Principal at Tawhai School, Matt Skilton, says that for strategic planning, having access to an SMS on data and analysis is vital. Matt explains how they use the data to work out the, "students in need or the gaps we want to plug, or the accelerated areas we need to really push for".
In schools today, it's very data driven, and there's a lot of dryness to that, in a lot of the compliance aspects, but at the end of the day, the data's going to provide you with really good information about how to spend your time, and what to spend your time on, and how to resource that.
As far as the strategic aspect of running a school, having easy access to an SMS on data and analysis is probably vital in terms of making sure you're accurate with what you are doing. The way Tawhai School works is we set targets based on student achievement results from the previous year, and assessments taken at the beginning of the year, and we enter those in. The SMS system, I guess, provides us with more accuracy in terms of the reporting and easy access in regards to the right people having access to the information in a timely fashion, I guess. The targets set, generally speaking, are National Standards based - 'x' amount of students, above or below, that we're trying to shift further up, and accelerate their learning.
However we still enter a lot of the actual assessment results, such as GloSS results, BURT tests, running records, or PAT's , and there’ll be specific needs identified within that. We'll use that information to check later on how those kids are going in terms of plugging those gaps. Not just National Standards, but in general, student learning goals as well. We don't use a format through the SMS in terms of setting our targets. We do that on our own, we have our own format for that. But we do use the analysis tools to help identify those students in need or the gaps we want to plug, or the accelerated areas we need to really push for.
What's very good about it is you get to see instantly the specific need within a year level group. It could be boys, it could be a particular ethnicity, it could be a particular focus group you're trying to work with, but the tool allows you to isolate that data for analysis, which we then transfer into our own target system.
We can produce reports on any given day, at any given time, and that's what we do. In regards to National Standards, obviously the NAG2a, there's a section in there, and you can get school-wide reports, or year-level reports, but you can also export those. So that fits within the Ministry requirements of what they need, and again, going from when I first started, with National Standards, having to enter those things into a table that they sent me, to now being able to export a table that's already produced from the data entered from the teachers, it makes things so much easier, so we use that a lot.
One of the things that we do with our whānau group, we produce a lot of results, but we can share Māori achievement, for example, and show how those students are achieving compared to, say, the norm of the school. The overall average results. We actually have used the data reporting to share at whānau meetings, which provides a snapshot for those parents to understand how their kids are performing. For us, it also provides a vehicle for some leverage around why we want to do some of the accelerated programs with those kids, and why we're isolating those kids out as target kids.
The key difference between pre-SMS to what we can do now, is the amount of time it saves, the accuracy that it provides, and the accessibility to the information on a timely basis. That's probably the biggest change that we've found.