Winchester School - mathematics curriculum review

Winchester School has a systematic and structured approach to "planning for and using school evaluation.” Review starts with the charter and feeds back into the charter. Review includes a four- year cycle policy review by the board and major and minor curriculum reviews as well as space for review to be 'triggered'. Leadership for internal evaluation comes largely from the senior leadership team and involves teachers through a project committee or reference group.

This 2010 school-wide evaluation looking at data was sparked by various triggers related to student achievement. A comprehensive programme of ongoing review, professional development,and curriculum and resource design has successfully raised student achievement in mathematics.

 

Triggers from a range of sources initiated the review:

  • The deputy principal noticed a downward trend in the progress and achievement (PAT) mathematics results.
  • Trustees were concerned about what they were seeing in the PAT data
  • Some parents were expressing concern about their children’s learning in mathematics.
  • Teachers were struggling with planning and organisation of mathematics groups to cater for the wide range of strengths and needs of the students in their classes.
  • Feedback from the intermediate school students went on to highlight a ‘disconnect’ for students and their mathematics learning

The principal felt that things were not right with mathematics teaching and learning in the school: “something was broken”.

“Children were going to intermediate without experiencing thefull curriculum in mathematics – we are responsible for this.”

Noticing

What’s going on here?

Should we be concerned?

Is this good enough?

What is the problem or issue here?

Do we need to take a closer look?

The principal asked the assistant principal (AP) to lead an evaluation of mathematics across the school. The questions established for the evaluation were as follows:

  • What does the national curriculum and the Winchester Curriculum Delivery Plan say to guide mathematics teaching?
  • What are the teachers doing during mathematics in the classroom?
  • What needs changing?

The AP began the review by reading widely. The AP wanted to know exactly what good mathematics teaching and learning looked like for their students to then compare that with the advice given in the school’s curriculum documents. This reading involved looking in more depth at the advice given inThe New Zealand Curriculum, ERO’s national reports, National Standards booklets and the Best Evidence Synthesis (BES)

Investigating

What are our expectations?

Are these expectations happening in practice?

How might we find out?

What does good

practice look like?

A significant part of the review focused on what was happening for students in the classroom. Much of this information was sought by observations and looking at teachers’ planning. All staff were able to contribute their ideas about a way forward through their participation in staff meeting discussions about their perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of the numeracy project.

“When we looked at the achievement data together we had some fierce debate that we had to work through to get to consensus.”

“We had to make sure that we weren’t just taking the data at face value. We were breaking down our gut feelings.”

“The data from our student management system was also useful as we could find out who are the children that that are not succeeding, what are their needs and how do we respond?”

Collaborative sense making

What is our data telling us?

Is this what we expected?

This investigation identified variation across the school in teaching and planning and in teachers’ workload. Findings were reported to teachers and the board and recommendations were formulated with the project committee. Recommendations covered a wide range of possibilities to help improve students’ achievement in mathematics. Some of the possibilities included the need:

  • for more emphasis on problem-solving through regularly using different problem-solving strategies
  • to change from a focus on the mathematics strands alone to a focus on strands with high interest context
  • to work with parents more by holding parent education evenings, and
  • to focus more on students mastering basic facts.

The findings of the review caused the principal to rethink his philosophical stance on teaching and what this meant for the school. A rich-task curriculum model had already been used for science, social studies and technology and he considered how this could be applied to mathematics. School leaders recognised that their results were likely to improve if students’ mathematics learning was also through rich tasks and contexts that matched their interests and fully engaged them.

Leaders knew that staff would need support to implement new teaching contexts and approaches. Teachers needed to identify the contexts that would interest their students and would expose them to the various concepts or curriculum strands at the various age levels. Teachers would also have to use new approaches to be able to ensure the mathematical understandings were clear for students working on the new tasks.

In 2012 a teacher-only day focused on modelling effective teaching of mathematics and building conceptual understandings. This was facilitated by an external expert in this area. External and internal professional development was done with all staff.

“Everything is school-wide. That is powerful. You are alwayssupported by your colleagues.”−Staff member.

Work with teaching teams followed and resulted in the development of a ‘bank’ of rich mathematical tasks for teachers to draw on in their planning and teaching. Many staff meetings followed with teachers and teaching teams leading sessions to share successes and help build all teachers’ confidence with the new approaches.

Prioritising to take action

What needs to happen now?

What strengths do we have to draw on?

What support might we need?

Ongoing review was necessary to monitor whether the new approach and contexts were understood, used by all teachers and were leading to improved student progress and achievement. Ongoing monitoring in classrooms identified increased consistency in the quality of teaching practice across the school.

Outcomes for students

In 2010 the PAT result identified that many students were achieving in the lowest stanines13 and too few were achieving really well by the time they left the school. In 2014 many more students are achieving success:

This is a small table. Line 1 is  headed PAT 2010 Stanine 1-3, 7-9, PAT 2014 1-3 and 7-9. Line 2 is Year 4 and follows the previous headings 2010 1-3 11% and 7-9 39% and 2014 1-3 10% and 7-9 43%. Line 3 is Year 5 the figures are 2010 25% and 24%, 2014 17% and 30% and Line 5 is Year 6 2010 22% and 11% and 2014 18% and 30%.

Results for 2012 to 2014 show that around 92 to 94 percent of students achieved at or above national mathematics standards. Feedback from the intermediate school which most students transition to is very positive about students’ learning and achievement in mathematics. In 2015 Winchester’s Year 5 and Year 6 team achieved top results at the local Mathex competition.

Monitoring and evaluating impact

Are we getting the resulted we wanted?

How do we know?