In 2013 the Education Review Office (ERO) evaluated what, if any, deliberate actions 193 primary schools were taking to increase the number of students achieving ‘at’ or ‘above’ the national standards for their year group.
When compared to earlier ERO evaluations, this evaluation shows considerable improvement in teachers and leaders’ use of assessment data to respond to students achieving below expectations. ERO found an increasing number of schools with Years 1 to 8 students had adapted their responses for students achieving below national standards.
Half the schools investigated had used deliberate actions to support students to accelerate progress and sustain achievement equivalent to their year group. In particular, Māori and Pacific students, and English language learners that needed support to accelerate their progress, were targeted and experienced success.
The report provides examples of some of the successful practices schools used to accelerate progress for groups of students. It also outlines the leadership, teaching, assessment and evaluation capabilities and characteristics ERO found that made a difference for students.
In the effective schools students experienced a high quality rich curriculum. This meant high quality classroom and supplementary teaching for students who had been achieving below national standards. These students knew what and how they learnt, and they knew their teachers were supporting them to succeed. Success energised these students.
I’ve gone from writing boring sentences to using lots more interesting words. I smack right into it!
(A student from a low decile, large urban, contributing primary school)
I thought I couldn’t do maths so I didn’t really try. Now I know I’m as good as my friends.
(A student from a low decile, mid-sized rural, full primary school)
It made me understand and think about words. It’s helped me read instructions when I do mathematics.
(A student from a low decile, medium-sized urban, contributing primary school)
Many of these schools had focused their efforts on students at all year levels, and across mathematics, reading and writing. They were strategic and successful in their actions to accelerate progress.
Other effective schools had strategically trialled a new approach in one area and were now spreading the trial by increasing the number of students and teachers involved in the new approach.
Teachers and leaders in these two groups of schools were innovatively responding to underachievement. They were trialling well‑researched strategies rather than continuing with what was obviously not making a difference. Teachers and leaders clearly knew how to make a difference for their students to catch up.
Leaders in the strategic and successful schools actively involved students and their parents/whānau in designing, implementing and reviewing improvement plans.
ERO focused on the accelerated progress of individual students, rather than the overall increase in the proportion of students achieving at a school. Improvement in the progress of an individual’s achievement contributes to the overall goal of all students achieving.
The evaluation considered both short and long‑term acceleration of progress. Progress was considered to be accelerated when the student’s achievement moved from well below to below, at or above a national standard, or from below to at or above. This meant the student made more than one year’s progress over a year.
Progress was also considered to be accelerated when the student’s progress was noticeably faster than might otherwise have been expected from their past learning. It needed to be faster progress than classmates progressing at expected rates. This acknowledged the need for equitable outcomes, and took into account acceleration over less than one year.
Effective schools were asked the following questions: