Primary school principals insist they are on track and carrying on with measuring and reporting on their students’ progress, one term into a post-National Standards era.

Some argue it is simply ‘business as usual’ while others say it is a chance to develop and enrich the way teachers report on students.

Last month National’s education spokesperson Nikki Kaye claimed students would have at least a year’s gap in their achievement records while schools got to grips with reporting without National Standards.

She says her petition, calling for a replacement system that provides a nationwide picture of achievement, is on course to hit 1,000 signatures by the end of the week.

“My goal is to get us to 2,500 before the petition is presented to the Education and Workforce Committee.”

But, as Island Bay School (IBS) principal Deborah Fenton points out, schools have always measured students.

“It isn’t a vacuum, actually we’ve been doing all these things for a very long time.”

The Wellington primary has customised its own goals, based on the curriculum, and has shared this with its board.

“Goals have been set [and] we definitely have a clear sense of what that looks like.”

Parents will receive a report twice a year, she says, and the school will measure reading, writing, maths, science, social studies, health and Māori. “You can see all of where your kids are at, how they have progressed… what their goals are currently and what they are working on.”

Schools now have the chance to assess children “in a richer way, across the curriculum, in a way that’s probably a little more comprehensive than we did in the past”, says Fenton.

IBS is sticking with a traditional twice-yearly reporting system for now, because that is what parents are used to, after eight years of National Standards.

Alongside that, the school aims to move to “a rich sense of reporting to parents that happens in a timely way”.

Part of this is via Seesaw, an app that allows teachers to send parents a daily update as well as give feedback.

IBS is also one of at least 100 schools that have signed up to online reporting system Linc-Ed.

Linc-Ed still offers schools the option of reporting how children are doing against national standards.

But 70 per cent of its school clients have opted for its new versions – a progression-based learning system, and a post-based reporting system which shares data with parents via an ongoing series of posts, containing written comments and supported media such as photos and video. Other features include student goal-setting and evidence sharing.

Teachers, parents and children can update learning goals and progress throughout the year, rather than at set times.

Island Bay is using the progression-based system but will eventually move to the post-based reporting system, says Fenton.

Unlike traditional six-monthly reports, this type of reporting is “ongoing and timely” says Fenton, rather than timed, and out of date.

“We want to make sure that they get it as soon it is achieved or celebrated so there is a sense of success, because otherwise parents are receiving data that is old.

“But we’re moving there slowly because we do know that our community is not quite ready to be there with us, and we know that they don’t know a time without national standards.”

Board of Trustees chair Hamish Groves says he is confident that IBS is capable of assessing and reporting without National Standards.

Assessment will “focus on the individual child and their learning needs across the curriculum…. The challenge will be taking the parents on the journey away from National Standards to the richer, more comprehensive assessments.”

In late January, as children headed back to school, Linwood North principal Sandra Smith told One News she had not been given any clear direction from the new Government as to what would replace national standards.

Now, as Term One draws to a close, Smith says the Christchurch school “has a system and plan in place; measuring and reporting has been ongoing – it is business as usual.”

Linwood North has created its own individual reporting model tailored for the school.

“Some of the framework of [National Standards] has been transferred over: when we report, and to who, is the same, the ‘what’ we report is different. We’ve communicated that to the board and also our parent community.”

Auckland’s Balmoral School is still fine-tuning how it will now report formally to parents, says principal Malcolm Milne. Under National Standards it continued to report on other areas, including key competencies, philosophy, and inquiry (social studies and science).

“We are looking at [formal reports] at the start of next term, at redesigning those and how they fit in without national standards and the wording we will use… there will just be some refinement around how we are reporting and what we will report to parents.”

He has heard no concerns from board members or parents, he says.

“We’re looking forward to having those conversations with parents, about where their children are at, and still reporting to our board of trustees about different types of achievements in the school.”

School Trustees Association president Lorraine Kerr says there was some initial confusion when National Standards was scrapped, but schools were now looking forward.

“Back in December, there was that issue of ‘what do we do?’ but today we are out of that thinking, and life goes on. You have a term to do it (to get your reports out). The message is go back to the curriculum, and they’ve just got on with it.”

Some boards had been “unsure” what to do in the new era, she says. “But it’s business as usual – we will keep you informed, the Government will keep you informed.”

Education Minister Chris Hipkins says he will make an announcement about “next steps” this month.

Rather than rely on one tool, teachers will use a range of assessment tools to understand students’ progress across the full curricula.

“This information will be used to help students learn and make progress and provide clear, useful and timely information to parents and whānau so they can better support their children’s learning too.”

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