Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Data & evidence from learning intentions

Hi to the cluster. Thanks for a good day yesterday - some great video clips that stimulated good sharing. I have blogged about aspects of our discussion yesterday about data and evidence - I can't remember if I had the initial discussion trigger quite right, but for a summary of key points yesterday check my blog out at

Looking forward to access to some of those video clips that were shared - would be great if you could upload these to the wiki or add the link in there or here as to where they can be located on the internet.

Cheers, Jill

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hi everyone
A useful morning, enjoyed the video clips.

Offline blogging

I'm a great believer in being a participant in a workshop, so today I have posted a blog entry. However, because I so seldom have time to write in my own blog I have added the entry there and am providing the link here. My entry is about a great piece of free downloadable software for PC users to enable you and your students to prepare your blog entries offline and then publish to the internet with one click when ready. This means that students can be blogging offline, adding photos with ease, and teachers can do the quality control at the end of the day or whenever else they have time, and then click Publish to fire the entry up online.

Check out my blog for the full info at


National Standards conversations.

This is the text of a letter we have sent to Anne Tolley from our BoT. It outlines my thoughts:
Dear Ms Tolley
Our BoT has asked me to write to you to let you know the outcome and conclusions of the extensive discussions we had at our last BoT meeting about your proposals for National Testing, and now active promotion of league tables.

This section from an article by the ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Associations in Canberra sums up well our feelings about the bigger picture:
Public comparison of school results does not deliver better information for parents or better public accountability to the taxpayer. It produces misleading and inaccurate information. It does not lead to better schools for all. It produces social segregation. It favours privilege and compounds the effects of disadvantage. League tables of school literacy and numeracy outcomes give misleading and inaccurate information about the quality of education because they do not measure the ‘value added’ by the school. School test results are influenced by a variety of factors, not all of which are within the control of schools or teachers. League tables do not distinguish the school contribution to the test results from that of other factors such as family background and resources. Socio-economic background is a major influence on education outcomes. High league table results may reflect more the privileged family background and resources of the community served by the school than the quality of teaching and the education program. As a result, league tables can camouflage underachievement among mediocre schools with favoured intakes. On the other hand, a school could perform badly in comparison with other schools despite high quality teaching and resources because it serves a less-privileged community. Comparisons of school results also lead to inaccurate assessments of school quality because the tests are narrowly based. They do not assess the full range of schooling objectives. For example, they ignore the social and personal development dimensions of schooling which are just as important as the formal academic. Even in academic terms, the subject range and the year cohorts assessed is limited. In other words, league tables do not give a complete picture of the work of schools. (

At Outram School we do not feel particularly threatened by any form of regional or national comparison of our achievement information. Our children come from families who support and value education. They will do well in most measures simply because of the home and personal factors that John Hattie identifies as comprising 70-80% of the overall learning effect and which school has absolutely no impact over. We also have a highly skilled and capable staff who collectively and individually know our children and their strengths and needs very well. This all bodes very well for our children.

We do however realise that there are quite a number of schools for whom this is not always the case. The factors outside the influence of the school are not as positive for their children. Is it really fair to compare their overall endpoint achievement with ours? In some cases the entry level of our children is higher than the mid to exit levels of children from schools in areas where education is valued less. Even some of our own children point towards this being true. What IS the point of simply comparing end point achievement of our respective schools, or non-alike schools across the country? How is this information useful for us or anyone else to identify next learning steps for our children or our school as a whole?

At Outram School we already have tools to identify the value we add to our children's learning in literacy, numeracy, PE/PA, and are working on Inquiry/Topic areas at the moment. This is a far more useful measure of what we actually achieve for our children than simply setting some bar they have to intellectually leap over. We determine where they are at regular intervals and track both their learning trajectory AND summative end points. This enables us to see how well children are learning as well as the level at which they are operating. For us national testing will do nothing but add to an already high workload for our staff. We see little of use in the measure you are promoting for our school or for any of our colleagues.

Surely the acid test for any assessment is how it informs next step learning. Does national testing pass this test? We would argue not.

We have grave concerns as a Board about the long-term detrimental impact National Testing regimes have had on the systems, curriculum and the learning of children in England and the USA in particular. We foresee the same impact and outcome here; a narrowing of classroom programmes simply to ensure the maximum number of children 'pass' national standards. All this to the detriment of Arts, 'Topic' and PE/PA programmes in particular. We have worked for quite a number of years now at Outram School to develop an innovative and creative curriculum with a focus on thinking, creativity and children having opportunities to discover their passions. On children being provided with as many opportunities as possible to experience as wide a range of learning as possible. We see national testing and league tables in particular as putting this at risk.

We have an internationally lauded curriculum about to be gazetted in NZ. How is what you are proposing going to support and enhance its introduction? We already have NEMP, PAT, ASTTLE, ERO, etc to ensure national consistency and that we have an overall picture of our system-wide achievement as well as valid and reliable data for individual schools. Why do we need another measure to tell us the same thing? PISA and other international comparisons show us we are achieving very well by international measures as well. Why do we need to follow the example of those who are achieving lower on the international measures and implement national testing and league tables. Surely we should be aiming higher than that!

We would be interested in your response.

Sir Ken Robinson's Presentation

I found Sir Ken's presentation fascinating and thought provoking.

"Creativity is as important in education as literacy."

Initially I thought this sounded a bit vague and theoretical but as I listened the absolute simplicity of what he was saying became very clear to me and was again a reminder to me that we need to extend our thinking about the capacity that children have to learn in different ways

" We are educated from the waist up to the head and then to one side."

My thoughts about this comment relate to the understanding that education shapes the mind but the mind is more about soul and passion and aspirations rather than the more narrow view tat the mind is about feeding information into the appropriate dimension of the brain.

If you have to move to think you may be a dancer: A good example of what the "overactive" child may have to offer.

 Watch the video here

What reserach says about Classroom Walk-Throughs

An interesting article from Jane L. David about classroom walk-throughs (otherwise known as a learning walk or quick visit) and the link these can have to school appraisal systems and as a tool to inform improvement efforts within a school.
The article discusses the reality of these walk-throughs and gives some background to what research says about the usefulness of incorporating a walk-through into your school culture and programmes. It touches on the pitfalls and success of walk-throughs and in terms of our schools current practice is a good starting point for discussion and planning on how we can use this to support our appraisals and ICT action reserach projects this year.

Article available for reader here:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Late entry from Anne

Sorry for this late entry - I have the first three weeks of this term as 'blog monitor' and I have only just managed to get where I should be.
I seem to have a problem with reading the screen and remembering passwords. I have saved my various passwords in two places [an email folder and a word document] but I think I may resort to pen and paper and keep it handy. I would actually like to use one password for everything but I am sure there are good reasons for not doing this.
Here at GSNS we have action plans in all directions - it will be great to share the super things that are happening. Personally I am trialling a software throughout the school called "Lexia". It promises great things in supporting children experiencing difficulty in reading or who are new speakers of English. It has been a bit of a marathon getting everything set up - [I don't know how I could get it ready without using a technician!] but now children are beginning to work with it. It is not cheap but if it delivers half what it promises it might be money well spent.