Improving Schools Australia is focused on helping school educators and their associated community of parents, friends and partners improve student achievement in any way, in any direction.
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Newsletter August 2016


Welcome to Improving Schools Australia's first e-newsletter. We are an experienced group of educators from both the state and non-state school sectors who aim to support leadership teams with their school improvement processes. Improving Schools Australia was formed so that your school team has someone to walk beside them in their school improvement journey.
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All school principals have the wish to implement school improvement processes, but most do not have the time and many do not have the human resources to make this process effective. Improving Schools Australia can provide you with the individualised assistance and guidance you need.

Improvement agendas

The National School Improvement Tool 9ACER) asks us to consider whether "the governing body, school principal and other school leaders are united, committed to and explicit about their core objective - to improve learning outcomes for all students".
There are many components to this consideration, but I would like to focus on the aspect that refers to "all students".
When a school takes the narrow view of focusing on one or two target areas it becomes easier for stakeholders to be united and committed. Ironically, such a view can therefore narrow the focus to only those students who fall within the target zone. An improvement agenda must be inclusive of all students, and while target areas must be clearly identified, we must remember our commitment to all students.
Parents will not, and should not, encourage schools to be so narrow, that all students are not being considered for improvement.

Improving teaching and pedagogy

Are you looking for an insightful, humorous video to stimulate staff to talk about quality teaching. This TED video of well-known educational philosopher Ken Robinson provides numerous opportunities to engage staff in leadership and teaching professional development. While the context is non-Australian, Robinson's talk nevertheless relates to many of our local educational conversations.
(If you would like a professional development activity for use with this video link please visit our website. The video is 19 minutes. The workshop plan is for a 40 minute workshop.)
Ken Robinson: How to escape education's death valley
TED Published on May 10, 2013
Sir Ken Robinson outlines 3 principles crucial for the human mind to flourish -- and how current education culture works against them. In a funny, stirring talk he tells us how to get out of the educational "death valley" we now face, and how to nurture our youngest generations with a climate of possibility..

The urgency for wellbeing data

The National School Improvement Tool states that an outstanding school "has established and is implementing a systematic plan for the collection, analysis and use of a range of student achievement and wellbeing data".
Too often wellbeing data gets lost in the race for curriculum-related data. It's time for school communities gave priority to collecting and analysing wellbeing data.  It is this data that may present findings which in turn can lead to improved student learning outcomes.
If you are not too familiar with the student wellbeing research and its potential to impact on student learning then these links will offer significant background support.

School-community partnerships

For most schools, partnerships remain an untapped opportunity to support student learning. This is clearly evident when one clicks on the Community link on a school's website and sees the only sub-menu item being the Parents and Citizens' Committee.
Where are the university partnerships listed and explained? Where are the business partnerships identified and celebrated? In 2013, the Australian Council for Educational Research published Partnering for school improvement : case studies of school-community partnerships in Australia.
For schools looking for ideas in partnership that embrace a variety of business and organisational entities, this document is a good place to start. 
Abstract: The case studies in this booklet illustrate the creative ways in which Australian schools are responding to local needs by establishing and building partnerships with community organisations and businesses. These partnerships have been formed to share resources, both human and material. They are providing students with access to breakfast clubs, homework and tutoring programs, after-school fitness and sporting activities, and other programs designed to re-engage students. Local businesses that want students to know more about employer expectations and the realities of the workplace are providing work placements and work experience, traineeships and apprenticeships....

Resourcing should include a student's perspective

A significant challenge for all school leaders is the optimal use of existing resources and the establishment of effective decision-making processes that review those resources. Too often those processes are limited to teachers' voices. The student voice should be a part of this process and considered in-depth. For example:
  • Are their resources that meet the needs of various cultural groups within the schools?
  • Are students asked about the resources they would like to support their learning?
  • Are students asked about the appropriateness and relevance of existing resources?
While teachers and administrators will make the final decisions in most situations, it is worthwhile listening to students, especially in review processes following the delivery of units of work.

School culture and climate

Every school is trying to develop a positive and supportive culture that promotes learning. This is often a goal which is difficult to grasp, especially when so many schools are characterized by ever-changing staff, especially school administrators.
This short video link provides various interpretations of school culture which you may find useful when discussing this topic with your school leadership team or the broader teaching team. (If you would like a free professional development activity for this video link please visit our website to download.)
What is School Culture and Climate?
What is School Culture and Climate?
Academy for SELinSchools | Published on Apr 28, 2015

Curriculum delivery and intercultural understanding

The cross-curricular skill of intercultural understanding is becoming increasingly important in our schools; for many reasons. Firstly, our schools are becoming increasingly cross-cultural. It makes sense to ensure that schools develop processes for minimising negative cultural boundaries that can quickly and easily develop within a school population. To do this effectively all cultural groups must be included in a shared and collaborative process with the school. When students see the effort being made by staff and parents to ensure intercultural understanding, there is a greater likelihood that this modelling can trickle down into the student body.
In parallel, there must be planned and coordinated efforts to develop intercultural understanding among students, not just within the curriculum, but also in informal and unstructured ways. Often students from the various groups are very willing to make this happen. 
One resource that teachers may find useful is Difference Differently Together. Aligned to the Australian Curriculum, Difference Differently offers modules in English, History, Geography and Civics & Citizenship for students in Years 3 to 10.

Differentiation starting points

How and when does differentiation start? 
In some schools educators will say differentiation begins when you receive your class list for the year or term. It is then that you start planning!
Schools that have a differentiation strategy and approach that is embedded, may say that that there is no starting point or end point. Rather differentiation is fluid across year levels and across learning areas, with teachers aware of the various levels and interests of students through shared communication channels and procedures. At your school how do teachers pass on and record differentiation strategies that have worked with individual students? Does differentiation start and stop or is it fluid?

Our services

All school principals have the wish to implement school improvement processes, but most do not have the time and many do not have the human resources to make this process effective. 
Improving Schools Australia can provide you with the individualised assistance, coaching and partnership you may need to further improve your school.
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School improvement is not a mystery. Incremental, even dramatic, improvement is not only possible but probable under the right conditions.
— Michael J Schmoker
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