Careful data analysis helps to lift Maori achievement

An independent authority has confirmed that using education data well can really help to lift the achievement of Māori students.

The Office of the Auditor-General (OAG), which is responsible for analysing the performance of the public sector, has released its third and final report on how well the education system supports Māori students to achieve their full potential. The report is part of a five-year year program of work started in 2012.

This most recent report confirms the positive difference that education data makes to lifting the achievement of Māori students – in essence, when schools use data and information well, Māori students do better.  Those schools that were using information effectively had some things in common including;

  • an intense focus on using information to change processes
  • managing and using information about individual students
  • monitoring the relationship between the school, students, and whānau.

Successful schools were also;

  • setting strategic goals
  • measuring the school’s performance
  • building relationships with, and working hard to understand, their students and the wider community
  • exhibiting a culture of inquiry and challenge
  • asking how all of this relates to achievement.

Characteristics of schools with great results

“Better-performing schools also tended to do a more detailed analysis of the educational success of different groupings of students, whether by year, gender, ethnicity, learning needs, or level of transience.”

The report said schools with better results for Māori students used data to inform their activities and to decide how and where to target resources to get the best result.

“These schools were committed to improvement and had management cultures that valued inquiry and challenge. The schools wanted to see continuous improvements, and people were encouraged to ask questions and challenge norms.”

The report also noted that strong leadership is needed to build a culture focused on performance and improvement, and the importance of a school’s charter in improving Māori achievement.

“A basic start is to ensure that schools identify the performance of Māori students in particular.” Many schools chose to signal these goals and targets in the school’s charter. The OAG looked at school charters to find out whether they had achievement targets for Māori.  Of the 553 charters the OAG examined, 77% included achievement targets for Māori students.

The report also recognised that better-performing schools collected and used cultural information, such as a student’s ties with their iwi.

“This is a rich source of information. The challenge for the education sector will be to better collect this information at the aggregate level to inform and improve its decision-making.”

Ministry of Education responds to the report

The Ministry’s deputy secretary (Early Learning and Student Achievement), Lisa Rodgers, said the Ministry welcomed the report, and supported the information in it that showed that schools collecting and effectively using data on student progress was critical to supporting improved Māori education achievement.

“We congratulate the schools that are already doing this work, and we encourage all schools to keep focusing on understanding data to see what is working well and what needs to change,” she said.

Ms Rodgers said the report provided helpful insights on how top performing schools use data, and the power of data to help schools raise achievement for Māori students. The Ministry supported the call made in the report to increase and improve the collection and use of data across the education system, especially student achievement data. This has been a focus of action for the Ministry she said, and acknowledged there was more work to do but was also pleased with progress across New Zealand.

“A large number of schools in the country regularly give us data on student achievement. We analyse these data and talk with schools about the results. We also give schools tools so they can understand what progress looks like for children throughout their learning. This helps teachers to focus effort early and responsively, to help every child reach their potential. This is particularly important to catch students falling behind, and develop tailored responses to help them.

“Each year we provide every secondary school in the country with an individualised dossier of information called an Achievement and Destinations Profile. This contains information on students’ NCEA achievement, as well as the National Standards results from nearby contributing schools and tertiary destination information for student leavers,” she said.

The Ministry also used data to work with schools directly in raising attainment. The At Risk of Not Achieving (ARoNA) work was an example of the Ministry using data to support system change to improve education results, she said. In ARoNA, Ministry staff used a student focussed methodology based on NCEA achievement data to support secondary schools and the students’ families to identify how individual students at risk of not achieving NCEA Level 2, can be motivated and assisted to succeed in their studies.

Report recommendations

There are five recommendations in the report for the MOE:

  • work with schools to establish a framework for collecting cultural information and other information about Māori enjoying educational success as Māori
  • help those schools that do not have enough understanding about what Māori enjoying educational success as Māori means with better guidance and information that they can use to measure Māori enjoying educational success as Māori
  • use currently available information to investigate the variation in performance of similar schools in similar circumstances and assist the lower-performing schools to do better
  • work with the education system to ensure that there is effective leadership and common understanding of the purpose and use of information to improve outcomes for Māori students (this recommendation is, we understand, directed to education sector agencies and schools)
  • lead the education system to ensure that practices to collect, analyse, use and share information improve.
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