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

Sylvia Park School

Sylvia Park School is a decile 2 suburban school with a diverse student population of 320. Around one-quarter of the students are Māori and over half are Pasifika. Ruia’s interviewer met with the principal, two teachers (the teacher in the bilingual unit and the teacher who is the project manager of the parents’ centre), and a parent.

SylviaParkSchool

What are the priorities for our Māori students?

The interviewees expressed a passionate commitment to student success. They stated that this requires having “a strong evidence base, effective pedagogy, and home–school partnerships”. Through the school’s participation in deep, ongoing professional learning over several years and through its work to build genuine, collaborative relationships with parents, students have experienced accelerated progress. Many are achieving above national expectations for literacy and numeracy. This is especially significant for the school’s Māori and Pasifika students, who make double the rate of progress in comparison to national averages in reading and more than triple for writing (ERO, 2010).

Student achievement information is the driver for decision making, including about appraisal, which is seamlessly integrated into professional learning. Separate achievement information for Māori and Pasifika students is collated and analysed at both an individual and a school-wide level, contributing to the school’s ongoing inquiry into improvement.

What are our own learning needs?

Teachers at Sylvia Park School describe their appraisal discussions as being “fun, challenging, and encouraging of critical thinking”, reflecting how teacher inquiry has become a natural part of the way they do things at the school.

Teachers set their initial appraisal goals in discussion with the principal in term 1. To these discussions, they take evidence of where they are in their personal inquiry journey, including student data collected and organised to track students’ progress over time. When focusing on literacy, they often use LPDP (Literacy Professional Development Project) tools such as the curriculum expectations chart and the wedge graph.

Appraisals focus on needs that are specific to the teacher, but teachers say that these needs fit within the bigger cause of realising the school’s plan and vision for its students. For example, one teacher’s focus was on understanding asTTLe so that she could easily and effectively share data with parents. This connects with a major school focus on ensuring that parents know about assessment and can have honest discussions with teachers about the data for their children.

Information from observations also informs the setting and monitoring of teacher goals. The principal conducts daily ‘walkthroughs’ of classrooms to keep in touch with what is happening and conducts formal observations two to three times a year, using the LPDP observation protocols. A set of scenarios developed by the LPDP to monitor shifts in teacher knowledge is another useful tool.

Professional learning

Professional development is sharply focused on what the data shows at any given time. For example, when data analysis identified multiplication and division as areas of weakness, intensive professional development was planned to address this. While individual appraisal discussions are confidential, the literacy team shares collated information about teacher knowledge and practice with the staff as a whole, enabling everyone to participate in a conversation about school priorities. The final decision about the school-wide focus for professional learning rests with the principal.

Making changes

The changes made at Sylvia Park School have involved implementing professional learning about pedagogy effective for all students. For example, teachers have learned about deepening their knowledge of the learner and drawing on that knowledge to better engage students with texts. Teachers transfer this learning to their practice when they select texts on the basis of their knowledge of students as individuals and avoid making assumptions about their reading levels, interest areas, or preferred means of delivery.

What has been the impact of our changes?

The teachers say that appraisal at the school has changed and evolved over time in order to be aligned with the school’s curriculum plan. Their commitment to student success means that they focus on ensuring that all students achieve their potential. There is careful work to align all school systems so that they work in a coherent way to ensure that all students leave the school with the knowledge, skills, and self-belief necessary to succeed beyond the school.

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