Schools 'slow to improve results'

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 05:00 15/07/2014

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Three-quarters of secondary schools are not actively improving pupils' results and some staff show a "lack of urgency" to do so, a new report says.

An Education Review Office (ERO) report released yesterday - Raising Achievement in Secondary Schools - found that while effective student mentoring and support had increased within many schools, it took innovative curriculum changes to get a "significant lift in student achievement".

Evaluation services manager Stephanie Greaney said it was about schools being "innovative with their resources".

Post-Primary Teachers' Association president Angela Roberts said schools were "pretty much working at capacity" and lacked resourcing and professional development needed to get a "systematic lift".

The study, which focused on the Level 2 results of 40 New Zealand secondary schools, deciles and sizes in 2013, found that 10 had identified a student achievement issue and responded effectively to improve student NCEA results.

Fourteen had "somewhat effective" approaches, although changes did not consistently or significantly affect most students.

They were "not complete disasters", but they were yet to see clear benefits, Greaney said.

The final 16 had "limited effectiveness" in analysing achievement data and making changes accordingly.

"We saw a lack of urgency among some staff at these schools to improve achievement and, in some cases, limited capability to carry out analysis of achievement."

Greaney recognised it was not easy to improve achievement, but "more could be done" by all schools to make innovative curriculum changes to suit the wants and needs of their students.

One school ERO considered effective ditched Cambridge International Examinations to go back to NCEA after it found students' opportunities were limited, top students had not noticeably benefited, and there were "logistical difficulties" in having students enrolled in two assessment programmes.

A South Canterbury school reassessed its courses after it found 50 per cent of its students went into hospitality and tourism, yet no suitable subjects were offered.

Effective schools monitored results, knew their students well, improved relationships with families, and gave academic counselling, mentoring, and homework and learning support, she said.

Secondary Principals' Association president Tom Parsons said the report emphasised the importance of the Government's "gamechanger" $359 million Investing in Educational Success initiative to smooth out the disparity between schools. Currently "some [schools] will go to sleep and some do really well", but nothing would be shared.

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"Good schools are increasingly looking beyond the numbers and at the names."

It was "the ones sitting on their hands" that were the problem.

Amuri Area School principal Neil Wilkinson said there had been a "monumental shift" in recent years for schools to rigorously analyse NCEA results of individual students, often hiring commercial companies to do so.

His school introduced four-hour blocks for students to focus on subjects to encourage engagement and increase achievement.

 

ERO RECOMMENDS

Education Ministry encourage schools to improve student mentoring while also improving curriculum.

Schools review their own analysis of student achievement, develop curriculums to engage and respond to individual students' needs.

- The Press

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