Cashmere Primary

  1. PLC Story
  2. PLC Practices
  3. Achievement Data
  4. Awards
  5. Resources

The introduction of National Standards (NS) in New Zealand in 2010 resulted in the principal and leadership team at Cashmere Primary (CPS) re-looking at evidence based teaching and learning. This included assessment with a view to see if NS would help to improve achievement levels across the school in reading, writing and math:

Our aim was to understand NS and to determine how we would use them to bring the three big ideas of a PLC to life:

  • Focus on learning
  • Build a collaborative culture
  • Create a results orientation

 In doing so, we wanted to align assessment for learning practices with our stated purpose of:

To foster learning within a community that protects, cares for and develops the whole child.

We also wanted to align NS with our school’s motto:  Together we learn - Kotahitanga / Ako emphasising the importance of collaboration, team work and partnership with whanau (family) and school.

 From 2005 onwards, we had been immersed in introducing a draft, and then the newly published New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) 2007 into the school. We focused on the front section of the curriculum i.e.: identifying vision, values, principles, beliefs about learning, and school wide consistent statements on how we would implement the 8 learning areas. Karen Sewell, then Secretary for Education, wrote the following in the foreword for the NZC document:

 “NZC is a clear statement of what we deem important in education”. …She concluded by saying that “the challenge now is to build on this framework, offering our young people the most effective and engaging teaching possible and supporting them to achieve to the highest of standards”.

 We were exploring the freedom that NZC gave us. We were thinking about, discussing, and trialling open ended, inclusive, deep learning, differentiated 21st century learning, and accelerated learning. As a learning community, we weren’t so focused on Karen’s final statement of supporting teachers and learners to achieve to the highest standards, but in terms of knowing what the highest standard looked like and how the learner, whanau and school would know if we reached them.

 Therefore when the NS were introduced in 2010, we were ready to think about evidence based practice in order to measure our success (or not) in providing teaching and learning programmes where children were engaged, enjoying, and making progress, against reliable multi-sourced assessment criteria. We wanted to focus on outcomes rather than on delivery of the curriculum.

As a result, our journey can be summarised under the four critical questions that drive our learning community, and all PLC at Work.

What do we expect our students to learn?

The short answer is the vision of NZC 2007: Young people will be confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners. We want our students to be supported through deep holistic learning pedagogies by being immersed in developing Key Competencies (KC) across the curriculum.  In math and literacy we are guided by NS and aim to have students achieving ‘at’ or ‘above’ the national standard for their time at school and/or class level.

 NZC Key Competencies:

  • Managing self
  • Relating to others
  • Participating and contributing
  • Thinking
  • Using Language, symbols and texts

 How will we know if they learned it?

National Standards provide a school wide, consistent and valid assessment tool in literacy and numeracy. In the 6 other learning areas we know students are achieving by using multi- source assessment tools against criteria. These tools include: observations, demonstrations, completed work (including models), scripts of learning conversations, work samples, presentations, teacher, peer and self-assessment. These assessment tools are supported by moderation within learning spaces and across teams; at times, across schools.


How will we respond when some students do not learn?

We provide differentiated teaching and learning, including one on one, small group work, different learning and teaching strategies, and extra time and support within a negotiated team approach recorded in an Individual Education Plan (IEP).

How will we respond when some students already know it?

Students are grouped with like- minded students and given more open ended learning tasks as defined in Blooms Taxonomy (creating and evaluating) and Solo Taxonomy at the relational and extended abstract level.  Students are supported to learn at their instructional level, and depending on their self-management competency, will be self-directed in the learning task. Deep inquiry based learning will be available to them.

1. Monitoring student learning on a timely basis.

We used multiple strategies outlined below to achieve re-culturing of the school to prioritise and monitor student learning, to use evidence as a pre-requisite to decision making, to facilitate student and whanau voice, and identify next step learning.

Common Formative Assessments

CPS staff use multiple assessments throughout the year to monitor and assess student learning.  Our school sees great value in developing Common Formative Assessments (CFAs) as the key to improving achievement for all students.

Examples of common assessments used at CPS are:

Assessments used once or twice a year: astle testing, STAR, PAT R, MOE-developed tools

Assessments used before or after units: I CAN checklists, Snapshots, Staff-developed EOY assessments, basic fact walls

Assessments used daily: Running records, comprehension questions, written language exemplars, observations using set criteria, self/peer/teacher assessment rubrics

Staff use CFAs in all subject areas.  Year level rubrics, observation criteria and written language exemplars are examples of commmon tools used in integrated studies, the arts and physical activity.

Collaborative teacher teams analyse data from the CFAs in order to identify and plan next step learning.  Teams use a four-step cycle: Gather, analyse, plan, and review.

When planning a response to the data, the following questions are critical:

  • Which teaching strategies were most effective?
  • What mistakes did the students make?
  • How can we schedule for re-teaching?
  • What other resourses do we have access to?

Building trusting relationships

All PLD undertaken reinforced the importance of building trusting relationships with children, colleagues, and whānau through shared understanding, positive communication, and agreed to protocols of respect and professional conduct. Joan Dalton and David Andersons PLD on The Art of facilitation was used here. The work of John Hattie (2008) and BES (Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis) clearly shows the positive effect size when this happens.  We have used BES literature in particular to good effect:

 Building a coaching and mentoring culture leading to collaborative practice

We introduced a coaching model, based on Joan’s work, throughout the school. We use leadership, instructional, and peer coaching as a way to facilitate learning conversations and support leaders, teachers, and students reflect on practice and to identify next steps. In order to have evidenced based conversations and to deprivatise practice, we introduced ‘teaching as inquiry’ using the Ariki Model developed by the late Dr. David Stewart, learning walks, and PLG’s on student and school review data. We used the coaching overview on PLOT written by Joan Dalton and David Anderson. Ariki was offered through the New Zealand Principals Federation (NZPF):

 From both Joan Dalton’s PLD and Ariki we learned the skills of deep questioning to interrogate the evidence and to identify next steps.

 The child being at the heart of the matter

We understood that everything we did at school, every decision was to be learner-centred. We worked on developing a strong learner-centred philosophy, and for a number of years staff have been exploring teaching and learning programmes that sit comfortably with this philosophy. We developed a pedagogy that centred on exploring inquiry learning, incorporating Art Costa’s ideas and a focus on thinking skills through the use of Bloom’s Taxonomy and Solo Taxonomy. CPS staff saw these foci as catering for, and challenging, students of all abilities.

 School leaders noted that developing school pedagogy had built cohesiveness and consistency with an outcome that “we are all singing from the same song sheet”. This was born out this year (2015) using the NZCER staff wellbeing survey where the data showed the extent of staff cohesiveness.  For teachers, these foci and associated professional development (PLD) had resulted in improvements to practice and an increased emphasis on teachers as reflective practitioners. We have taken this further by working in collaborative teams in preparation for the large adaptable learning areas to be built at the school in 2016-2017.


Evidence based Practice

Evidence-based teaching strategies may be defined as clear, specific teaching strategies shown in controlled research to be effective in bringing about desired outcomes.

At CPS we have been informed by BES and Professor John Hattie’s work. Strategies that have a strong evidence base for use with students include collaborative teaching and learning, differentiated group teaching,  inclusive practices, peer tutoring, formative assessment, feedback, feed forward, and PLG’s.  We use Learning Intentions and Success Criteria from Clarity in the Classroom informed by Michael Absolum. This was the start of proactively seeking whole school consistency of practice, a common language, and set of teacher expectations regardless of the class level being taught and the team a teacher belonged to.  Clarity in the Classroom also reinforced the idea of the child being at the centre of teaching and learning, students being partners in their learning by co-constructing learning intentions, and success criteria. Student voice, student participation in decision making, and student led inquiry are areas of focus for our school.

Professional learning Group Conversations: PLG’s

At CPS PLG conversations are seen as conversations that matter and involve the leadership team, teaching and learning teams, and classroom teachers interrogating data by following 3 steps below:

  • What is the data saying – analysis and interpretation of the data
  • Do we believe the data – why or why not
  • What is the challenge given to us (next steps) from this data

The conversations are guided by the whole-school protocols agreed to and referred to before each conversation. The conversations are chaired in a way that the three steps are thoroughly explored using dialogue and discussion techniques. Each learning team is committed to having a PLG at least 2 times a term where student data is carefully analysed to monitor student and cohorts of student’s achievement and progress matched against goals set.

Coming from the conversations, targets and future action are agreed to, priority learners are identified, and teaching strategies to meet the needs of priority learners are brainstormed and agreed to. Priority learners are named and their progress is monitored and tracked against the student achievement targets. This is discussed at team level through a PLG and at appraisal interviews 3 times a year.

CPS has undergone accelerated learning PLD in literacy and in Math (Accelerated Literacy Learning – ALL and Accelerated Learning in Mathematics - ALiM) . We use these techniques and strategies to meet the needs of priority learners. Achievement targets are set and progress is monitored. The teacher and team leader revisit the targets and strategies being used to ensure these learners achieve success. Results are reported on to the BoT and to the MOE. They are also made available via the school’s website

This process is used for school review and for reporting on NS data. School data is analysed first and school goals and targets are identified, then team data is examined and team targets are identified linked to whole school ones, and then individual class or collaboration team data is examined and goals set linked to team goals. To ensure the data and outcomes of PLG’s are reliable, moderation across teams and across cluster schools is done.

Building leadership capability

To achieve the strategies outlined above in a consistent manner, it is vital to build leadership capacity within our school. Providing PLD opportunities, having the principal role model, mentoring and coach leaders and aspiring leaders, using outside facilitators, and identifying leaders to participate in the aspiring principals PLD results in the school building leadership capacity.  Kiwi leadership expands on this in greater detail.  CPS has been successful in doing this. We encourage aspiring leaders to undertake formal leadership post graduate programmes or Masters level papers. It is a matter of pride that the new principal starting in 2016 was a team leader at CPS and began his leadership training (including Masters in Educational leadership) while at CPS. 

2. Creating systems of intervention to provide students with additional time and support for learning.

School wide systems that allow for collaboration, guarding the timetable, and purposefully accelerating learning are used.

PLG’s, peer coaching, leadership, instructional coaching, school wide review and evaluation and more recently collaborative practices within teams of 2-4 in modern flexible learning spaces all support providing students with additional time and support for learning.

Data analysis allows for priority learners to be identified and for targets to be set to accelerate learning. The numeracy (ALiM) and literacy (ALL) PLD has informed us about how to accelerate learning. Teachers now work in collaborative teams and students are grouped according to next step learning across 2 – 4 learning spaces. Teachers collaboratively plan next step learning for the whole group based on evidence and assign themselves to various groups of learners across collaborative learning spaces.  This allows for more targeted, planned and explicit teaching and learning in literacy and math.

We believe that learning support staff in each learning space is part of the team. A staff member is assigned as an activator to ensure those children working independently are engaged in learning that is taking them forward, and that they receive ‘just in time’ help without interrupting small group targeted teaching and learning. The timetable is carefully guarded so children are explicitly taught numeracy and literacy next steps daily.

3. Building teacher capacity to work as members of high performing collaborative teams that focus efforts on improved learning for all students.

At CPS, staff are allocated to four collaborative teams:  Years 1 and 2 (5 and 6 year olds), Years 3 and 4 (7 and 8 year olds), Years 5 and 6 (9 and 10 year olds), and Years 7 and 8 (11 and 12 year olds).  Teams engage in collaborative planning for classroom instruction and assessment and how co-teaching and learning time will be structured.

Collaborative planning time is deliberately scheduled at CPS.  Each teacher is allocated

3 x half days and each team is allocated 1 x half day for team planning per term.  These times occur during school time. In addition, each team meets weekly for 1.5 hours after school.  (See the resources section for an example of the school timetable detailing how collaboration time is scheduled.  See Doc: Scheduling for collaboration.)

We also made a decision to remove administrative matters from our formal meeting structures so that discussions could focus on quality teaching and learning.  Where possible, administrative matters are communicated via electronic means to all staff. (See examples of communication with staff in resources section.  See Docs:  Communication with staff 1 and 2).

We focused on improving student learning by coaching leaders on ‘assessment for learning’ principles.

  • evidence based teaching and learning decisions through external and internal leadership team coaching,
  • whole school consistency of practice through a shared understanding of what this would look like, and the outcomes expected, and
  • a commitment to open, deep learning pedagogies alongside targeted, next step, and explicitly taught numeracy and literacy programmes.

Our school belonged to an Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) cluster with 4 other schools and shared Professional Learning Development (PLD), learning walks, and moderation across the schools. We shared and learned from each other. We built deep trusting relationships.

A crucial change of thinking occurred when the leadership team and teachers collectively came to the understanding that assessment is primarily for professional staff to reflect on their practice and to determine their next steps. At the same time we realised that most of our ‘Teacher as Inquirer’ and school review statements were describing an activity being undertaken, rather than:

  •  outlining what was set out to be done,
  • the base line data gathered,
  • the intervention undertaken,
  • the outcomes sought, and achieved  based on evidence and
  • the resulting next step action coming out of that process.

Assessment for learning is best described as a process by which assessment information is used by teachers to adjust their teaching strategies, and by students to adjust their learning strategies.

Assessment, teaching, and learning are inextricably linked, as each informs the other.

Assessment is a powerful process that can either optimise or inhibit learning, depending on how it’s applied.

The PLD received by the leadership team and teachers explored the nature of assessment coming out of NZC and NS. Teachers were asked to use multi source data in a valid, consistent, and reliable way to determine an “over all teacher judgement” (OTJ) on the achievement levels of individual and groups of students’ progress.  This required a whole school, consistent approach, a shared understanding of the process and, systems for assessment needed to be co-constructed.

We also learned about the process and power of evidence based Professional Learning Group Conversations (PLG’s) as a process to analyse, validate, and find the challenge out of school wide, team wide, and class data. We were mentored to co-construct staff protocols to be followed when participating in PLGs, learning walks, and sharing teacher inquiries. Building trusting teaching relationships where sharing and deep questioning were used as tools to support teachers to reflect on practice in order to identify next steps individually or collectively was a crucial step. This involved PLD on communication, building trusting relationships, and re-visiting the shared values and beliefs that underpinned these activities.

Previous to this, teams and individual teachers tended to have autonomy as to what they measured, how they used the information, and when this happened. There was a belief that each cohort of students should be assessed in isolation. There was a reactive attitude to unexpected low or negative data with it being labelled as invalid. Data was recorded and explained in confused ways making interrogating the data difficult. There was an over reliance on norm referenced tests, e.g. PAT (progressive achievement tests) and single one off tests that couldn’t be compared from year to year or cohort to cohort. Our whole school, cumulative data was extremely large each year yet wasn’t useful for teachers to reflect on their practice and for the school to identify next steps. We tended to describe learning, rather than explain it.

 Our challenge was to use the multiple ideas and practices coming from PLD preparing for NZC and NS to purposefully focus on improving teaching and learning through shared practice, evidence based school review, teacher as inquirer, and PLG’s. We saw NS as a tool to help us monitor and report on achievement and progress within our school

Our Evidence that student achievement and progress has been enhanced since using NS tools and school wide consistent, explicit, evidence based teaching and learning, focusing on results in Reading, Writing and Math can be found in the resources section.  See school data.