Sunday, May 3, 2015

Life in the Pit Lane

It's tough work moving through the establishment of a new school, especially when driven by the desire to lead the way in reshaping what secondary schooling needs to be like to retain its relevancy.

We started this year with our 3rd timetable structure and after one term (actually 7 weeks of operation) we are now beginning the process of what our timetable will be like in Term 3. Obviously we need to make decisions soon so that we can plan to implement it. And then we have to move quickly during Term 3 to determine what our timetable will need to be like in our 3rd year of operation with a Year 9-11 cohort (and with a small group of Year 12s who snuck in while we looked the other way). Because whatever we decide we will need lead-in time to prepare.

Feels a bit like this

It seems like a never-ending cycle of review and redesign. And of course it is and it's the way it has to be if we wish to remain responsive to what's best for our students.

I'm really pleased with where we have progressed our thinking about how NCEA will fit within our Vision and Principles and best support our learners. Further detail can be found in my previous post and also in one from Claire.

We repeated our parent workshop with our students during the first week of term and as part of the workshop we asked our students to give us feedback on what they liked about what they heard and what concerns they still had:
What Do We Like?

  • more time to focus on quality
    • quality not quantity
    • get to focus deeply on a few credits rather than heaps of credits on the surface
    • more time to achieve higher goals
    • doing less better
  • less stress
    • I feel more calm
    • helping us to be less anxious
  • time to do other learning
  • time for life (out of school)
  • enjoy learning
  • become more confident
  • concentrate on passions and interests
  • achieve Level 1 when get Level 2
    • only need 20 credits in Year 11
  • no useless credits
  • it is a different way
  • internationally recognised
  • carry over credits from year to year
  • understand NCEA much more
  • not based on age but based on skill level
  • seems pretty nifty thankyou
  • the use of solo rubrics
  • simplicity
  • focus on Merit and Excellence
  • we get to enjoy school more
  • still get to keep combined subjects

It was cool to get this sort of feedback from our students as it showed that many of them really understand what is driving us at our school.

And what questions they were still asking!:

  • Still want to get a high grade in NCEA L1
  • Can we aim for more credits than 20 in L1?
  • What do I do if I fail L3 in my last year?
  • Are we doing enough learning now for NCEA?
  • Will there be support groups for people who are struggling?
  • How certain are you that we will get NCEA L2?
  • Do all L1 credits have to be in English and Maths?
  • Is it the more credits you get the better?
  • Will what I study for NCEA get me a job?
  • How will I know which credits to go for?
  • Will I be able to match my career choice with what I want to study?
  • What is the difference between internals and externals?
  • Will we be able to do scholarship?
  • Why not Cambridge?
  • Not doing L1 might mean we fail L2. We might be under more pressure at L2.
  • What about students who enjoy tests and exams?
  • Do we need literacy and numeracy at L2?

As well, ongoing feedback from parents has been great. We were part of a Hobsonville Point wider community open day this weekend and we opened up the school. When one set of parents came in to deliver food for their son who was part of the 48 hour Film Challenge that was going on they talked about their relief with our approach as their older son was experiencing quite high levels of stress with NCEA at L3 in the school that he attended.

I am very careful not to criticise individual schools at any time. I sincerely believe that the issue of stress and assessment anxiety around qualifications in particular (but not excluding junior school test anxiety) is a systemic issue. It is going to require some courageous schools to thumb their noses at league tables, reject the ethos of competition, accept the challenge of bringing parents along with them and placing the needs of students right at the centre.

Another process that is maturing at our school is our tracking and reporting. See Heemi's blog post on the detail. Last Friday our students accessed their mid module formative report as described in Heemi's post through the student portal and followed a process of analysing the comments, curriculum levels and SOLO indications with each student having a one-on-one conversation with their Coach.

Students analysing formative reports with Learning Coach conferencing with individual

At the end of the day parents were given access to the same through the parent portal. Because of what we did during Learning Hub at the end of the day we feel our students were well-placed to lead the discussion at home with their parents.

While we might like to slow the pace to the more gentle pace shown here by our wonderful Arohanui school mates paddling their waka in our school as they embrace our current theme/concept of Cultural Diversity I can't help but think it's going to be more like the pit-lane pace shown at the beginning.

Now....what next? That's right tomorrow's Mondays with Maurie is going to focus on the issue of homework. Wonder how that will pan out?

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