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Devonport Primary School – Moving forward with PaCT

Devonport School is a year 1–6 primary school situated on the North Shore of Auckland. It has a roll of around 400.

This is our story of our approach to assessment in literacy and numeracy. In particular, it is my approach, as Principal, to assessment, but I do have good evidence of staff, family and student buy-in. 

We have been a PaCT user since 2015 – reading, writing, and mathematics, all students. We are a PaCT support school and we contribute to two advisory groups concerning PaCT. It works well for us.

What is important to us at DPS?

  • Student achievement – equity and excellence.
  • We are passionate about assessment for learning, student agency and building high levels of student assessment capability.
  • Responsive curriculum – responsive to interests, learning needs, local happenings, citizen scientists, STEM, cultural responsiveness, “hands on”.
  • Links within and across the curriculum, rich tasks, real reasons to write, etc.
  • Building Learning Power to develop pupil capacity to learn and enable students to talk about  themselves as learners.
  • Ensuring high levels of teacher assessment capability – using data to inform our future thinking and our inquiry. We think we use assessment flexibly and wisely.

We capture all of this in the graphic below, and you can see that we think that it gives us a great overview of the whole New Zealand curriculum, with a few high level concepts that span the entire detail of the curriculum. This allows students, teachers and parents to keep in mind a holistic view of what we want learners to gain from learning across the curriculum.

    Select the image to expand to full view.

How we are using PACT

  • We have been a PaCT school since 2015. We started using it with writing in order to improve our confidence in our OTJs. We started with writing because we felt this was our least reliable assessment.
  • Maths introduced in 2016.
  • Reading introduced in 2017.
  • Data on every child is entered twice a year – interim judgement and end of year.
  • PaCT was used for the first time in 2017 for reporting to parents.

How we introduced each PaCT subject area

  • We discussed the descriptor for each of the aspects and what each entailed (whole staff). This lead us to have a staff-wide, common interpretation of terminology.
  • Used the exemplars to talk about progression and the difference between each aspect.
  • Discussed where we would find the evidence for each aspect – what would the aspect look like in our broader curriculum.
  • Shared resources, success stories…and failures!
  • Dedicated time so we could help each other:
    • to moderate and discuss samples of work and how they related to the descriptors
    • to listen to each other to appreciate each other’s perspective.

Using PaCT to build our assessment capability

Staff need ways of thinking simply about the progress and achievement of students in their class – who has made good progress, who has not, for whom do I need to learn how to support more effectively? PACT provides us with excellent, simple graphical devices to shape and understanding of these issues in our classes.

For example:

Class overview

To the right is the overview of one class for one PaCT subject area. The overall performance of the class can be viewed and students who are not at expected level, for example, can be identified. As of May 2018, PaCT has been revised to reflect curriculum levels rather than “after...years”.

Select the image to expand to full view.

Individual Student Progress

Below is the data for one individual student in one learning area (writing) The question is, why has the student’s progress stalled? Which aspects are stronger? Which may need focused teacher input?

The reports to the parents comprise the PaCT report for each subject. We have helped parents to understand the Learning Progressions through information meetings, reference to the online exemplars, discussions in three-way conferences, and with older students being enabled to talk about their PaCT report. 

Select the image to expand to full view

How PaCT has helped us with the things that are important to us

The tool has highlighted for us, as teachers and leaders:

  • the breadth and links to the wider curriculum. Our curriculum has developed accordingly.
  • the importance of the exemplars and annotations
  • what is expected at each level - what is progression in each area?
  • gaps in our interpretation of the curriculum
  • the need for rich conversations with colleagues so that we deepen our common understandings of progress within and across subject areas
  • the PaCT can be used as a learning tool - gaps feed into planning, create exemplars for the students, etc
  • STEM within curriculum helped here - teachers knowing what progression looked like across the whole curriculum
  • the more you use it, the more you get out of it.

What do teachers think about using Pact?

I asked them some questions:

  • Since first using the Pact tool do you:
    • feel more positive about using it:              62%
    • about the same:                                      38%
    • less positive:                                            0%
  • Did you notice any gaps in your teaching when analysing the data from PaCT?
    • Certain parts of statistics and geometry. Strand maths not at the same level as number.
    • Not so much gaps, more like areas that haven’t been covered as yet. I also found this difficult making assessments on things I hadn’t taught.
    • Yes – analysis of statistical data.
    • Yes.
    • Covering all aspects – Geometry, statistics and measurement were areas I hadn’t covered. Using statistics across other areas of maths. i.e. graphing patterns in numbers to see relationships.
    • Yes. The scope of the maths standard.
  • What professional learning would you like to see in the future relating to PACT?
    • Moderation:                                 37.5%
    • Use in planning:                           37.5%
    • Where to access rich tasks:           12.5%
    • Working with others:                     25%

Overall, this seems to me to be a very positive reaction by the staff to Pact. This has been recently confirmed with an ERO review.

Sharing information with parents

We have a simple system of sharing information with parents, using the PACT reports illustrated above:

  • Three-way conferences based on students’ own goals.
  • Reporting review and parent consultation sessions.
  • Parent information sessions.
  • PaCT report will be sent home to parents/whānau at the end of 2018.
  • Parent information sessions to help them understand the new reporting.

Parents tell us that they like:

  • the greater detail that is contained about their child’s achievement
  • the link to the Learning Progressions (shared with them)
  • that they can see progress over time
  • about their child rather than a comparison to others.

Sharing information with the Board and community

The PACT reports provide the basis for sharing progress information with the Board and wider community, along with commentary about the analysis and interpretation.

Select the image to expand to full view.

What we are currently grappling with

  • How do we support our parents who do not readily access the online information about the Learning Progressions? Do the new reports give enough information for them?
  • Continuing with PaCT – changes coming (reference to levels, a different approach to sharing with parents).
  • Assessment of other learning areas.
  • Learning through play - we have taken an “action stations” approach – how will we assess/ record?
  • Assessment of key competencies.

With thanks to Beverley Booth, principal, for sharing her story.