Supplementary support for accelerating students’ learning moves to secondary

Issue: Volume 93, Number 17

Posted: 22 September 2014
Reference #: 1H9csc

Accelerated Learning in Literacy and Mathematics (ALL and ALiM) has proven to be a highly effective, targeted support for accelerating students at primary school level; the initiative is now being trialed among junior secondary students at 10 schools throughout the country.

Many teachers will be familiar with the primary supplementary supports ALL (Accelerated Literacy Learning) and ALiM (Accelerated Learning in Mathematics). This initiative uses comprehensive data to identify those students who are at risk of falling substantially behind with their maths or literacy progress.

Having identified a cohort of target students, an inquiry process is used to gain understanding as to how best to go about accelerating each of the individual students in the target group and to get them back up to speed.

ALiM/ALL are school-led and school-driven initiatives that utilise the expert knowledge and experience of existing teachers, who take the lead roles. Schools design, teach, reflect on, and closely monitor the 15-week supplementary support, with the support of a wider inquiry team.

The supplementary support has performed well in terms of the impact it has made in getting students who are achieving below expectation back on course. For that reason, the Ministry is conducting a pilot at junior secondary level to see if the initiative can work in a secondary context.

Five schools are taking part in the ALL pilot, with another five trialling ALiM. These schools are throughout the country and cover a wide decile range. Upon completion, the pilot will be assessed, and if it is shown to have made a difference in terms of accelerating students, decisions will be made about the future of Years 9 and 10 ALL and ALiM.

Manurewa’s three-pronged intervention

Sandy McAllen is a teacher at Manurewa High School, and has taken the lead ALL role at her school, with a cohort of six identified target students. She says that Years 9 and 10 are a great time for this kind of initiative because teachers of this age group have a two-year opportunity, between National Standards and NCEA, to build up skills that will prepare students for the structure and rigour of NCEA.

“[Students of this age] aren’t assessed for any qualification, but on the other hand, this gives us the chance to build. In a sense, [the ALL programme] does give students that structure, in terms of rigorous reading, for example, that puts targets and focus in place.”

Of course, there are a number of fundamental differences between the way of life of a primary school and that of the secondary school, which make for several key differences in the way the ALL programme is delivered. This is something the pilot itself will explore and feedback on.

There’s one big upside, says Sandy: she can call upon some of the more civic-minded senior Year 12 pupils who’ve put up their hand to help. This ‘student on student’ mentor relationship comes with benefit to all parties: the juniors may naturally look up to senior students, and senior students experience the satisfaction of accepting adult responsibility.

Sandy takes a three-pronged approach throughout the course of the intervention.

“The first is the in-class, differentiated comprehension instruction. That’s where I will sit with the students, I’ll float between two groups of three, and as the students are given a text to read in a certain content area, I am then able to sit with the students and to break down the text in terms of area of need.

“The assessment that the students were given at the start of the term provided a report that gave me very specific information about the skills that these students need in order to access a text. From there, I can sit down with a student and the text and help to break it down. For example, there are a couple of students that struggle with ‘word attack’ skills. So the student may come across a word that they don’t know, and I can provide targeted assistance.

“On top of that, I supplement what I’m doing in the classroom, so students can come and see me and work through the teaching of specific skills. We have sessions where I can give them modelled and guided practice, as it were, in those particular skills.”

This knowledge is then consolidated by the students’ time with their senior mentors, who help the students through work that can solidify the skills they’ve learnt with Sandy.

“I can’t speak highly enough of these seniors and the value they bring to this initiative. The relationships that have been built between the classroom teacher and the students, between the students and myself, and between the seniors and the target students, it’s really phenomenal.”

“[The senior student mentors] help to consolidate the skills that I’m teaching. I provide the student mentors with mini-practice tasks, which require students to show the skills they’ve learned.”

The targeted students are also taking work home. Sandy has had lots of meetings with family members, parents, and whānau have come in to the school to discuss their child’s progress, and what Sandy and her team are trying to achieve – and why – and she maintains regular email contact with everyone concerned. So if a student is really struggling with something in particular, parents are aware and can reinforce learning at home.

Because Sandy and her team are only part-way through their 10-week programme, no data has yet been gathered that would indicate whether the programme is having an impact on her acceleration cohort. Anecdotally, Sandy’s impressions are thus far very positive; she says that the students get a great sense of satisfaction when they acquire the tools to decode text, and this gives them confidence, which should lead to them getting more out of literacy learning. By the time the cohort comes out the other end of the pilot programme, Sandy is confident that her students will be far better prepared to tackle NCEA.

The Ministry of Education is currently doing a multi-level analysis and evaluation of the junior secondary pilot, before any decisions are made as to the future of the programme. Once this analysis has taken place, Education Gazette will run a story detailing the outcomes of the programme and any information about its future.

BY Jaylan Boyle
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:04 am, 22 September 2014

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