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Inside Teaching : April 2010
Inside Teaching | April 2010 CURRICULUM & ASSESSMENT 22 The research into high-performing schools clearly indicates the importance of the following factors: • strong educational leadership • high expectations of students and staff • an emphasis on time on task • a safe and orderly environment, and • the frequent evaluation of student progress. Here, I want to focus on the last of these factors. How do high-performing schools use the information they receive about student achievement to generate school improvement? To answer that, let me consider two case studies with which I’ve been closely involved, Bellfield Primary School and Haileybury College, both in Melbourne. Bellfield Primary School is a government primary school in Melbourne’s inner northern suburbs, where I was principal from 1995 to 2005. Bellfield serviced an exceptionally disadvantaged community. In 2005, 85 per cent of parents were on the Educational Maintenance Allowance; 61 per cent of students were from single- parent families; 25 per cent of students were from non-English speaking backgrounds; and about 10 per cent of students were Indigenous. A well-documented transformation took place at Bellfield during this decade. The school moved from a situation where over 80 per cent of the students were failing dismally in statewide literacy and numeracy testing to one where the overwhelming majority of the students performed at the top of the state. The effective use of student data played a significant role in this transformation, alongside the adoption of an explicit instruction model of curriculum delivery. Bellfield used statewide testing, ongoing classroom testing, and the Reading Progress Test (RPT) and the Numeracy Progress Test (NPT) from the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER) to drive school improvement. The RPT and NPT were delivered every November to all year levels. At Bellfield, we first used these tests in 1997. They enabled us to benchmark every child, each year level and the entire school. Furthermore, they allowed the leadership team to identify those students who would need extra support and those who would need to be further extended. The student data was used in the annual staff appraisal process as evidence of teacher performance. The notion of value added was discussed and analysed in terms of individual student performance, year-level performance and whole-school performance. We selected the RPT and NPT because they were time effective in terms of student completion and teacher correction. These tests were an integral component of the school improvement agenda at Bellfield. They were instrumental in validating our curriculum choices and in setting targets for teachers. The overall school performance indicator for both literacy and numeracy provided much- needed recognition of teacher effort as student achievement increased from year to year. It generated a belief in the success of our initiatives and guided us in future planning and target-setting. Research into high-performing schools clearly indicates the importance of the frequent evaluation of student progress. JoHn fleMinG explains how he’s done that. Assessment Informed teaching, and learning