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Kapiti Collaborative: Making a difference in Reading

National Goal: Strengthen professional learning communities and increase collaboration across the regional cluster schools.

The KC collected stories from various schools to show how they had used achievement information to enhance teaching and improve outcomes for students.

One of these stories  describes how Kapanui School improved literacy results in Years 1-3. This story exemplifies both the sharing of practice within a school, but also across schools in the telling of the story as a model. 

Kapanui School is a decile 8, full primary school of 498 students situated in Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast. There are 22 classrooms.

Inquiring (Context)

As a result of discussions around the analysis of data from Reading Recovery monitoring and applications, and School Entry Assessments from several years, the Associate Principal (AP), and the Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO) believed that there was a change in the profile of new entrant children coming into the school. Six Year testing results appeared to be dropping with gaps occurring between high item scores related to discrete knowledge i.e. concepts about print, letter identification, hearing and recording sounds and reading levels. At weekly syndicate meetings, regular discussions with the Year One and Two syndicate teachers occurring around the five and a half, six, and six and a half year checks also concurred with the thinking of the AP and SENCO in that there was a decrease in reading levels and a mismatch between item scores and reading levels at six, and that children were entering school with different skill sets.

Deciding (Intentions)

The AP and SENCO sought the assistance of a literacy expert, Dr Pauline Smith, to review their analysis and conclusions and it was decided that there needed to be an increase in the urgency of teaching early literacy. This meant the pace in teaching needed to be picked up and that intervention needed to occur more quickly. This teaching would need to be perceived as very high stakes. It was decided that a mechanism for regularly reviewing each child’s achievement was required, with decisions being made on next steps for targeted teaching. It was determined that extensive professional development and dialogue for the teachers involved in teaching these children was required in the areas of early literacy learning  i.e. developing strategic reading behaviours and writing skills  The Principal was  supportive of these decisions. The members of the senior management team involved had a firm belief that bringing about changes in student achievement occurs when changes are made to teaching and learning, and that what teachers think and do has a most significant effect on achievement. These beliefs were underpinned and influenced by professional knowledge and participation based on research pieces such as Picking up the Pace, Quality Teaching and Learning for Diverse Learners, Effective Literacy Practice and the Literacy Leadership programme.

Adapting (Interventions)

To respond to the needs identified in the data analysis, weekly professional learning community (PLC) groups were set up over the year. These followed a set agenda. All Year One and Two Syndicate teachers met in small groups with the SENCO and AP every four weeks to share current assessment information in reading and writing and to problem-solve to identify progress and next steps. Each teacher showed each child’s assessment data and writing book. The teachers had also plotted the children’s progress on wedge graphs which showed clear expectations for achievement every four weeks. These graphs were discussed and included in the children’s Learning Journeys. (Learning Journeys replaced existing reports and are profiles containing children’s work and assessment data from all Learning areas. They go home each term and are used as a basis for three-way parent /child/teacher conferences). Progress since the previous meeting against expectations, shared next steps, ideas for support, teaching and learning approaches were discussed.

Additional funding was provided for building up supplies of texts more suited to the changing profile of the children. Many children did not have secure oral language structures or large oral vocabularies. The staff felt they needed more texts that provided greater support for these fragile learners i.e. texts where the language could be more easily controlled. Funding was also made available for teacher aide support in Literacy in Years One and Two. This time was used for specifically designed short-term interventions for children identified as ‘at risk’ at school entry or for children not making expected progress. These interventions included Talk to Learn programmes, Playgroup and other specific early literacy supports. These were planned and monitored by the SENCO.  In addition, the AP and SENCO carried out a number of interventions with small groups and individuals e.g. targeted instruction based on individual needs and around developing strategic reading behaviours. These were mostly one on one programmes; each one personalised and constantly adapted as the children’s reading/writing behaviours changed. They were mostly short term i.e. six to eight weeks, in conjunction with class programmes. For example, these could be based on developing strategies at difficulty, cross checking, developing fluency, phrasing, expression, using sound/letter knowledge to encode in writing.

Each syndicate meeting had a built-in component of professional development in literacy. Topics included developing phonological awareness, text selection, text orientation, running a guided session, writing modelling – key components, spelling, developing fine motor skills to aid writing and reading. All the teachers involved in teaching these children had goals around aspects of literacy teaching embedded in the performance management process. The Principal remained supportive and involved throughout the process. He regularly reviewed and discussed achievement data, attended several PLC and syndicate meetings, occasionally provided additional professional reading for AP, maintained constant dialogue with the AP/SENCO and showed genuine interest and was consistently encouraging . He also kept monitored the AP/SENCO workloads.

The actions and interventions were evaluated based on data collected at the outset, during and at the end of the time period. The staff knew comparative results of the planned work would not be available until a twelve-month cycle had been completed.

Through the wedge graphs, monthly monitoring occurred and there was other regular school-wide monitoring happening as well such as twice yearly gathering of all children’s achievement levels in reading, gathering of SEA and Six Year Observation Survey data. Teachers regularly reflected on the processes of the PLCs, subsequent interventions, professional development through syndicate meetings, the performance management process and in end of year reflections. These reflections were discussed in teams through syndicate evaluations at the end of each term, and on an individual basis formally with the principal. 

Transforming - Changes in student achievement

Because of the improvements in student achievement it was decided to maintain the processes that had been initiated i.e. the PLC process, assessment data recording using the wedge graphs and the triangulated analysis. As the work of the PLCs had largely focused on reading, it was decided to increase the focus on writing as the staff were well aware of the reciprocal nature of reading and writing. They wanted to address this so they could facilitate the same level of improvement in writing as they had in reading.  All the interventions that had been used during the year were reviewed and decisions were made to plan and implement personalised and group interventions as necessary as had been done the previous year (as the needs for them became apparent). The allocated professional learning time given to syndicate meetings continued to be included as was the dedicated literacy support time with teacher aides and the building of resources. After discussions with the wider staff, it was decided that the model would be used in other areas of the school and PLCs with a literacy focus have been initiated in Years Three and Four, and with a Mathematics focus in Years Five to Eight.

To sustain these improvements the teachers decided that they would need to continue to collect reliable and valid data and to analyse it thoroughly. There was a desire to maintain professional dialogue and development around student achievement through ongoing reflection and inquiring into practice in an open-minded and flexible manner.

Follow the link below to see Kapanui Achievement Table