Student transitions from year to year

Today whilst hearing about the Departments latest version of the school review I had one of those light bulb moments when I heard a school reviewer talk about student transitions.

To put this into context in Victoria all public schools have a school review every four years. There are various types of review processes depending on how the school has been performing over the previous 4 years. Most of the reviews involve a contracted reviewer looking at your school data over the four years, your previous strategic targets , having conversations with teachers, students and parents and looking at the schools self assessment document. They then produce a report with various recommendations for improvement. The reviewers acknowledge your successes and help set the improvement directions for the next 4 years.

In the review there are 3 sections which must be addressed – student outcomes, student engagement and student transitions. Like most primary schools I had viewed transitions as our pre school transition program for preps or our departing year 6 students program as they leave for secondary school. A few years ago I thought about how students also transition from one year to the next and organised a 1/2 day with next years teacher in the last week of school.

The school reviewer brought a different lense to transitions when she talked about how the school keeps track of students from one year to the next or how students learning or social needs are communicated to the following years teacher.

I have heard teachers sometimes say they want to give students a fresh start the following year and I think that meant they didn’t look at the students previous reports, test scores or incidents indicating social or emotional needs. I heard parents say they had to provide another copy of a report about their child to the new teacher. What this perhaps indicated is that the leadership team didn’t have conversations with teachers about how important is was that they read the students file or in our case accessed their files on the digital network. Or perhaps we asked teacher to but didn’t closely monitor this. We had the files but perhaps not all teachers read them – not realising how important is was to start from where the child was at last year.

In some cases I suspected that teachers who have been locked in their own boxes [classrooms] gradually got to not trusting other teachers judgements [you have heard the comment Oh they are a hard marker] and wanted to retest all over again. I hear the cry …. from some teachers but perhaps it goes to the whole issue about de-privatising our practice.

In 2009 I have asked a number of teams to trail the use of data walls [Math – number strand and English reading levels] in their offices so that the student achievement is more open to tracking and questioning on what’s happening for that individual child.