New Zealand students achieve very well by international standards. However, there is wide variance in the achievement of learners, which signals the need for a strong focus on good quality, evidence-based teaching for all students, and particularly for the 15 percent of students who are performing at the lowest literacy levels.
In this evaluation report ERO gives an overview of how schools respond to students at risk of not achieving and, as part of the findings, presents examples of how some schools provide effectively for this group of students.
Evidence for this evaluation was collected from 125 primary and 30 secondary schools during their regular education reviews. In addition, ERO gathered information from six schools identified through regular education reviews that had demonstrated effective practices in supporting students at risk of not achieving.
ERO found that the majority of schools could adequately identify students at risk of not achieving, particularly in the areas of literacy and numeracy. There was a much wider variation in the quality and effectiveness of how schools addressed the specific needs of students, and monitored, reviewed and reported on the progress and impact of their provision. In particular, nearly half the schools in this evaluation needed to improve the way that they monitored and evaluated their initiatives or interventions.
ERO found that nearly half the schools reviewed had yet to evaluate the extent to which their programmes resulted in improved outcomes for low achieving students. Review and reporting activities varied between high quality reports based on student outcome data to descriptions of activities and programmes with little reference to the progress achieved by students.
Principals and senior school leaders have a central role in guiding the school’s practice for students at risk of not achieving. Most importantly they determine the rationale for the school’s provision. Asking the questions about how best to meet the needs of this group requires informed decision-making about the organisation and resourcing that will offer the greatest leverage in improving achievement outcomes for students in the context of their school.
Given the significant investment that many boards of trustees make when employing staff such as teacher aides and other additional personnel, schools need to be clear about why they choose particular options. Trustees need regular information about the use of additional staffing, and the impact that resources and programmes have on students at risk of not achieving. Boards need this information to determine the effectiveness of their investment to make decisions about the future resourcing.
ERO found that effective schools had five noteworthy characteristics of good practice. They were well led, with the principal and senior leaders taking a key role in setting the direction and providing cohesion for the school’s approach. Effective schools had well-coordinated systems that enabled support to be targeted to those students most at risk of not achieving. The most successful initiatives involved inclusive and culturally relevant approaches, most often undertaken in the student’s regular classroom. Student-focused decisions resided in high quality teaching supported by initiatives/interventions closely linked to a class teacher’s goals and objectives and to a student’s classroom progress. Finally, teachers received good quality professional development about how best to teach this group of students, and schools had effective processes to engage the parents and whānau in their child’s learning.