Kaikohekohe cluster principals, Lee Whitelaw and Tracey Simeon explain how their achievement challenges are based on research, which informs teacher PLD. “We met as principals and decided on what we could do as a cluster to take that good practice out across all the schools.”
Lee Whitelaw: So we were lucky enough to work for some time with Brian Annan from the University of Auckland to find out what the achievement challenge for our group was. So we did a lot of work with our whānau, staff, children. All the research and work that we did came out with the same answer, that everybody learned from one another. So for the rest of the year we spent time working with Brian, working on the achievement challenge and it became apparent from our data and looking, that writing was the challenge for us, and that too was consistent right across the three schools.
Tracey Simeon: We definitely have target students. They are our “below” students. Sadly the majority of those students are boys. So each school would have the target set for their annual plan and basically anyone that is below, that’s who we’re focusing on but we’re also very much aware of accelerating our “at” and “above” students so that they maintain this progress. With the help of Woolf Fisher, we can actually see who are the students that need that extra support?
Lee Whitelaw: Even though this is a digital cluster in some ways, it was not all about Chromebooks, so the digital part of it tied in really nicely with the writing. We quickly worked over a period of time with staff as well, to get them upskilled. It was changing pedagogy, not so much the digital tool, that was a huge part of it, but we needed to change teacher practice in all of the schools so that has become hugely important and very exciting for us because as well as children learning from one another, part of the cluster was teachers learning from one another. We had looked at our Woolf Fisher writing data from the beginning of the year, the data was presented to us that had matched data from the end of last year to the beginning of this year so we were able to see where there were pockets of promise and pockets of good teaching, which is identified by Woolf Fisher. So they not only look at our data, but they come and observe in classrooms. So principal and lead teachers, they all met during the day to look at the data and talk about it and decide why the data might look like it does, and work out an hypothesis for that and what we’re going to do, and from there a strategic plan was devised and although it’s strategic, it’s probably annual as well. So in addition to the testing that goes on, one of the really important things is the classroom observations. And there is really good practice happening across our cluster. We were able to identify those teachers and bring them all together. So what we did, we met as principals and decided on what we could do as a cluster to take that good practice out across all the schools.
Tracey Simeon: Every term the teachers come together with a PLG and we learn something based on research. How to become an effective teacher. Looking at the practices of a teacher so that they can promote accelerated learning with our students.
Lee Whitelaw: That’s led to some really, I think, remarkable things happening in the cluster.