Curriculum Progress Tools provide big picture

Issue: Volume 99, Number 2

Posted: 14 February 2020
Reference #: 1HA5Rm

A new way of recording progress should result in more informed teachers who can meet the needs of students better, says a group of maths teachers.

Otago Girls’ High School (OGHS) is one of the first secondary schools to trial the Ministry of Education’s Learning Progression Framework (LPF). The school’s maths and English departments learned about it during 2019 and will begin to use it this year. 

The Curriculum Progress Tools(external link) support student progress in literacy and numeracy and will provide nationwide consistency and an overview of students’ progress in these foundational learning areas. They allow teachers to make a more complete judgement of student progress, as in-class ability is included, alongside achievement in tests.

The tools cover the breadth of the mathematics and statistics learning area in eight aspects such as additive thinking, multiplicative thinking, patterns and relationships and geometrical thinking and will eventually show a student’s progress from Year 1 to Year 10, says Jeanette Chapman, head of the maths department at OGHS. 

“As a maths department we thought it sounded very promising because it was good to see the progressions across the topic.”

Added confidence

Jeanette believes that the tools enable teachers to create a good picture of what students can do, and the fact that this picture will not rely solely on high-pressure assessments like tests or exams, will give students added confidence.

“At the moment people use PAT tests or e-asTTle (online maths test) a lot, but they are like a one-off snapshot. If the student is having a bad day, they may not do so well, but with the tools assessing progress over a longer time it’s not just test results, but actually what they are doing in class,” Jeanette says. 

The tools cover progress in reading, writing and mathematics and will provide a range of reports showing overall class progress and individual student progress. The information will enable teachers to plan teaching and learning programmes and more accurately target their efforts to students who need extra help – or extension. One of the reports has been specifically designed to provide clear and consistent information to parents and whānau.

The information from the Curriculum Progress Tools can also be used by school leadership and boards of trustees to prioritise their resources in this area to meet school strategic aims.

Principal Linda Miller says it’s too early to say how the tools will impact resource priorities, but she believes there are many benefits to teachers and students.  

“The tools are easy, and teachers are able to use naturally occurring evidence from classroom practice and they give a good overview of student achievement. We often deal with girls with maths anxiety and being able to show their progress on a regular basis that’s not necessarily centred around formal assessment situations can help build confidence,” she says.

“Because you are plotting progress on eight aspects of maths, it actually gives you a better picture of when the students are ready for the next digital test. Maths is a very consecutive subject. If you are trying to teach something but they have no idea about it, you’d think ‘ok I’m going to have to do a bit of work on integers before I introduce this Year 10 topic’,” explains Jeanette.

The tools also give teachers the ability to project into the future, she says. 

“We can look at our Year 9s and be projecting where they will be in Level 1 (Year 11).  

“You can track a student over time and there’s a dotted line which shows their progress gradient, and from this you can predict where they will end up. Like all predictions, it’s not infallible – but it does give a good indication,” she says.

More targeted efforts

Michael McGowan, maths teacher at OGHS, says the tools will allow teachers to better target their efforts to achieve the best outcomes for all students.  

“I think the eight aspects break it up more. You know there are some students who are struggling, but with this you can see whether it’s in algebra or geometry skills, so it lets you tailor per aspect, per student, per topic. If you get the data coming through from previous years, you can see where the projected line is and you might see that maybe that’s too high for that student and you take it back a bit and build their confidence up as well,” he says. 

While there may be a perception that Curriculum Progress Tools are time-consuming, enhancements done over the past 18 months have made the tools more flexible and efficient for schools to use. 

Jeanette says it was a game-changer when they learnt they could efficiently make judgements for groups of students. 

“By the time they are at high school, you are mostly only looking at a few signposts on the LPF. The bulk of your kids might be at signpost 5, so you can actually say ‘these 10 kids are all at the same place’,” she says.

Approximately 40 per cent of schools have set up an account in Curriculum Progress Tools with many primary schools having tried the tools and considerable interest from secondary schools, partly due to the coming changes to the literacy and numeracy requirements for NCEA.

The tools will help teachers assess the progress of former refugee and TESL students at OGHS as teachers can better assess if a concept is understood.

Curriculum Progress Tools explained 

International OECD studies have consistently found that around one million New Zealand adults don’t have the literacy and numeracy skills they need to live in an increasingly information and technology-rich society. The Curriculum Progress Tools will help change this picture as they have been developed to help teachers understand student progress in foundational learning across the curriculum.

There are two online Curriculum Progress Tools(external link), which work together to support student progress in reading, writing, and mathematics. The Learning Progressions Framework(external link) (LPF) strengthens a teacher’s knowledge of how a student’s learning develops in these subjects. It sits alongside the Progress and Consistency Tool(external link) (PaCT), which tracks students’ progress and achievement in relation to The New Zealand Curriculum.     

PaCT allows a student’s progress to be tracked within, and between, schools from school entry to Year 10. It automatically imports student data from ENROL so when students move schools, their data in PaCT moves with them and is available to their new school. This means it has the potential to be a powerful means of tracking progress across our system, says Jenny Ward from Education Technology, which was contracted by the Ministry of Education to develop the LPF.

“It’s not just about tracking for the sake of data either – PaCT allows schools to identify students who are not making progress, so they can get in and do something about it. We’re suggesting schools use PaCT at the same time as they report to parents and whānau,” says Jenny.

The tools have been the focus of significant development work over the last 18 months to ensure they are fit-for-purpose in a post-National Standards environment. There have been major enhancements to make PaCT more flexible and efficient and improve the way it shows progress for individual students and for cohorts.

The project was a six-phase technical development process with several rounds of refinement, which took around 18 months and involved over 700 teachers. The company worked closely with both NZCER, which did the psychometric work for the development, and open source experts Catalyst, which developed the PaCT software.  

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:35 am, 14 February 2020

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