Student voice in winning formula for NCEA achievement

Issue: Volume 103, Number 7

Posted: 6 June 2024
Reference #: 1HAgsk

NCEA literacy and numeracy assessment results for Wellington High School and Motueka High School have increased due to strategies designed to maximise success.

Nich Campell is the across schools teacher at Motueka High School for Kāhui Ako ki Motueka.

Nich Campell is the across schools teacher at Motueka High School for Kāhui Ako ki Motueka.

Student agency is more than a buzzword at Wellington High School. In fact, it’s one of the deciding factors when a student is entered for the NCEA literacy and numeracy tests.

Although standardised test results and teachers’ judgement are taken into account, the school has decided that students sitting lower on the stanine scale can choose whether to sit the NCEA tests this time around.

“Students at stanine 5 and above will almost always be entered, but students who are at stanine 3 or 4 in the progressive achievement tests should have a choice. If they want to have a go, they can. If they don’t want to, they don’t,” says assistant principal Caroline Lewis.

Progressive achievement tests (PATs) are a series of standardised tests used to determine what level students are at in mathematics, reading comprehension and vocabulary, and listening comprehension. They are an indicator of where ākonga may need extra help – the lowest performance level is stanine 1 and the highest is stanine 9.

“We think that PATs plus teacher judgement are a good indicator of whether a student is ready to sit the literacy and numeracy tests,” says Caroline.

“If we don’t think a student is ready and they’re going to be totally knocked out by not passing then they should not be entered.”

Literacy and numeracy a priority

Starting this year, all students now need to achieve a 20-credit co-requisite specific to te reo matatini or literacy and pāngarau or numeracy to be awarded any level of NCEA.

During the transition period in 2024–25, students can achieve this co-requisite either through the NCEA literacy and numeracy common assessment activities (CAAs), tūmahi aromatawai pātahi (TAPA), kete manarua portfolio assessment option, or specific achievement and unit standards.

The CAAs and TAPA are offered twice a year, and students can have multiple attempts over several years.

“I think many students get unnecessarily stressed and nervous by thinking the CAAs are big, scary exams,” says Nich Campbell, the across schools teacher at Motueka High School for Kāhui Ako ki Motueka.

“So we talk to the students and write to parents to help them understand the importance of the CAAs for NCEA. Failing the CAAs is not an indictment on them and does not mean they will not achieve success throughout the year.”

Like Wellington High School, Motueka High School uses a diagnostic tool – the e-asTTle – and teacher judgement to determine when students might be ready to sit the CAAs. Students who score 4A and above on e-asTTle are entered to sit the literacy and numeracy assessments.

“We also talk to the deans for each year level, learning support coordinators and SENCOs so we can identify the students who are far behind where they need to be and support them,” says Nich.

Both Wellington High and Motueka High have two years of experience using the new literacy and numeracy standards, having taken part in the 2022 pilot and the opt-in year in 2023.

Insights from experience

Insights from their experience have led both schools to work towards integrating literacy and numeracy in the teaching of all subjects.

“Developing students’ literacy skills has always been a high priority for us,” says Caroline. “We know that students with levels of literacy below for their age will not be able to access the rest of the curriculum.”

At Motueka High School, literacy and numeracy coordinators have been appointed to upskill all teachers in Years 9 and 10 so they can integrate literacy and numeracy across all subjects.

“We have not nailed it yet, but we recognise that it’s an absolute priority,” says Nich.

Maximising students’ chances of success

Apart from embedding literacy and numeracy across the curriculum, both Wellington High School and Motueka High School offer a range of support to maximise their students’ chances of success in the CAAs.

Motueka High offers ’literacy boost’, a Taikura core class for Māori students, and a senior literacy support class for students in Year 11 and above who have not yet achieved the literacy component of the co-requisite.

With strong ties to 14 feeder schools in the Tasman District, the school can identify and provide literacy and numeracy support to students who need it from Year 9.

Starting this year, the school is also hosting primary school teachers from across the district to observe Year 9 English and maths classes during its “open door” week.

Nich says observing the classes enables the primary teachers to tailor their teaching to the students preparing to transition to secondary school – ultimately strengthening literacy and numeracy skills.

At Wellington High, extra literacy and numeracy support includes an after-school homework club staffed by staff and students from Years 11–13 as tutors.

Caroline Lewis, assistant principal at Wellington High School, with two students.

Caroline Lewis, assistant principal at Wellington High School, with two students.

“We try to build up our students all the time and say, ‘you’ve got as many chances as you like to pass this. It would be great if you could pass it the first time, but you can have another go later’,” says Caroline.

Building students’ confidence is key, so both schools ensure students in Years 9 and 10 do practice exams. They also teach them practical skills such as navigating a keyboard since the numeracy test may involve equations and formulas.

A formula for writing

To improve students’ writing skills, the English department at Motueka High School created a formula that has since been adopted by two other schools in the Nelson region. The formula is referred to as “PASTTV”: purpose, audience, structure, tone, techniques and vocabulary.

“It has become a part of our explicit teaching at all levels when we are planning and preparing student writing as well as our reading activities,” says Nich.

To help further reduce test anxiety, students at Motueka High sit the literacy-reading test before moving on to the literacy-writing test.

“Based on our experience, students who pass the literacy-reading assessment are most likely to pass the literacy-writing test, so we stagger the two assessments,” explains Nich.

Impressive results

The strategy is showing promise. Motueka High’s literacy-reading results increased from 68 percent in 2022 to 88 percent in 2023, while its literacy-writing results nearly doubled from 44 percent to 86 percent over the same period.

Wellington High School also has impressive CAA attainment results in 2023: 91.3 percent in literacy-reading, 85.8 percent in literacy-writing and 81.5 percent in numeracy.

“Our numbers are quite high because we were pretty accurate with our assessment of who was ready to be entered,” says Caroline.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:02 am, 6 June 2024

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