The Kiwitea Story
“Our end of year reports took so much less time than last year.”
Change is tricky. Small group. Large group. It doesn’t matter. The reaction to change can range from the eager adopter to the feisty resistor. We met with Nicky Fielder in December, Principal of Kiwitea School in Manawatu, to have an upfront conversation about what it was like to make the change to online school reporting and continuous assessment. We wanted to know what were the mountains and what were the molehills.
Kiwitea is a 65-student years 1-8 rural school near Feilding in the Manawatu that is breaking the mould. While most rural schools are struggling, it has been expanding and is now almost at capacity. There is a lot of excitement about the school. A quarter of its students making the reverse commute, taking the bus each day from town.
And so when the school contacted us about using Educa, we were excited. It is always gratifying to be selected for a winning team!
Changing Kiwitea’s Student & Parent Reporting
The first thing you need to know about Kiwitea’s Principal is that she is a firecracker. We may be wrong, but we don’t imagine her needing a cup of coffee in the morning. The positivity is infectious.
She is on a mission and her approach is to be inclusive. What is also noticeable is every description of Kiwitea’s change in reporting starts with ‘WE.’ This was a culture change. A mindset change. It was big and step one was getting everyone on the same page. Team conversations focused on the end point.
Reporting To Date
Since starting at Kiwitea, gradual changes in school reporting had already taken place. The achievement data collected on MUSAC Edge is then used to report to Board of Trustees and Ministry of Education.
Kiwitea’s formal mid and end of year report had already changed from a completely teacher written report to a one that was written by the student prior to Educa starting. The teacher would reinforce student’s analysis with a comment supporting or clarifying the learning position.
Over time there had been a slow release of responsibility. In the junior room, the teacher tended to write more and the student’s reflected and in the senior room the students tended to write the whole report and the teacher confirmed the accuracy.
“So that was a big change for our parents that had already started a few years earlier.. The first year, they questioned it. Is this right? My child is writing the report? By the end of the second year, they truly could see the benefit of it and the kids loved it because they were owning their learning journey.”
Our first question was: What was Kiwitea’s purpose for changing its reporting?
“As a school, work out why you are doing this. Interwoven into this is you need to be gathering good data.
Our purpose was to build a collaborative environment with our parents where the kids were driving their learning and we (the teachers) and parents knew what was happening so we could support in a timely manner. That was our purpose.”
The review and discussions also included the school community and finding out what they needed as parents to become collaborators. Nicky and the team had recognised that they wanted a new Reporting Tool – a vehicle for teachers, parents and students.
‘We wanted it to be learning focused, not just a ‘fun, let’s share work’ portal, so the ability to link the curriculum was important as well as including our own care values.’
Educa meets this standard. It helped also that Educa is connected to their SMS, Edge, and so students entered in Edge automatically show up in Educa.
And so at the beginning of 2019, the decision was made to try to move away from long mid and year end reports, and move to Educa which would enable timely sharing and reporting as things happen.
Frequent Samples Over Extensive Mid/End of Year Reports
The school ran a couple of parent meetings talking about assessment and reporting at Kiwitea school and why we are going this way and explained why frequent in-time reporting was much more effective than getting a mid-year report of something that happened in February. <
“I thought we would have lots of parents wanting to know but actually there were only a handful and they tended to be the new parents because it was so different for them. Whereas the other parents had been at the school since I started and they just had the faith that it was going to be cool.”
Getting Set up on Educa
Building on the changes with their formal reporting, the team then adopted the Educa program to share learning and create collaboration between parents, teachers and students.
Within Educa they customised the ‘student story’ template to include the prompt, ‘next steps for learning,’ and within their reporting and assessment process they factored in Educa posts.
The scheduling of posts gave teachers guidance and created consistency across the classes. It also made sure the essential data was being collected.
“We factored in that ‘this many posts’ were needed as a minimum. It was usually reading, writing, maths, plus another curriculum or a competency and these are the ways that you could document it. In my notes, I had reminders set up …. “in the next 2 weeks this post needs to be done.” It could be a Reading Post or a reflection on an event like the triathlon. We kept that dialogue going so it was in the forefront of people’s thinking. Because, if it is not, then that is when things drop off.”
Based on prior consultation with parents, they also knew they needed to show how the student was achieving compared to where they should be. The post included sample of evidence, identified strengths and how can parents could help at home. It gave the parents really good conversation starters.
The Year Unfolds …
In term 1, teachers found it quite challenging because it was such a new way of doing things. Nicky was very keen for it to become part of our classroom systems and programmes rather than an add on. She explains that whilst they already had their busy programmes and they to remember that while they had that reading group to capture that piece of evidence to write about later. So it was nothing about the programme, but more a change of mindset.
“Managing the change of mindset was done by clearly setting timeframes for posts. This mindset change needs to be school driven. This is something that I think has evolved amazingly over the year.”
Nicki feels that the team’s growth over the year has been huge. The next step is to revisit the current system and review. One of the considerations for the junior and middle syndicate is that the posting responsibility is more weighted on the teachers.
Student Reporting and Goals
In my time here we have developed student agency and student goal setting. The students have been asked to identify what were their steps to achieve this goal and how were they tracking against it.’
The team at Kiwitea have some pretty robust student systems for developing this student agency.
Students’ organise their ‘must do, can do’ timetable so they are responsible for what they need to work on and not just what the teacher told them to do. That has been an important development of Kiwitea’s philosophy of learning.
“By bringing in a portal like Educa, it connects with parents, so they are part of this journey. It makes it authentic. Any piece of evidence that was put on we made sure we linked it to the curriculum. We also made sure it was learning focused. And that there was a next step for learning which the teacher had put in. Educa is so interwoven into their programmes that the kids don’t even realise how they are driving their learning. Educa has been a valuable cog that we were ready for.”
The Year End Report
The final step for 2019 was to review the formal report. A decision was made not to do a mid year report because the teachers felt like they had already frequently shared evidence with their OTJ’s on student posts.
“As a staff we talked a lot about how this reporting information should be more useful and not an extra. The way we now complete our reports spreads the workload over time.’
Using a similar layout to previous reports, a Progress Over Time Graph was entered for Reading, Writing and Maths into a student post on Educa.
Nicki explains that they follow a guide at Kiwitea School of how OTJs are made. These are determined by learning conversations with students, PAT tests, Running Records, in class work and levels of curriculum on Edge. The graphs displayed the OTJs for each subject. A short summary for the 3 core subjects was then written by the teacher (alternatively a reflection was written by the senior and middle students). At the bottom each subject had a ‘next step for learning’ with an area for comment. The final part of the report was a summary comment from the class teacher and Principal. This primarily focussed on the school’s CARE values.
“Our end of year reports took so much less time than last year. However, if we hadn’t timetabled in good posts throughout the term, then it would have been huge pressure to try to catch up on the ‘evidence’ posts. It is super important to have that discussion and timetabling worked out. As a team, you need to have thought through, “How does this fit in with my teaching and learning?”
Building a Collaborative Environment
Looking back at the beginning of the year, Nicki and the team at Kiwitea had a clear outcome, “to build a collaborative environment with our parents where the kids were driving their learning and we (the teachers) and parents knew what was happening so we could support in a timely manner.”
So did Kiwitea achieve that? Asking the question, Nicki’s face lights up, “The students are bringing in their parents and grandparents as collaborators and they are living their learning.”