Monday 10th March, 2014 Dear Parents In terms of our planning, the end of the school year is quickly drawing to a close. As you will be aware it is at this time of year that we commence the class placement process for the next academic year. This letter serves two purposes: 1. It introduces the Class Placement Process, and; 2. Provides you with the opportunity to provide the school with feedback on the year and your child’s needs as a learner. This letter is structured around some of the questions I have been asked by parents. At the end of the letter there is a link to a parent survey so that you are able to provide us feedback on the year and information about your child’s learning needs. NIST Elementary School Class Placement Guiding Principle: The class placement process is designed to establish learning pods that accommodate the social, emotional and academic needs of students, whilst ensuring a diversity of nationality, language and gender balance. To best meet the individual learning needs of students, a ‘clustering model’ groups students with common learning needs. Why do schools adopt a class placement process? In schools like NIST there are numerous factors that need to be considered when placing students. Our highest priority is to ensure that every child’s social and emotional needs are considered. Following this, we need to give careful consideration to balance of the classes to ensure that we cater for students requiring additional support (such as English as an Additional Language [EAL], Learning Support [LS], or Exceptional Learners [EL]). Additionally, we maintain a range of student nationalities across classes to ensure diversity in the student group. The main reason for following a protocol, like the one developed at NIST, is to ensure that our approach is equitable for all students and all families and that the students’ needs are given the highest priority. What data is used in placing students? As a school we collect a wealth of information about each student. We have access to a wide range of data from diagnostic assessments, summative assessments and the anecdotal information we collect on a daily basis. Another significant component that informs the process is the information we collect from students. In Years 2- 6 the students complete the ‘sociogram’, a computer-based survey, which helps us to identify friendships, students who work well together, relationship difficulties and students who may be a concern for having low self-esteem. In EY and Year 1, friendships are ever changing, therefore we ask the teachers to help us identify student friendships based on their observations throughout the year.
How will the data be collated? As you will appreciate, there is a great deal of information that needs to be considered and a large number of combinations that need to be factored into this involved process. Therefore, we use technology as much as possible to eradicate human error and increase efficiency. The data we collect is taken from Veracross and then aggregated to provide us with a clear picture of the learning needs across the school. The ‘sociogram’ data is tracked through a database so that we are able to ascertain that all children are placed with a child with whom they have at least one strong personal connection. It also tracks any concerns where we feel it would be detrimental for students to be together, a rare but important fact. Who are the members of the class placement team and what is their role in the process? The Class Placement Team is comprised of the Elementary Principal, Elementary Vice Principal – Student Wellbeing, our two Student Counsellors, English as an Additional Language Coordinator, Learning Support Coordinator, Exceptional Learner Manager and the IT Coordinator supporting the team in a technical role. The Class Placement Team is responsible for designing the process that will be followed, the initial placement of students, the review of class lists and the final decision on placements where there is uncertainty. How does the class placement change as the children move through the school? As children move through the school and are more able to articulate their needs, their involvement in the class placement process increases through the use of the ‘sociogram’. With our youngest learners, (EY1-Y1) the teachers and academic assistants play a bigger role as they spend a lot more time with the children in social settings. For example, they supervise break and lunch times so observe who the children play with and from the class, who they work well with. As the children move into the older year levels the focus shifts and less emphasis is placed on friendship and the focus shifts to who the students work well with. How do we assign teachers to classes? NIST attracts top quality, highly professional teachers. Because the teachers plan collaboratively and there is consistency in the way we assess student learning, the teaching across classes is very similar. Therefore, we feel strongly that the vast majority of students will be successful with the vast majority of teachers. Assigning teachers to a class is one of the last steps once the classes have been formed and all of the other factors have been considered. This will be completed by the Principal in consultation with the Class Placement Team. What parameters influence the make-up of the classes? No one child is the same and they all have different strengths, different learning needs and a range of social and emotional needs. In addition to this, there are some formal groupings the school makes to support individual students. For example, English language learners will often receive EAL support. Some students require focused support for identified learning needs. This support comes in the form of Learning Support and students often require this support at different times through their education. In addition, we offer a differentiated approach to students who have been identified as exceptional learners. In an international school it is also important that we look to ensure a balance of nationalities and mother tongue English speakers. Finally, we need to work hard to ensure that when all of these factors are considered, the classes are balanced by nationality and gender. Do I get to choose my child’s class?
As you will appreciate from this letter, the class placements are a highly involved process. There are an enormous number of factors that need to be considered. To ensure that we meet the needs of all learners we are unable to consider personal requests. How will your feedback be used? As a school we are committed to reflective practice, therefore, we value your input. I would be interested in receiving feedback from you in regards to these three questions: 1. What has made this year successful? 2. Where can we improve as a school? 3. What are your childâ€™s needs as a learner? Please click on the link below to respond to the questions. This survey is confidential and will only be viewed by the Principal and Vice Principals of the Elementary School. Link to parent survey These responses will only be received and considered prior to Friday, 4 th April, 2014. As we have new students joining us at the beginning of next year, the class lists not finalized until early August when enrollment has been completed. We hope that this message helps you better understand our Elementary School Class Placement Process. We invest a great deal of time, care and effort so that students at NIST have a happy, safe and enjoyable year of learning in their new classes. Kind regards Brett Penny Elementary Principal