Like many schools we are currently looking at the data from last year’s Year 2, 6, 11 and 13 cohorts via RAISE, FFT & ALPS. The various documents have reinforced where we need to put our improvement efforts to ensure current pupils’ future success. Invariably too much focus will be on the short term; success next summer.
RAISE and the FFT analyses are useful in terms of comparing performance against other schools and national norms but the real school improvement focus is often missed; “it matters much more which classroom you go to than which school”. If we are ever going to create a great school the areas to address and solutions are right under our nose.
Much has been written about in-school variation, a major cause of underperformance, but politicians still spend far too much time and energy on structural reform. School leaders spend far too much time looking over the school fence to see what is happening next door. These things matter less than looking in real detail at the differences in pupils progress in the classrooms in your own school.
It’s not about snooping to identify a few underperforming or great teachers. This is much more about identifying what elements of the curriculum a teacher is good at teaching. And conversely, what elements a teacher is not so great at teaching. By forensicly identifyind issues and securing improvements we will actually increase the number of great teachers quite significantly. This process is the precursor to moving from imposed accountability to professional responsibility. It is one small step for each teacher but one giant leap for the teaching profession.
John Hattie’s paper What Works Best in Education: The Politics of Collaborative Expertise provides a blueprint or roadmap for the journey. It takes you deep inside the classroom and requires teachers and school leaders to re-imagine what and how they are working together. It’s about cultural shift. The paper’s section (the roadmap) headings are below and I’ve given you a mini extract from some of them. If you are working or interested in education it’s well worth taking the time to read the whole paper.
Task 1: Shift the narrative
Task 2: Secure agreement about what a year’s progress looks like
Task 3: Expect a year’s worth of progress
Task 4: Develop new assessment and evaluation tools to provide feedback to teachers
Task 5: Know thy impact!
Task 6: Ensure teachers have expertise in diagnosis, interventions and evaluation
Task 7: Stop ignoring what we know and scale up success
Task 8: Link autonomy to a year’s progress
As the saying goes, we’re on the journey. Our approach to assessment is taking us deep into the classroom and the impact of teaching on pupils’ progress. We deal in the small grain, disaggregated data that identifies what pupils do and don’t know. It also tells us what we have and haven’t taught well. The beauty of this small grain size is any talk of “accountability” would be senseless; it pulls people into a desire to teach an aspect better. Teachers taking greater responsibility and the trust that emanates from this is built.
Depressingly, however, we are only scratching at the surface of the potential impact of the system. The challenge for this year is building the level of “collaborative expertise” required to improve teaching; sharing good practice as that which has been shown to improve pupils’ learning. Enough time is the eternal problem and my biggest challenge. Along with all the other school leaders we need to determine what can we reduce or give up and stop doing? Real school improvement starts here, right under your nose, and it needs to start now.