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Owning not groaning the data

At Taranganba State School, a regional school in Yeppoon, Queensland, the problem was evident.  In 2011 NAPLAN data showed that Year 3 Reading levels at Taranganba were below the State and National Mean. Last year, Taranganba State School was at national Mean Scale Score for all areas in Year 3 and four out of five areas in Year 5.

While rewards certainly include the improvement in data, the school’s morale is at an all-time high. It won the Regional Showcase Award for Excellence in Early and Primary Years, which led to the acknowledgement of the school community that the education their children are receiving at a regional Queensland school was comparable to anywhere else in the state and the country.

How did the school manage such a transformation in six years, and with a cohort of 686 students, including 7% indigenous students and 7.3% students with a verified disability, and a further 10% identified under the Disability Discrimination Act?

This question was posed at ALL’s first Twilight Seminar when Eleanor Bridger, ALL’s Project Manager sat down with Katrina Jones, Acting Principal at Taranganba State School and Tracy Callinan, Literacy Leader at Taranganba to learn more.

According to Katrina Jones, central to the turnaround was the need for the school’s teachers and leadership team to own the data.

“Before we introduced our Way of Reading program, whenever NAPLAN was mentioned or even data, the teachers groaned and any work we did in this area felt like a compliance exercise,” Katrina Jones said. 

Taranganba used a mix of approaches with data to transform learning and teaching at the school. These included: a matrix of plotting student achievement and improvement, linking classroom observations to the data sets; helping teachers learn how to understand what the data meant; bringing in to build teachers’ knowledge and skills; and applying the work of Hattie’s ‘Guide, Do, Apply’ to a reading scope and sequence document.

According to Katrina Jones, one of the ‘big movers’ for the teachers was using colour coding class data sets such as PAT-R and TORCH data, to show below, at and above levels.  The teachers could appraise progress and tie this to expected growth.

“Effectively reviewing what was going on in classrooms became everyone’s business and the conversation was about where to next,” she said.

Today staff feel that data is not a judgement of their teaching ability but a starting point for each step in the journey.  The focus is on growth and improvement, not just achievement.

“Together, we plan the action – the teaching - and we celebrate the improvement and growth of students, classes, and the school as a whole.  The data gives us the evidence; we pose the questions and interpret.  Conversation is the key,” Katrina Jones said.

The school is now applying its literacy strategies to a Way of Working in Mathematical Reasoning and Problem Solving, as well as within its Inquiry Framework across the curriculum areas of Science, Technologies, and History.

Four steps to success:

  1. Meeting Structure – there is a clear agenda with established shared practice/ discussions components.  Time is allocated to scan and assess data sets.
  2. Additional Funding – Investing 4 Success – was used to extend teacher aide times to cover playground duty to release staff for team meetings.  These meetings focus on data and actions.
  3. Planning Cycle - held twice a year.  All teachers on the year level are involved including part-time teachers and support staff, such as teachers of students with a disability.   The professional development budget privileged time to understand data and plan consistent overviews of curriculum areas. 
  4. Teachers Released to meet with their team leader to have a data conversation in Term 1. Discussion was about what teachers were currently seeing, whether the data matched this, and then future planning.  These data conversations showed every teacher’s knowledge of their students, and the leadership team were also able to see patterns emerging across cohorts.

Read this ALL Case Study in full or download the publication Joy and Data: Creating success for every student.

Image credit: 

Andy Drewitt