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CASE STUDIES – LOW SES SCHOOL COMMUNITIES NATIONAL PARTNERSHIP BARRACK HEIGHTS PUBLIC SCHOOL A whole school professional learning approach to building teacher capacity in the teaching of writing Reforms All six Reforms are evident in the School Plan. This case study highlights: Reform 3 Reform 4 Reform 5

School operational arrangements that encourage innovation and flexibility Providing innovative and tailored learning opportunities Strengthen school accountability

Key words writing, whole school approach, professional learning

The context Barrack Heights Public School is located south of Wollongong in the Shellharbour City Council area of New South Wales. The school has an enrolment of 297, including 65 Aboriginal students. There are 11 classes, with a staff of 36, who work at the school in a full-time or part-time capacity. This includes seven full-time and two part-time School Learning Support Officers and eight teachers undertaking duties that include Reading Recovery, Support Teacher Learning and Library.

Description of the area being highlighted The school has a whole school professional learning program designed to build teachers’ knowledge and skills in the teaching of writing. The program involves all teaching staff and School Learning Support Officers. Resources provided through the Low SES School Communities National Partnership have enabled an additional assistant principal position to be established to coordinate the school’s mentoring program and professional learning. The professional learning includes: the writing component of the English K-6 syllabus ongoing training and support in Accelerated Literacy pedagogy support on grammar, formulation and assessment of criteria based writing assessment and nominated text types increased support for Teaching Handwriting, Reading and Spelling Skills (THRASS) consistent teacher judgement practices and procedures.

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Professional support and learning at the school level The following internal structures have built the capacity of the teaching staff and facilitated the effectiveness of the initiative: whole school professional learning meetings to ensure an understanding of the continuum of learning in writing from Early Stage 1 to Stage 3 whole school and stage-based professional learning meeting on Accelerated Literacy and Teaching Handwriting, Reading and Spelling Skills (THRASS) regular stage-based meetings are timetabled to enable feedback, reflection, professional dialogue as well as the planning and implementation of writing programs.

Evidence-base The 2009 situational analysis included a review of a range of data. The following data informs this case study. 2009 NAPLAN data showed that: 39 per cent of Year 3 students in Bands 5 and 6 in writing compared to 51 per cent of the state 21 per cent of Year 5 students in Bands 3 and 4 in writing compared to 15 per cent of the state 9 per cent of Year 5 students in Bands 7 and 8 in writing compared to 27 per cent of the state all groups out performed the state in terms of the growth in writing from Years 3 to 5 there is a concentration of Aboriginal students in Bands 1 and 2 for Year 3 and Bands 4, 5 and 6 for Year 5 the mean scores for all students in writing reflect a closing of the gap, between the school and state means, in Year 3 over the last four years, a trend replicated with Year 5 boys but not with Year 5 girls this year students require skill development in the areas of proofreading and transferring their spelling knowledge to different forms of assessment all students from Years 3 to 5 outperformed the state in terms of the growth in writing.

Indicators of success The success of the initiative will be measured: against the following targets in the School Plan using 2010 NAPLAN data - 10 per cent shift from 39 per cent to 49 per cent in the top two proficient bands for Year 3 in the writing assessment - 11 per cent shift from 9 per cent to 20 per cent in the top two proficient bands for Year 5 in the writing assessment - 15 per cent shift from Band 5 and 6 (48 per cent in 2009) to Bands 7 and 8 in spelling on the impact of the professional learning program - teachers planning and assessing using the writing component of the English K-6 syllabus and Accelerated Literacy pedagogy

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teachers using a variety of effective pedagogical strategies leading to improvement in student results in NAPLAN, Nelson Single Word Test and the Teaching Handwriting, Reading and Spelling Skills (THRASS) evaluation.

Evaluation and monitoring The overall success will be determined against the achievement of relevant targets outlined in the Indicators of Success. Evaluation and monitoring data will also include: NAPLAN 2009 and 2010 ongoing school-developed assessments including stage based writing criteria South Australian Spelling Test Nelson Single Word Test school developed Teaching Handwriting, Reading and Spelling Skills (THRASS) evaluation literacy surveys with teachers, students and parents.

Progress In 2010, participation of the whole staff in professional learning has resulted in increased teacher confidence and knowledge of the English K-6 syllabus as observed in teaching and learning programs and assessment and reporting practices. Consistent teacher judgement practices evident in: teacher programs effective participation in consistent teacher judgement discussions teachers’ ability to effectively analyse students’ writing samples in relation to writing rubrics shared common language across the school unity in content and a focus on grammar. Measurable improvement in the students’ writing skills has been observed by teachers and is evident in an increase in the use of appropriate grammar structure within the text types studied. This includes correct use of sentence structures, paragraphing skills, sequencing of ideas, experimentation with writing techniques such as the use of similes and metaphors and application of spelling knowledge to appropriate text types.

Success factors The key transformations that have been critical to the effectiveness of the whole school approach to writing have been the: flexible use of teaching staff incorporated into a whole school timetable organisation of a timetabled whole-school literacy session that allows for sharing of expertise across all year levels additional teaching staff including four School Learning Support Officer roles to create smaller cohesive groups that operate throughout Early Stage One to Stage Three analysis of NAPLAN data to inform teaching and learning programs for Years 3 and 5 provision of an additional teacher to assist with literacy programs

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utilisation of the knowledge and skills of the regional consultancy provision of support by the program coordinator to provide mentoring and supervision of the program across the school acquisition of high interest resources to engage students in writing.

Support The school receives support from: the Priority Schools Programs Consultant who acts as a critical friend to the school in relation to teaching programs and professional learning one of the school’s Assistant Principals who is also the regional Accelerated Literacy Tutor, to facilitate aspects of the program at the school.

Interagency collaboration The school networks with the neighbouring Warilla North Public School for professional learning activities to share resources and expertise.

Challenges Challenges Providing internal structures that allow time for teachers to reflect and refine their own teaching practices to improve student learning.

Ensuring that assessment and evaluation processes are consistent with other teachers at each stage level.

Solutions regular meetings are scheduled for teachers to engage in professional discussions on pedagogy teachers are engaged in analysing NAPLAN results and other assessments informing identified needs and teaching practices student learning activities are well resourced. Teachers meet regularly to moderate student writing work samples ensuring consistency in teacher judgement.

Additional resourcing The project has been supported by the Priority Schools Programs, Best Start and the Language, Learning and Literacy programs through funding and the use of additional regional consultancy.

Next steps The school is planning to continue with: professional learning for teachers on persuasive texts analysis of the syllabus review of writing criteria implementation and instruction in grammar

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analysis of specific text type and development of the assessment rubric a major emphasis on Consistent Teacher Judgement with reference to the NSW Quality Teaching model. The revised situational analysis will inform ongoing planning, strategy implementation and resource allocation.

Relevant research Cashmore, J. 2001. Family, early development and life course: common risk and protective factors in pathways to prevention. In R. Eckersley, J. Dixon & B. Douglas (Eds.), The Social Origins of Health and Well-being (pp. 216–224). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Elias, G., Hay, I., Homel, R., and Freiberg, K., 2006. Enhancing parent-child book reading in a disadvantaged community. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 3 NSW Department of Education and Training, 2003. Quality Teaching in NSW public schools – Discussion paper, NSW Department of Education and Training, Sydney Paul, R. 2007. Language disorders: From infancy through adolescence (3rd ed.). St. Louis, MI: Mosby Rowe, K. 2004. The importance of teaching: ensuring better schooling by building teacher capacities that maximize the quality of teaching and learning provision {implications of findings from the international and Australian evidence-based research. http://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1010& context=learning processes

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