Being data-informed helps school meet the needs of learners and community

Issue: Volume 102, Number 16

Posted: 7 December 2023
Reference #: 1HAeLt

Stonefields School’s ethical and purposeful collection of data is allowing the Auckland school to serve its community and learners the best they can. A critical framework used by the school, “We asked, you said, we heard and now what?” sums up Stonefields School’s ethos. It is an example of how data can make a difference.

Bob Miller and students at Stonefields School.

Bob Miller and students at Stonefields School.

Stonefields School principal, Sarah Martin, can hand on heart tell you the extent to which her school has served its community and learners.

Sarah says this with confidence because the Auckland school is data informed. Information is ethically and purposefully collected via a range of pre-existing and school-developed tools to gain valuable insights into students’ characteristics, capabilities, wellbeing, ability to collaborate, attendance and more.

Those insights enable the school to meet the needs of its learners and community.

“Conceptually, we think about what we call the TLA – the Teaching, Learning and Assessment Cycle. And whether that’s day-to-day as a teacher, or it’s looking at strategic planning across the school, we are really reflecting on the information, the insights, and the data we have, to say ‘so now what?’” says Sarah.

Bob Miller, who was deputy principal at the time of interview, says the school uses Edge SMS and SchoolTalk to gather data.

Standardised assessments such as PATs (progressive achievement tests), Probe Reading Assessments, GloSS (Global Strategy Stage for number), IKAN (individual knowledge assessment of number), and asTTle (Assessment for teaching and learning) are commonplace in New Zealand schools. Many schools also use other initiatives such as The Code Spelling Program and Mathletics.

However, Stonefields has also built tools to measure “less usual” but important data.

“There’s a lot of tools out there for things like measuring PATs and that kind of data. But in terms of some of the things that we really value – wellbeing and agency – those analysis tools just didn’t exist, so we have built them.”

Aligning data with the school’s vision

Sarah says it was important to ensure the school’s approach to data collection aligned with its vision.

Associate principal Gina Harduar with Bob Miller.

Associate principal Gina Harduar with Bob Miller.

Stonefields School’s vision is underpinned by four key principles: building learner capacity, collaborating, making meaning, and breaking through.

In aligning the vision with the school’s approach to collecting data, a series of “success statements” was created.

“An example is ‘learners and staff understand the importance of and actively maintain and improve their hauora.’ So, the hauora tool, which is a self-perception tool, was co-constructed with our Māori whānau,”
says Sarah.

Children want to be heard, and they want to feel that their voice matters. Surveying the children to find out more about their mindsets, perspectives, passions and strengths is an easy process.

When teachers can explore qualitative data, or even summarise survey responses, they have a better chance of creating lessons that match the identities of the learners.

When learners can recognise a purpose to the learning and make a personal connection to it, they are much more likely to engage fully.

Data analysis is an opportunity to build a partnership between the school, the whānau and the learner. Sarah says the data collected is fed into a “big analytics dashboard” so that a “whole picture” can be communicated with the school community.

Guardians of data

An important part of the journey to becoming a “data-informed school” was coming up with a data policy.

“The critical phrase in that data policy is data can never ever do any harm and that the data is not our data. We are the guardians of that data and any data we collect is gifted back to those that have given that data.”

The school follows the Privacy Act 2020 which outlines how schools and other agencies must handle personal information at every stage from collection to disposal, to ensure it is kept safe and treated with respect.

The importance of ethical and appropriate data collection is also emphasised in Connected Ako: Digital and Data for Learning – the digital strategy for education agencies. The strategy states a trusted data system can shape education for individuals, whānau, education organisations and system-wide improvement.

There are many different options, not one-size-fits-all, but there are shared principles outlined in Connected Ako, which education providers may find helpful.

Sarah Martin (principal) and Bob Miller (deputy principal) discuss Stonefields School data.

Sarah Martin (principal) and Bob Miller (deputy principal) discuss Stonefields School data.

Making a difference

The need for assessment capability in teachers cannot be overstated. If teachers can get better at identifying the needs of learners, they do a better job of helping that child make progress. 

Teachers learn to be assessment capable, using tools like SchoolTalk and Engagement Sliders which help them to shape learning design in a way that meets the needs of the learners. 

Leadership needs to be able to understand the high-level summaries, trends and correlations, but assessment-capable teachers also know the stories and contexts behind the data and can help leadership build a richer picture of reality.

“We believe parent engagement is fundamental to a child's success in learning and it's what's learned last year from those teachers and engaging with that parent, that matters the year after and the year after and the year after that,” says Sarah.

With data accumulated over time families gain insights they haven’t had before.

Learn more about Te Kete Hono’s SchoolTalk at link).

Watch the video(external link) to see more about how being data-informed has helped meet the needs of learners and the community.

Te Puna Kōrero: 

Celebrating stories of digital success in education

Education Gazette is publishing a series of articles highlighting digital success stories from across the education sector.

Stories like this one of new approaches to digital in education are being regularly showcased.

Stonefields School demonstrates how being
data-informed has helped meet the needs of its learners and community.

In this story, you'll learn how Stonefields School's ethical and purposeful collection of data, is shaping learning and students' education.

Watch all videos at link).  
Read all the stories at link).

 Te Puna Korero

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 8:03 am, 7 December 2023

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