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Prospect School – Designing our own approach

Prospect School is a multi-cultural, year 1 to 6 primary school in West Auckland with a roll of around 350.

Review

Initially, when National Standards (archived) first came in we tried to cross-reference the Standards to a variety of guides and progressions. We used The New Zealand Curriculum, Reading & Writing Standards, Mathematics Standards, Effective pedagogies in Maths, e-asTTle matrices (for Writing, Reading and Maths), Numeracy Framework texts, Literacy Learning Progressions, Draft Literacy progressions, Effective Literacy Practices, and the Probe testing kit. We were comprehensive in thinking about progressions and using the resources that best captured the curriculum.

Unfortunately, this array of documents led to a lack of clarity about what was to be taught, so we put the best ideas contained within all of these documents into our own literacy and numeracy school-based progressions. We also sought out and included elements from these that were the same as ongoing gaps that we know have been problematic for our students, as taken from school-wide data analyses. These have our own flavour and are broken down into what our students need to learn. Now that National Standards (archived) are no longer compulsory, we have reviewed where we are at.

In addressing the changes to the NAGs and National Standards (archived), we firstly thought about what we liked and didn’t like about National Standards – what did work for us and what didn’t. After all, National Standards have been with us for eight years now and over that time our school has used them to hugely improve our assessment capability, our teaching and learning, and our students’ achievement.

We wanted to keep all the bits that worked for us, our kids and our community, and enabled us to continuously improve. These were:

  • Our own National Standards (archived) and New Zealand Curriculum-based progressions – these were great for both learners, teachers and parents. We have found them very formative as they let everyone know where the learning is at, what the next step is, and what the longer journey looks like. We also modified these progressions a little to insert some of the issues that traditionally tripped our students up or that they found hard to learn e.g. vocabulary and inference from data. Now students enjoy being clear about what they are learning, their goals, their next steps, and use the language of our progressions.
  • The need to make, and then use, Overall Teacher Judgements (OTJs) based on an array of evidence across the curriculum made so much more sense pedagogically than trying to make the same decisions based on the results of a single test. We like the idea of student/teacher overall judgement (Student and Teacher Overall Judgement [STOJ]) because it better captures the idea of joint agency. And it avoids the anxiety that some students and teachers feel about the judgements made on the basis of a single test.
  • Shaping and consistently using sound moderation processes has helped us to build both teacher curriculum knowledge and assessment capability – hugely valuable.
  • For sharing across schools in our Kāhui Ako with leaders and teachers. Once we had agreed on moderation processes, (use of National Standards and OTJs) decision-making about resource allocation and improvement plans became clear.  
  • The board and the senior leadership team liked our own National Standards (archived) and New Zealand Curriculum-based progressions as well because they could see that we were all understanding and using the same progressions. Having a common language then allowed everyone to share a picture of individual and collective progress as is appropriate to their needs.
  • Our progressions also give us a clear picture of where we would want every learner to have reached at the end of every year and allows us to make decisions about where to put better targeted resourcing. This creates a culture of urgency about student making gains, and helps of course to monitor progress.
  • School-wide consistency in the language of the teaching of writing, reading and maths, as well as the approach to assessment and assessment moderation processes.
  • School-wide, consistent, drive to improve achievement – teachers adopting the expectation that every child should make at least one year’s progress for every year at school.
  • The idea of assessing literacy and numeracy across the curriculum made a great deal of sense too, because it builds a richer picture of what it means to be literate and numerate.
  • The clarity that came from our own progressions and the year by year expectation of what we wanted every child to learn also enabled us to upskill our teacher aides so that they could provide better support to the children who need it. They now feel much more useful to the school – and they are.

But, we did not like:

Reporting to parents that their child was "below" or "well below" the standard. This never felt comfortable for us and seemed to be incompatible with basic assessment principles, agency and motivation.

Anniversary reporting – this always felt prone to error and unnecessarily panicked parents in the first year or two, where it was so easy for a learner to appear to be "below", and which make parents anxious, and then actually see them come right once they had got a little more used to school learning. Anniversary reporting did not seem to take account of the individual differences in settling in to school. Comparing National Standards (archived) analyses of data to end of year analyses have shown some variation for those in their early years.

Data analysis based on anniversary dates meant that some students who met their targets after the anniversary dates could not be included in school-wide target-setting and that reflections on achievement could be skewed. Some students did not meet their target at the time of their anniversaries but by the end of the year, they had. In some cases this was up to a 20% difference in results. We will change to "end of year" expectations instead for all year levels.

So what changes will we make, post National Standards?

We intend to proceed by keeping all that we want to keep and making changes to how we share information with board, parents, whanau, community and other stakeholders in the following ways

For students: we will make our mid- and end-of-year reports more student-driven. The writing of the report is to be done in class time, with students and teachers working together to highlight each student’s own personal story of progress, learning and achievement. Students and teachers together will set targets, make goals, self-assess their key competencies, write their own personal story about learning. Each class will write a narrative that tells their unique story of learning across the curriculum thereby reflecting each class’ own story. This will be supported by conversations at student-led conferences and discussions about our progressions.

       Select the image to view at full size.

For parents: We will set end of year expectations/goals with each child and parent and report against those, with a strong focus on ipsative assessment. Each report already contains a graphic showing the starting point at the beginning of the year, the target end of year, and the mid-year and end of year actual result. Now we will try to make this progress framed more around individuals and how much progress they can realistically achieve, as students who were often well below and below could not often make a year’s progress.  This then becomes a conversation with each student and whānau about how much progress is realistic for each student, hopefully a year, and sometimes more or less depending on the individual (for example, special needs, ESOL, gifted). More importantly, we will emphasise information on progress across the curriculum (not just reading, writing and maths) and include references to our new Graduate Profile, and 21st century skills, (our key competencies) so that parents, learners and ourselves keep the whole student clearly in mind.

The Prospect School report from the National Standards era, which already showed progress and achievement, is easily adaptable for the 2018 changes that the school wishes to make. 

For Board and community: We have been reporting against National Standards (archived) targets for eight years now. The board likes the clarity that it brings to our achievement information, so what we will do is change the wording from "percentage at and above National Standards" to "percentage of students reaching expectations". We see no need for further change at this stage. Our thinking is that this will work nicely as we expand our formal reporting to encompass more of the curriculum, probably against the five dimensions of our graduate profile, using rubrics such as the one for whanaungatanga below.

Assessment and reporting overview 2018

You can download Prospect School's current assessment schedule below.

PDF icon. Student Assessment and Reporting Overview 2018 (PDF 69 KB)

Emerging issues for school review

There are emerging issues that we need to address that have come more to the fore more now that the rest of the curriculum is more easily visible behind literacy and numeracy. For example:

  • How do we develop assessment capability for teachers new to the school?
  • What needs to change in our induction processes?
  • How do we sustain the urgency of teaching and learning without the pressure that National Standards (archived) provided?
  • What do we do to address our current reality of under-achievement?
  • How do we balance the need for the basics/guided pedagogies with the integration of 21st century skills?
  • How do we assess all of this?

Possible solutions that we are working through

  • Our learning progressions + the New Zealand Curriculum = backbone of expected curriculum content.
  • Solid grounding in the basics for those who need it, i.e. Juniors, special needs, ESOL, etc. 
  • Key competencies/21st century skills become the focus of the learning – content knowledge is the vehicle to teach essential skills.
  • Create even more progressions (weird as it might seem) – unpack each skill group to detail the steps learners need to master. We have made good progress with this and it still makes sense because the advantages in helping everyone be clear about what to learn and how to recognise progress is huge.
    •        Select the image to view at full size.

      For example, this is our how far we've got with a progression for whanaungatanga.
    • The progressions are based on:
      • Key competencies – relating to others
      • PB4L behavious expectations
      • Graduate Profile
      • Independent learner progressions.

For wider school review and reporting on school patterns of achievement (Board of Trustees, Kāhui Ako, Ministry of Education):

  • We still need to know, for ourselves and our community, how well our children as a whole are progressing. For a start we want to know if they are learning the basics to a sufficient level.
  • We will do this by attempting to keep the simplicity that was inherent in the National Standards (archived) reporting, possibly changing the terminology to "at expected curriculum level".
  • As to our progressions for monitoring learning with the rest of the curriculum, we intend to keep developing our progression rubrics, assessing against those and seeing what sort of school profile they deliver and then make instructional and information sharing decisions from there.

With thanks to Principal Gaye Turner, DP Angela Thorogood and the staff at Prospect School.