
What is a “victory lap”?
High school education in Ontario used to take five years. Since 2002, when Ontario scrapped grade 13, it’s officially down to four. Nevertheless, a significant number of students return for a fifth year, even when they have already earned the 30 credits they need for their Diploma. This extra year is jokingly referred to as a “victory lap.”
Province-wide, the graduating class sees 20 000 of their cohort returning to continue secondary studies the following fall. These “victory lappers” are even included in the official Ontario government-calculated graduation rate of 82% – the four-year graduation rate is only 73%.
In the Toronto District School Board alone, almost 2000 17-year-olds (or 17% of the graduating class) return for a fifth year.
New austerity measures in Ontario
It makes a lot of sense to some observers to see this practice come to an end. And indeed, despite striving to protect public education from many of the cutbacks proposed in the Drummond report, the McGuinty Liberals have decided they agree: the “victory lap” is a $22 million-per-year luxury that taxpayers can ill afford in a deficit-plagued province.
As things stand, starting September 2013 school boards will no longer receive full provincial per-pupil funding for students taking more than 34 credits. The province is thus capping the number of extra credits, beyond the minimum 30 required for graduation, at four.
So this year’s grade 12 class may be the last to have the option of a “victory lap.” But who needs that fifth year anyway?
Why do students need the extra year?
The extra year of high school becomes necessary for students in a number of situations. Some students face problems trying to schedule required classes for specialty programs. A student in French immersion, for example, might find required French classes conflicting with other courses necessary for admission to a life sciences or computer science degree. This would especially be the case in smaller schools in the province.
Other students - whether from language difficulties, medical or social issues, or simple teenage apathy – might not have been at their best in a few key courses the first time around. When they become focussed on a post-secondary program, and discover that high marks in these courses – and a corresponding mastery of the accompanying skill sets – are required for admission to their program of choice, they may need to re-take some credits.
Actually, by implementing the termination of the fifth year through a credit cap, the Liberals are rewarding failure: students who have failed or dropped several of their credits are funded to come back for another year, while those who have passed all their courses, but not achieved the results they need to enter competitive post-secondary programs, are not funded.
Another group of students who may need the extra year are those in the process of changing their education plans. When students discover new post-secondary options in grade 12, or change their minds, they often need to take extra credits and possibly an extra year. For example, a student who decided relatively late in the game to switch from a planned business program to apply for an engineering degree would need to take not only the necessary grade-12 science credits, but also these courses’ grade-11 prerequisites.
Many things can happen in the life of a teenager, and there are many reasons why a student might need to come back for a fifth year. Annie Kidder, who is the executive director of People for Education, says she was “seriously surprised to see a cap on high school credits.” High school students, she says, need flexibility. “[The budget] says it’s going to give them an incentive to plan well, but I’ve had teenagers and they don’t plan well… They need to have that flexibility in high school.”
The future of the fifth year
If Ontario taxpayers are serious about not wanting to fund fifth-year high school students, and teachers and guidance counsellors take their students’ best interests to heart, provincial austerity measures may lead to a renewed spirit of cooperation between public and private schools. In the past, the financial cost of losing per-pupil funding made it rare for public-school staff to be objective about the benefits to some students of switching to private school – or even taking a few part-time evening or weekend credits outside the public system. But this may change when it comes to fifth-year studies, with private schools soon to be in the position of offering something not funded within the public school board.
Indeed, quite apart from the funding issue, private schools have features that are a great fit for many fifth-year students. The flexibility of the four-term schedule offered at private schools like Don Valley Academy works well for students who need to pick up less than a full course-load of credits, or combine school with part-time work or athletic commitments, while small classes and student-focused instruction are ideal for anyone switching streams or trying to avoid distractions. For a number of such reasons, we may be an especially suitable option for students taking an extra year of high school.
Greg Pietersma, chair of the Upper Canada District School Board recognizes that for many students the fifth year is a necessity and not a luxury. Whatever the future may bring, he has a good preliminary suggestion: “I think one of the things we should do as a board is avoid using the term ‘victory lap.’”
It’s university admission time, and while some students are checking their OUAC account neurotically for notification of their last few acceptances, other students are taking a more relaxed approach and aren’t even sure what their OUAC password is.
While it is not necessary to check your OUAC account daily, we do recommend that students at least log into their OUAC accounts, check their applications, and verify that their marks have been submitted correctly. Schools have been known to make mistakes, so it is important to make sure that your marks are recorded correctly.
“What is OUAC?”
The Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC), located in Guelph, ON, has been providing centralized admissions processing for Ontario universities since 1972. (See OUAC background.) Students apply to Ontario universities through OUAC, and OUAC collects grades from students’ schools and submits them to the students’ chosen universities. This centralized system facilitates multiple admissions for both students and universities and saves the duplication costs of universities developing their own systems.
Most Canadian universities outside the province also use OUAC to process grades collection for Ontario students.
“When will I know if I’ve been accepted?”
Check your OUAC account to see whether you have been accepted. Students often also receive an email from OUAC or from the accepting university to notify them, when they’ve been accepted.
Universities will have received midterm marks from OUAC for all second-semester courses (which is what the universities base conditional offers of acceptance on) no later than May 8, 2012 – so acceptances should be arriving any day now. Universities vary in how quickly they send out offers, but the deadline for universities to respond to students’ applications one way or the other is May 29, 2012.
If you’re not sure whether your marks are high enough for some of the programs you’re applying to, you can check predicted grade ranges at eINFO.
In addition, some universities require supplemental applications. Make sure that you have submitted all the necessary forms and information for the programs you have applied to.
“If I take part-time credits, how do universities deal with marks from different schools?”
Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation circulating about how private-school marks are handled in the university application system. Here are the facts:
Any reputable or established private school in Ontario will be registered to submit grades to OUAC for their full-time and part-time students. Any school that is not registered with OUAC should raise concerns, or a red flag. At Don Valley Academy, we send final grades for first-semester courses, and midterm and final grades from second-semester courses directly to OUAC. All high school marks from secondary schools across the province are processed centrally through this one application centre, and passed on to universities.
While it is impossible to ensure that high school marks from different institutions (or from different teachers within the same institution, or in different classes with the same teacher, or by different students in the same class) carry exactly the same meaning, it is even harder for the universities to try to guess how much to adjust them, so OUAC and the universities currently operate under the assumption that “a mark is a mark.”
It is the responsibility of the Ontario Ministry of Education to ensure that all schools licensed in the province teach in accordance with the ministry curriculum and operate in accordance with ministry standards. Private schools are inspected directly by the ministry to ensure that they adhere to its standards.
No matter how hard the Ministry works to standardize education in the province, some institutions will always teach to higher standards than others. However, it won’t benefit anyone to gain admission to a prestigious program with inflated marks, only to fail in the first year. In short, it will always be the job of students and their parents to choose the secondary institutions where they receive the best education. At Don Valley Academy we strive to give students the necessary foundational knowledge – but also the required study skills, work habits, and motivation – to succeed in university.
“When I’ve received an offer of admission, how long do I have to decide whether to accept it?”
The offer of admission from a university will also contain a deadline for your decision. The earliest date by which an Ontario university may require a response (or commitment of any kind) is June 1, 2012. Make sure you make your decision before June 1, or you may risk losing your spot in the program.
“When do universities receive final grades from full-year or second-semester courses?”
The deadline for OUAC to receive final grades from secondary schools is July 10, 2012. By July 19, they will have attempted to contact schools that have not submitted final grades.
“When do universities receive grades from summer-school courses?”
Final grades from summer school are collected by OUAC August 1 to 24, 2012.
If your child has a Learning Disability, you may qualify for tax credits for Tutoring or Private School Tuition
Some parents take advantage of the Don Valley Academy (DVA) environment as a solution for students with ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s, anxiety, or other social or medical problems that make learning more challenging. Depending on the case, teaching approaches and environmental modifications available at DVA are used along with or instead of pharmaceutical treatments. Check the information below to see whether you qualify for Canadian tax credits to help make this option affordable. Follow our links to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for full details.
Who is Eligible?
• Check the summary on the CRA site
A number of programs and services are available for persons with disabilities to help them and their caregivers cope with the added expenses and to facilitate their full participation in society.
If you have had a disability for some time, your tax returns can be reassessed as far back as ten years. Children who have ADD, ADHD, FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder), autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, bi-polar disorder, manic depression, anxiety disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, Type 1 or 2 diabetes, epilepsy, or learning disabilities can be eligible for the Disability Amount.
Disability Tax Credit
• Check credit amount and criteria on the CRA site
To apply for this credit, the Disability Tax Credit Certificate (Form T2201) must be completed by an authorized healthcare professional. In the case of learning disabilities, the authorizing professional can be a registered psychologist.
It may also be helpful for you to include supporting documents such as psychological assessments and testimonials from teachers, detailing the impact of the impairment on the student in the classroom.
• Check information for Line 330 on the CRA site
A person with a diagnosed learning disability may be eligible to claim the following educational services according to the List of Eligible Medical Expenses on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website.
Tutoring services used by, and which are supplementary to the primary education of, a person with a learning disability or an impairment in mental functions, and paid to someone in the business of providing such services who is not related to the person being tutored. A medical practitioner must certify in writing that these services are necessary.
School for persons with an impairment in physical or mental functions – a medical practitioner must certify in writing that the equipment, facilities or personnel specially provided by that school are required because of the person’s physical or mental impairment.
Make sure that the CRA has on file a valid T2201 Form Disability Tax Credit Certificate before you submit your return if you are claiming the expenses for yourself or another person with a disability. Otherwise, there will be delays in assessing your return.