Lessons learned from an Across School Leader in a Kāhui Ako

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I have written before about the importance of making connections before collaboration can happen.

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(@edu_sparks took the photo)

Just as an update this is a reflection about this year’s uLearn. Sometime I meet educators who say ‘I hear the same stuff and I haven’t picked up anything new.’ My response usually is, ‘Are you presenting? If not then it is time to give back to the community.

Co-Creating lifts the game of collaboration.

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This October several collaborations happened. As an Across School Leader in the  ACCoS Kahui Ako, I ran a TeachMeetNZ with a focus on ACCoS. You can read all about that collaboration here with principals, ASL, ISL and classroom teachers involved. We even had a facilitator take part too. Then following that I attended uLearn with 3 Across School Leaders in our CoL who presented with me and we shared our narrative. You can read all about that here. We can talk about collaboration but when we co-create evidence of what we do then that is even more amazing. Here is a link to the abstract.

Links of resources from uLearn17

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(@coreeducation took the photo)

Core EduCation have just updated their page of resources for uLearn. This helps with curating the experience. So from there I managed to locate some images to help with this blog on their flickr site.

During uLearn plenaries, I uploaded my own notes of Eric Mazur’s session and also of Brad Waid. I did not take any notes of Anne Milne’s session and cannot stress enough to teachers that they must listen to her plenary as she speaks openly about her experience being a principal and how she addressed the marginalisation of her learners. Anne wrote a great article here that also included what she spoke about in her plenary.

During the breakout sessions I attended the following

  • Using the Seesaw App to enhance learning and connect with families
    • Presenter: Renee Morgan, Sarah Corkill, Casey Frew
        • Takeaways: My query why student’s work would need downloading as PDF? I then reflected on wondering if this was the pathway we need to be taking.
  • The exponential future of education
    • Presenter: Kaila Colbin
      • Takeaways: How fast things can change.
  • Augmented Reality, emerging technology and the future of learning
    • Presenter: Brad Waid
      • Takeaways: update own knowledge of VR and keep tracking what is happening in this area.
  • Night at the Movies ‘The heART of the matter’ movie screening
    • Presenter: Alex Hotere-Barnes
      • Takeaways: the importance of story-telling
  • Raising the bar – with Abdul Chohan
    • Presenter: Abdul Chohan, James Petronelli
      • Takeaways: With the right people and tools magic happens.
  • Building a collaborative culture – everyone with us – 2
    • Presenter: Jo Robson, Jo Wilson
      • Takeaways: Ideas for getting our ASL and ISL working together. I really liked how they structured their session to have us talking together.

Highlights for me

    • Presenting with three ASL from our ACCoS cluster. I felt really proud of how we managed to work together and pull the session together. A great discussion and a great sharing. I believe that the padlet we shared allowed us to see how far we have travelled on our journey.
    • Meeting Chad for the first time face to face. I met Chad several years ago via twitter and I was part of one of his google hangouts.
    • Celebrating my birthday at the uLearn annual dinner. I usually celebrate my birthday at uLearn but this year somehow the word got out. I attended the dinner with Sue from Epsom Girls Grammar School. As usual I took many selfies. I caught up face to face with several educators I talk to via twitter and I met some of the Core #efellows17.Pete.png

(@SteelOtter took the photo)

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(Rachel took our photo)

Takeaways for me

  • Continue to push for documenting and sharing of what we do in our ASL roles.
  • Work towards collaborative inquiry across our ACCoS Schools.
  • I would love to run an ISL session like we do for Flat Connections and give teachers a taste of using the tools to collaborate digitally across our schools.

Special thanks to Newmarket School Board of Trustees and my principal Dr Wendy Kofoed who supported my journey to present at uLearn.

Extra special mention of the following ASL who presented with me

  • Catherine Palmer from Kohia Terrace School – Across School Leader in ACCoS Kāhui Āko
  • Erin Hooper from Cornwall Park District School – Across School Leader in ACCoS Kāhui Āko
  • Sue Spencer from Epsom Girls Grammar School – Across School Leader in ACCoS Kāhui Āko

EPS -Educational Positioning System

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Tē tōia, tē haumatia

Nothing can be achieved without a plan

The ACCoS CoL have achievement challenges which act as a roadmap to identify where we have come from and where we are going. Our Achievement Challenges set realistic goals by supporting learners as they move through their learning using the national curriculum.

The core purpose of CoL is to know learning is happening and how to capture it. Over the past few weeks I have been comparing results from previous years by tracking historical data at our school. It is powerful to know that learning is taking place by observing the progress constantly. I have been aligning the reading with the writing data and have been looking at trends. When I lay the English Language Learning data alongside then interesting trends begin to surface and I think back to the graph of Thomas and Collier who describe the length of time to gain academic proficiency in a second language. I have been reading up on attendance and how much of a gauge that year 7 attendance has for achieving NCEA levels. The national data shows that higher decile schools have stronger attendance than lower decile schools and that Asian learners have the strongest attendance data of all groups.

Learning on the job, with senior staff, mentors and coaches is the way to go and our ACCoS planned for Across School Leaders to be trained in coaching skills. At our school our management team found the training invaluable so much so that we have focussed on coaching skills for all our teachers for this year.  We know that sharing best practices is where real change happens. As educators we have to be  accountable to our learners and reduce the levels of mediocrity in our education system.

Being strategic is knowing what to achieve, and then finding the best ways to get there” (Kaufman,1992).

2016 is the third year year for ACCoS and this year I can already see a change happening as our Across School Leaders swing into greater action with a greater focus on empowering all students for success. There is a stronger direction of data and a revisit of our achievement challenges. As an ASL team we are in the process of completing our first yearly report. We have begun meeting with our in school leaders (ISL) and the minutes coming through highlight the following :

  • Drilling down to find more specific information on each achievement challenge.
  • Comparing results from previous years by tracking historic data.

I have learnt to look for what cannot be seen and look for whose voice is not being heard.

Where to next for us

  • Data

This year a greater part of our work will be looking closer at our data. Research in assessment indicates that assessment information should be drawn from a comprehensive range of diverse sources including at least one norm-referenced or externally-referenced tool. We have it stated in our achievement challenge under evaluation that is an ACCoS expectation and it is now a matter of ensuring that all schools and teachers have this same message. The ministry have made our task so much easier by including all our data in one space. We will share this with our In School Leaders at our next across schools meeting. We have asked for all In Schools Leaders to bring their 2016 school data and we will begin the task of data discussion. I believe that we will all need training on data analysis. Many of our primary school teachers are just beginning to use spreadsheets and that is why working across schools is so exciting because we can call on our secondary colleagues who have been doing this for many years. As we dig deeper with our data there will be dips and that helps identify what still needs to be done. If we consistently focus on Hattie’s Effect Size and look at ways of measuring interventions then there is less chance of ‘plucking the baubles on the Christmas tree.’

 

  • Parent Engagement and Participation

 

Our fifth achievement challenge is Parent Engagement and Participation. We have also highlighted this achievement challenge as an area for greater focus this year.

There are pockets of excellence across our schools and it is timely to share these. So again this will be another area of focus for our in school leaders. This achievement challenge will be another reflection from me.

This week we will be meeting again as an Across School Leadership team and I look forward to the discussion with my colleagues.

Those of you who are part of CoLs what is your focus for this year?

Endnote

As an analogy I was searching for something in education that was similar to ‘GPS’. So I searched for Educational Positional System and this link turned up. I felt deflated because I thought I had thought of it first. But not to matter because this is a fabulous read.

http://eps.core-ed.org/eps-difference

Reference

Kaufman, R. (1992) Mapping Educational success: Strategic thinking and planning for school administrators. Newbury Park, CA: Corwin Press

Other links of Interest

ACCoS

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Thanks Nelson for the photo.

Tūrangawaewae – a place to stand (Adapted from Te ara)

Tūrangawaewae is one of the most well-known and powerful Māori concepts. Literally tūranga (standing place), waewae (feet), it is often translated as ‘a place to stand’. Tūrangawaewae are places where we feel especially empowered and connected. They are our tūranga, our kura, our akonga, our wānanga.

Key facts about ACCoS

ACCoS stands for the Auckland central community of schools. We are one of several Communities of Learning from around New Zealand. We are made up of 11 schools ranging from several primary schools up to year 6, some full primary schools year 8, two intermediates and one secondary school. We also have one kindergarten in our cluster. We are funded for 9 across school teachers and 43 in school teachers. We have a lead school and lead principal. In addition we have two other sub lead principals and one external facilitator. Together we serve 8, 145 students and their whānau. When we look over our data our ethnic mix highlights that we have a strong Asian student group and a growing number of learners who are ESOL funded.

Before ACCoS

Before ACCoS was formed our local principals met on a regular basis as part of various local principals’ networks.  These networks varied in their work, some focusing on what was happening in their schools at a reasonably surface level, others, like the Learning and Change Networks, Mutukaroa, and ICT Clusters, focused on student learning.  Most of our school leaders had positive experiences of working with each other and had developed strong professional connections.

Since ACCoS

However since ACCoS was launched, our principals are now meeting much more regularly and sharing more than just ‘stories.’ They are learning much more together with and from each other. The connections appear stronger and there seems to be a greater sense of supporting each other. I witnessed this with the arrival of two new principals to the group and the support that they received.  There are stronger links forming between the schools as was recently evidence between our school and a nearby school coming together to share strategic planning.  Other schools in the Community have had a shared parent hui.  And, members of boards from all schools recently met together to gain a greater understanding of the working of ACCoS. Relationships appear to be developing between our schools at a much deeper level.

In addition synergies are happening across the network as our intermediate school and college begin to share ways of providing more relevant and diverse transition information. Primary schools are looking at more effective and consistent ways of passing information to our intermediates, in particular, utilising technology.  We are also fortunate to have a kindergarten in ACCoS as the transition to school is another area of focus.

Why was ACCoS formed?

Our lead principal called a meeting for local principals after the call for community of learning were publicised as part of Improving Education Success (IES). All of the local principals were asked, however a few were against the concept for a variety of reasons. Myself I cannot understand why because of the exciting pathway of where this collective inquiry could lead.

Joining Auckland Central Community of Schools

Recently I presented at Ulearn and my topic was Community of Learners. I have always had a fascination with communities both digital and face to face. I have built several just because I believe sharing and working across schools is important and rather than just talk about learning, I have always created my own. For my current position as an across school teacher in the Auckland Central Community of Schools, I applied for the specific role of building the ACCoS community digitally` and ensuring that learning taking place in our CoL is transparent.

Across School Teachers

The current challenge I experience with our ACCoS Community is the varying levels of experience and skills of our across school teachers.  We have all been chosen for a variety of reasons and as with other new groups we must learn to work together collaboratively and be inclusive of the strengths of all members.  Currently we are settling into our roles, and any rub is positive.  I find it useful to work with others who think quite differently from me as this helps drive my own thinking deeper. I was selected several terms after the initial teachers were selected because of my      recognised and proven ability to utilise technology to build professional learning communities. As well, I have proven ability to use technology to strengthen data analysis and have an online record of building capacity in others through collaboration.

Leading from the middle.

The key message coming through our ACCoS is influenced by the work of Michael Fullan who speaks about leading from the middle. My understanding of leading from the middle rests with the principals within the cluster, and also the lateral leadership of the in school and across school leaders. Principals are in the middle with education policy, which influences the work we do at one end, and learners and community whom we serve at the other end. As across school teachers we support the principals as together we implement our cluster’s vision.  In my new role I have to keep reminding myself of the focus of what I was brought in to do.  As with any new network our work seems messy as we we act, probe and reflect on our actions, iterating ways of working.  Cynefin link.

Build Capacity

Our across school teachers have expertise at capacity building and that is why we were chosen. We are beginning to identify what our roles look like. I am a ‘fix it kind of a gal’ who loves solving problems and streamlining systems and have built a name for myself for building communities in the digital world. For me to hold back and build capacity through listening  is an enormous challenge. I sit in the meetings and try really hard to just listen. I find that challenging because I believe I already know instinctively why we are together and what we need to do. Therefore I have taken to blogging my thoughts to try and make sense of it all.

Achievement Goals

Our across school role is about collaborative inquiry and in order to carry that out, what we do is promote best practice. These best practices have been highlighted  in our national goals as cultural competency, transition support, community engagement, pedagogy and teaching practice. Our ACCoS group is guided by our achievement challenges set in 2014 which have been taken from our National Standards Data. When we unpack these goals they are underpinned by the low performance we have with our Maori and Pasifika learners. As an ESOL trained teacher who has recently published a book about writing and second language learners, being part of ACCoS is like the stars are aligning. It is like acknowledging what we have done has only worked to an extent but we can do better. By going into something different we want to make a greater difference. What we have always done is no longer good enough.  One of the first things I did in my ‘fix it mode’ was to collate all the schools national standards data in one place and make these transparent across the schools. I then asked for all the ESOL data to be added because I had already predicted that the numbers would impact our longitudinal data. Our achievement goals have been predicted for the next three years, however I know from the research of Thomas and Collier that we really won’t see much change in the data until at least 7 years have passed because it takes 6-8 years for academic proficiency to happen in our children’s second language.

I have often wondered how my learners have achieved after they leave us. For the first time in my teaching career I will have the opportunity to find out. I can also find out if my predictions for the children I taught came true and that they surpassed their peers at secondary school. I always told them that they were race horses and they begin at the rear against first language learners but by the time they get to secondary school they will be up at the front. I always wondered if the grounding we give our primary school learners, the sense of urgency we instill in our teachers about our learners and the close monitoring of data really does pay off by secondary school.

Our in school teachers

The in school teachers are at the coal face, and are a key part of our large community of learners. Our in school teachers are scattered across the community and come together to discuss and identify strategies for learning that will make a difference.  One group I have been involved in has been Year 3-4 writing. Together we have learnt that across the schools our systems at identifying levels are not yet aligned and we are working on that. I recently collated our historic ethnicity data and this shows the fast changing face of our Auckland Central Community of Schools.

We have recently surveyed our in school teachers about how the first ACCoS year has gone for them and one of the ways I have in unpacking written narratives is to wordle what is written and identify any key words that spring out. Straight away I can see that as a cluster we have yet to acknowledge the pivotal role and effects on learning  that families and communities have on our learners. Particularly when making sense of the fact that our learners get 1000 hours with us in school and 5000 with their families and communities.

Pedagogy and Teaching Practice

Because we are working with one of our local secondary schools, this also influences who and what we do. For example their teaching inquiries focuses on strategies that impact on learning.  These include Learning Maps, English Language Learners, G&T, SOLO Taxonomy, scholarship, Wellbeing, Mindfulness and Agency. At the primary level our inquiry is centred around writing as we have noted writing as an area for improvement. Therefore the connections we are making across sectors enable us to see ourselves in a mirror as we see ourselves how they see us. The extra exciting advantage of being an across school teacher allows me to hear the schools narrative from the in school teachers themselves as they share their learning.

Learner Agency

Agency features strongly in our Achievement Goals. The central diagram of our document features Parent Agency, Teacher Agency and Student Agency. The document looks at agency that underpins ownership of learning and has still to address agency as citizenship especially citizenship which focuses on contributing to society and making a difference. But that element of agency is beginning to surface as schools look carefully at experiences for learning for our second year.

Elements of Community

So as my focus is on the digital forms of communications that support our ACCoS again I wonder how I can foster the elements that build our community of learners in a positive way. Here are some of my thoughts:

  • sharing and owning the data builds community;
  • face to face events build community;
  • digital curation of our narrative builds community;
  • transparency builds community;
  • fostering and building connections builds community;
  • blogging builds community;
  • presenting builds community;
  • sharing builds community;
  • sharing photos and videos as highlights builds community;
  • learning who are our members are builds community;
  • broadcasting our FAILs improves community;
  • Celebrating our successes builds community.

Some of the wonders I have in regards to our CoL are:

  • How many of us in our ACCoS schools have second language training? Dip Tessol, TDPL. Even something as basic as CELTA?
  • How many of us are trained in transition between year levels and sectors?
  • How many of us speak an Asian language which are the dominant languages of our learners?
  • How many of us are skilled at utilising communications technology in our pedagogy?
  • How many of us have Google Certification, even at stage 1?

Digital Systems

In ACCoS we have utilised Google Docs, Google+ and Google Calendar to ensure that our systems are transparent.  Not all schools have the same Learning Management System and Google was able to be utilised by all ACCoS members. Not all our schools had Google domains, so that came with some challenges. Some schools have KARAZY wifi systems but somehow or other the schools want things to work and work hard at making it all work. We have now moved fully into online communication because email does not curate information as successfully. This concept comes with mindset challenges as our teachers rethink the way they have usually carried out sharing.

Other exciting developments

Our lead principals have formed connections with other groups of COLs and recently shared some of our success and FAILs. I continually remind them about collecting visual artefacts from these meetings, for example, where are the photos of the recent sharing for our narrative? In the scheme of IES we were one of the original 14 CoLs and therefore we are in a position to share some of our hurdles and some of our highlights.

Overall in our community of learners, the sense of tūrangawaewae is broadened into the Auckland Central Community of Schools and located within Improving Education Success.

To find out more about our journey you can check out our ACCoS across school teacher’s blog. Our blog is a window and lets you have a view of some of what we are doing.