Sunday, 15 October 2017

Continuity of student learning

I watched with interest a TV speech to the National Press Club of Australia by the CEO of the Business Council of Australia.  She outlined a plan for the reform of school and tertiary education in Australia.

My first comment is about her recommendation that outstanding teachers should be paid more to remain in the classroom rather than aspire to be school Principals.  I am not against paying them more  but not to the level of the remuneration of a school Principal.  The positive effect that an effective Principal has on the performance of a school is well documented and I have seen it over and over in the field.  A top Principal will ensure that all his teachers are up to the mark on best practices.

My second comment is that the speaker in referring to student performance in Australian primary (elementary) and secondary (high) schools did not mention how vital it is to ensure continuity of learning for each student.  That is in subjects where mastery of prerequisites is needed to move on to new learning, the next step if you will, teachers need to be dogged in enabling students to attain the necessary mastery.  I still have my serious doubts that there is a commitment to this in all schools and I continue to worry about relevant data transfer as students move to new teachers in the next school year and from primary to secondary school.  In some cases there are more transition points from primary to middle school to secondary school.

My book on effective schools is big on the continuity theme and I have shared this in previous posts on this blog with almost the passion of a zealot.



May the Force be with you as you carry on being great school Principals!


GD

Friday, 13 October 2017

Taking on students with a disability in a mainstream school

Many years ago I was asked by parents to take on their seriously hearing impaired daughter in my K-12 school in a fairly isolated rural environment.  Understandably they did not want to send her away from home to a location where more specialised education was available.

I took her on but found that teaching a seriously hearing impaired person is one of the hardest things I have ever attempted.  I encouraged the family to organise to seek more specialised help.  We just did not have the skills nor the resources to do justice to this child.

This week I read a report from the NSW government about schools taking into their mainstream classes students with various forms of learning difficulties and in particular autistic children.  I understand why the parents want these children in the mainstream and agree with this practice if the school has the staff trained to manage such situations and still give all the other children their best shot at a comprehensive education.  The report tabled practices to manage these children that it described as totally inappropriate and in some cases abusive to the individual student.

Some of the criticised practices smacked of desperate teachers trying to manage without having the full array of skills to do so.  My concern is that schools may feel pressured to mainstream say fairly severe autistic students in sympathy with what is deemed standard practice the days.  Nobody is a winner in such situations, especially not the students and their parents.

I will probably be labelled politically and ethically incorrect for showing sympathy for the sincere teachers who just could not manage to provide a full education for these children.  Human and other resources must be at their optimum if a school is to take on such students in the mainstream.  Principals should have the discretion to resist mainstreaming such students if they do not have the resources.  Principals need to to be brave in this for the good of the students and should not be subject to unwarranted criticism by the resource providers who have not come to the party.  Hopefully  the affected parents would agree.

May the Force be with you!


GD

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Editing feedback

Part of my purpose in sharing with any interested readers the draft of my book on School Effectiveness was to possibly receive some comments about the usefulness of the content to practising school Principals. Any comments would assist my editing and decision whether to publish or not.  It is crass to seek comments on a blog, but I would be disappointed to present in published form something that is useless to the practising school Principal.

I have consistently received an encouraging number of readers and wonder if any of these interested persons have time to provide me with a comment or two.  The comments could be on individual posts or general comments.  Don't spare me if what I have presented is not useful.  Having been a Principal I know how busy you are and that you have no time to waste on poor materials that provide no assistance to your day to day work.

Take care and I trust the trauma of the the Las Vegas disaster is not too close to home for my US readers.  I am reminded of the song Everybody Hurts. We all hurt at some stage in our lives, but it usually passes or at least dims with time and the love of those close to us. To be hurting over the Las Vegas tragedy seems more than anyone should have to bear.

When I was a Superintendent of Schools I used to write to all school staff members of the many schools in my district towards the close of a busy school year via my newsletter.  My central message was to take time out with loved ones as this is the ultimate nature of reality on this Earth.

Contemporary school Principals have an incredibly busy life and face many more challenges than in my day as a Principal.  It is a wonderful job as I have said many times, but no job is worth losing you family over.

"Hold your family close.  Never for a second take them for granted as that will be the second you lose them." ( A quote by a daughter whose father's life had been tragically taken.)

Sorry.  I begin to ramble.


May the Force be with you!


GD


Friday, 6 October 2017

School Development Planning (SDP) element #26

Hi to my followers out there in school land!  This is the final element of the SDP.  Do I hear sighs of relief?


SDP element #26
The Annual Report
Aligned SE criterion
In a general sense the parents can access the Annual Report of the school as an extra line of communication.
Current school documentation and situation
The school documentation affirms the requirement of an Annual Report and contains a suitable template that is flexible enough for items specific to a particular year.
Development objectives for 2016
Compile and publish the Annual Report.
Resources needed

·       people,
·       money
·       time
·       location
·       stationery
·       IT
·       Administrative and clerical staff
·       Over a 4 week period
·       On site
·       Relevant IT data bases
Timeline to achieve the objective(s)
During Term 4 2016
Process for achieving the objectives
Gather the relevant data and compile the report.
Outcome(s) of the assessment of the attainment of the objective(s)
An Annual Report was produced for 2016.  It adequately informed the school community members and met the requirements of the National School Opinion Survey.



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You might recall if you have followed this blog for some time that each post is part of a book in final editing.  The book is about school effectiveness and how to ascertain how effective a school is.  It is written by a narrator/scribe about the views of Tom, a revered educator.  The whole book is put down on Tom's boat. This will assist you to make sense of the closing paragraphs of the book as follows:


"There it all was.  Tom concluded that evaluating school effectiveness was a formative process enshrined in the SDP.  If the evaluation revealed ineffective practices then change needed to occur.  Summative snap shots of student performance in some syllabus areas were to be obtained from the NAPLAN testing.  Even this was formative in the sense that it could reveal areas in the learning program that needed improvement.

Tom noted that schools have access to The National Improvement Tool (NSIT) developed by the ACER and approved by the Australian Council of Ministers of education for use in Australian schools.  He suggested that it is well worth a look by schools as helpful for their school improvement strategies.  (See NSIT on the internet)

It was early evening and we sat and had a quiet drink to unwind from the intensity of the day.  Tom had invited me to stay for the night and I was pleased to do so.  It had been a pleasure working with this unassuming educator.  We chatted about the tasks that I now had ahead of me to put the treatise into publishing order.  Tom being the practical and humble person that he was expressed some doubts about the usefulness of the treatise to practising principals.  I tried to put his mind at rest and indicated that we would make a good fist of getting it out there and let the audience decide the worth of the work.   It was a beautiful night on the river with the lights of the distant city reflected on the calm river surface and the lapping of the water gently on the hull.  Sleep came easily."



*************

There it is folks for what it is worth.  GD is all but written out on being a school Principal.  I am here to interact if anyone is interested.  Maybe we could strike up a dialogue or the overused term a "conversation".   I humbly submit that maybe I can be of help with a problem you may be experiencing as a school Principal.

I close this post by reiterating how I loved being a school Principal.  I guess I have been reliving those happy years in writing the book and posting this blog.


May the Force be with you!


GD














Thursday, 5 October 2017

School Development Planning (SDP) element #25

In Australia all schools private and government are required to submit details to the Myschool website.  This site enables parents to peruse the details of their school about student performance and other matters.  There is a view in respect of this site that it enables parents to select the school to which they want to send their children. This has restrictions if a government school is chosen as students from within the zone for that school are generally expected to attend that school.  There are exceptions that I have gone into in another place.

In my view the Myschool website is a manifestation of a Federal Government that is too focused on academic results and not the whole child.  Government schooling is constitutionally a matter for each Australian state but the Federal Government wields the power of fiscal grants to maintain some control.  I suggest you Google 'Gonski andAustralian schooling".



SDP element #25
The Myschool website requirements.
Aligned SE criterion
In a general sense the parents can access the site for their school as an extra line of communication.
Current school documentation and situation
The school has detailed documentation about the Federal Government obligations in respect of reporting data for the Myschool website.
Development objectives for 2016
Meet the obligations for the Myschool website
Resources needed

·       people,
·       money
·       time
·       location
·       stationery
·       IT
·       Administrative staff
·       Clerical time
·       The school site
·       Relevant IT data bases
Timeline to achieve the objective(s)
Guided by the formal timeline for information.
Process for achieving the objectives
Gather and deliver the required data.
Outcome(s) of the assessment of the attainment of the objective(s)
The required data has been delivered on time.



One SDP element to go!

This site has considerable interest from US followers.  I'd love a comment or two about why this is so.


May the Force be with you!



GD








Tuesday, 3 October 2017

School Development Planning (SDP) element #24

To any US readers my sympathies about the Las Vegas massacre.  It beggars belief.  We Australians have very tight gun laws and do not constitutionally have the right to bear arms.  This is all down to a recent prime minister who bit the gun control bullet after a massacre shooting in Port Arthur Tasmania our southern most state.

*********************************

This is about keeping up to date with curriculum changes as done by the quasi government bodies who have such responsibility.


SDP element #24
Relationships with quasi government assessment bodies appointed by the State or Territory.  This applies more to secondary schools and the need to meet tertiary entrance requirements.
Aligned SE criterion
NA
Current school documentation
The school has clear and stable documentation about these relationships.
Development objectives for 2016
Keep abreast of the State’s adjustments to the ANC and apply these in the school.
Induct new staff into these relationships.
Resources needed

·       people,
·       money
·       time
·       location
·       stationery
·       IT
·       Administrative staff (primary) keep abreast of the ANC changes and inform and mentor teachers in implementing the changes. (In secondary schools ‘curriculum coordinators’ and ‘senior subject teachers’ would be responsible for keeping all relevant staff up to date.)

·       This is an ongoing check and act process with the communications coming out of the state body that controls the adjustments to the ANC.
Timeline to achieve the objective(s)
Ongoing throughout 2016
Process for achieving the objectives
Awareness by the administrative staff and mentoring the changes. Ensuring that too much change is not attempted.

Outcome(s) of the assessment of the attainment of the objective(s)
The ANC as administered in the school is up to date with the latest changes to the ANC


Almost there in this long haul of SDP elements.


May the Force be with you!


GD