Te aromihi pouako e puta ai ngā ihu o ngā ākonga Māori

Opotiki College

Opotiki College is a state secondary school in the Bay of Plenty. Over 80 percent of the students are Māori. The school is a participant in the Te Kotahitanga project. The principal, a teacher who is the school’s Te Kotahitanga facilitator, and a parent were interviewed for the Ruia project.

OpotikiCollege

What are the priorities for our Māori students?

The three interviewees agreed that educational success for Māori students is about standing tall and moving confidently in both te ao Māori and te ao Pākehā. They believe that Māori students should feel proud to be Māori while getting the best qualifications they can. To achieve this, education for Māori students should be values-driven and built on firm relationships characterised by a strong sense of whānaungatanga. It is also important to celebrate success and to support students to build on their strengths. The school has a goal that no student will leave without a qualification.

Every year, the subject departments analyse their achievement levels and break this down into ethnic groups. A ‘data man’ helps to organise the data and support learning teams to understand what the data is telling them. The principal does the whole-school analysis and shares it with staff and the bilingual unit whānau in order to look closely at Māori achievement. He says they celebrate successes and look to see what they could have done better. For example, in 2011 he was able to show improvements in the percentage of Māori students who were staying at school and achieving qualifications. However, he also used the data to point out that:

  • Māori students are disproportionately represented in early leavers.
  • There is a direct correlation between length of secondary schooling and gaining qualifications.

What are our own learning needs?

In term 4 each year, individual and collective professional learning goals are decided by using information from teacher evaluation rubrics designed by the principal and by reviewing action plans from terms 1–3.

The rubrics provide the basis for individual evaluation conferences between the principal and teachers. Together, the principal and teacher use evidence, including from teacher observations, to reach consensus about the teacher’s performance in six areas, including planning and preparation for learning, classroom management, and family and community outreach. Specific criteria provide guidance on expectations and how to improve. Collated and converted to a spreadsheet, the rubrics provide a powerful (and confidential) road-map for school-wide professional development.

The action plans from term 1–3 describe teachers’ professional learning goals and the actions required to achieve the goals:

  • Teachers conduct personal teacher inquiry as part of their participation in Te Kotahitanga. They set goals around their inquiry, are observed by the Te Kotahitanga facilitator, and are provided with feedback around those goals. The information from that process can only be used in appraisal with the teacher’s agreement.
  • Departmental goals are decided by the curriculum team.
  • Another template designed by the principal is used to set targets for learning teams focused on particular student groups.

The principal or another member of the senior leadership team visits each teacher once every 3 weeks to observe progress towards the teacher’s goals and to provide feedback on the classroom environment, lesson structure, teaching strategies, student engagement levels, and quality of classroom relationships. Observers use an observation template developed by the staff. They note the things that impressed them and the things that they wondered about, and they check whether students are clear about their learning and its purpose. Teachers receive written reports within 24 hours of any observation.

Professional learning

Near the end of the school year, teachers conduct self-assessment using the school’s teacher evaluation rubrics (designed by the principal). Later, each teacher organises an evaluation conference with the principal, where they set personal goals for the following year and develop a personal teacher inquiry to work on collaboratively in cross-curricular groups. The principal says teachers find this a very valuable process for their professional development.

The principal has a voluntary Aspiring Leaders group, where he “floats a lot of kites”. Usually 10 to 18 people attend the meetings. The principal has found the group to be a great sounding board for discussing new initiatives and finding solutions. Consequently, it now leads the staff professional learning that grows out of staff appraisal and review of action plans. For instance, in 2011 the Aspiring Leaders group led the preparation and professional learning for the introduction of 100-minute periods in 2012.

Professional learning and development at Opotiki College is firmly focused on improving Māori achievement. The school ethos is that “what’s good for Māori students is good for all”. The Opotiki College case study developed for the Rangiātea project describes in greater detail the schools’ inquiry approach to improvement, within which Te Kotahitanga and the use of restorative justice provide a forum for ongoing discussion.

Making changes

Teachers at Opotiki College have put multiple strategies in place to help lift Māori student achievement. For example, the restorative justice programme described in the Rangiātea project exemplar is specific about the expectations of teachers as well as students. It is based on an ethic of care. One of the ways teachers show they care is by making themselves available, outside of class time, to students who have been absent to help them catch up.

What has been the impact of our changes?

The implementation of Te Kotahitanga and an effective appraisal system, along with the focus on whānau engagement, have all contributed to improved NCEA results. Over the past four years, only six students have left the school without qualifications after four years’ secondary education, with no student doing so in 2010. The percentage of Māori students leaving without qualifications is tracking down, while NCEA level 2 has become the most common leavers’ qualification for Māori, when it had previously been NCEA level 1. This success is described in greater detail in the Rangiātea project’s Opotiki College case study and exemplar.

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