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How schools lift achievement in literacy

A new study has found that schools are successfully lifting achievement by creating a coherent focus on literacy teaching.

The report from the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) analyses approaches to literacy in six diverse primary schools that made and sustained positive shifts in achievement over a five-year period.

While the six primary schools in the study each took a different approach, the analysis identified three common elements.

“We saw effective literacy practice built on a framework that combined three key elements in ways that were unique to each school,” Senior Researcher Jan Eyre said.

“All of the schools had school-wide and literacy-focused elements in place, but these varied depending on the nature of the school,” Ms Eyre said.

Figure: A framework of essential elements for improved literacy achievement. Image Source: NZCER

School-wide elements included a safe and supportive learning environment, a focus on developing and nurturing relationships, and strong leadership with use of achievement data to drive strategic goals.

Literacy-focused elements included a clear strategic focus on an aspect of literacy, whole-school professional learning and development related to that focus, and support for oral language.

“These elements were always linked by a coherent focus on raising literacy achievement,” Researcher Eliza de Waal said.

“Each school created that coherent focus by planning and implementing literacy programmes for the whole school, ensuring collaboration across all levels,” Ms de Waal said.

The six schools selected for the study were identified by looking at data on student achievement against the National Standards from 2012 to 2016. The six were chosen to create a spread across deciles, urban/rural situation, size, and ethnicity.

The report, ‘Exploring literacy: How six schools lifted achievement’ is free to download from NZCER’s website.

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