I write and talk a lot about SCAS always moving towards excellence. Just occasionally, I am asked what I mean by excellence or how I will know when we are an excellent school?
Last term I invited staff to meet with me and suggest areas where they believe we could improve the educational experience we offer to our students. Many teachers and support staff took the opportunity, and the school will benefit from some of their great ideas when they are put into practice.
There are, of course, many measures on excellence, and these depend on the context and culture of the school. However, there is one document put out by the NSW Department of Education and Communities that I believe is worth using as a benchmark for our school.
The document, titled School Excellence Framework breaks school efforts down into three categories:
- Sustaining and Growing
As parents and the media are (for various reasons) constantly comparing schools and systems, I think it is worthwhile looking at how we would score against the criteria set up by the State. At the risk of being seen as arrogant, I will leave out the first two categories and focus on the Excelling category.
- There is school-wide, collective responsibility for student learning and success, with high levels of student, staff and community engagement.
- Positive and respectful relationships across the school community underpin a productive learning environment, and support students’ development of strong identity as learners.
- The school has in place a comprehensive and inclusive framework to support the cognitive, emotional, social, physical and spiritual well-being of students, which measurably improves individual and collective well-being.
- Individual learning is supported by the effective use of school, system and community expertise and resources through contextual decision-making and planning.
- Students are self-aware, build positive relationships and actively contribute to the school, the community and the society in which they live.
- The school establishes active partnerships and works collaboratively to ensure continuity of learning for students.
- Curriculum programs and teaching practices effectively develop the knowledge, understanding and skills of all students, using evidence-based teaching practices and innovative delivery mechanisms where appropriate.
- Extra-curricular learning opportunities are significant, support student development, and are strongly aligned with the school’s vision, values and priorities.
- The school has aligned staff processes and school systems for collecting, analysing and reporting local and external data on student and school performance.
- Students use reflection on assessment and reporting processes and feedback to plan learning.
- Assessment data to monitor achievements and gaps in student learning are used extensively to inform planning for particular student groups and individual students.
- Evaluating and reporting student performance data underpins the whole-school assessment strategy.
- Practices are embedded for parents to be engaged and understand the learning progress of their children and how to effectively support them to learn.
- The school achieves excellent value-added results, and/or – most of its students achieve at high levels of performance on external performance measures.
- Performance for equity groups within a school is comparable to the performance of all students in the school.
- The school leadership team demonstrates instructional leadership, promoting and modelling effective, evidence based practice.
- Teachers regularly review learning with each student, ensuring all students have a clear understanding of how to improve their learning.
- Teachers demonstrate a sophisticated understanding and use of student assessment and data literacy concepts (eg value added, growth, improvement, statistical significance).
- Teachers clearly understand and utilise assessment for learning, assessment as learning and assessment of learning in determining teaching directions, school performance levels and effectiveness.
- Teachers take responsibility for changes in practice required to achieve improved school performance and are using data on a regular basis to monitor the effectiveness of their own efforts.
- The school leadership team builds the collective capacity of the staff and school community to use data to inform strategic school improvement efforts.
- Teachers collaborate within and across stages and faculties to ensure consistency of curriculum delivery, including strategies for differentiation and consistency of teacher judgement.
- The school has embedded and explicit systems for collaboration, classroom observation, the modelling of effective practice and feedback to drive and sustain ongoing, school-wide improvement in teaching practice and student outcomes.
- School-wide and/or inter-school relationships provide mentoring and coaching support to ensure the ongoing development of all staff.
- The school evaluates professional learning activities to identify and systematically promote the most effective strategies.
- Teachers draw on and implement evidence-based research to improve their performance and development.
- The school is recognised as expert in the provision of support to beginning and early career teachers.
- The teaching staff of the school demonstrate and share expertise, have very high levels of contemporary content knowledge and teaching practices, and rely on evidence-based teaching strategies.
- Staff have purposeful leadership roles based on professional expertise.
- The school community is committed to the school’s strategic directions and practices to achieve educational priorities.
- The school is recognised as excellent and responsive by its community as a result of its effective engagement with members of the local community such as parents, families, local media and business organisations.
- The school leadership team makes deliberate and strategic use of its partnerships and relationships to access resources for the purpose of enriching the school’s standing within the local community and improving student outcomes.
- The school uses evidence-based strategy and innovative thinking in designing a school plan that delivers ongoing improvements in student outcomes.
- The school successfully fosters collaboration with key stakeholders in the development of the school vision, strategic directions and annual plans.
- Established processes build the capacity of the school community to use data and evidence for strategic school improvement.
- Shared school-wide responsibility is evident through leadership, teaching, learning, and community evaluations to review learning improvements.
- The school uses collaborative feedback and reflection to promote and generate learning and innovation.
- Succession planning, leadership development and workforce planning are designed to drive whole-school improvement.
- Longer-term financial planning is integrated with school planning and implementation processes.
- The use of school facilities is optimised within the local community, to best meet the needs of students and the local community.
- Practices and processes are responsive to school community feedback.
- Administrative practices provide explicit information about the school’s functioning to promote ongoing improvement.
So how do you, as a member of the SCAS community, believe that we score on the excellence scale?
Note: If you think we are falling short, please feel free to contact me and we can discuss what we might be able to do to improve our performance.